for todd, to say goodbye.

i met this boy in the early 90s, a friend of a friend. he came into the bookstore where i worked because his friend told him he “met this weird girl with a cat necklace.”  he came in to sort of, i don’t know?  make fun of me?  or see the freakshow.  but what happened was, we became the best of friends.  we hung out all the time – mostly listening to music, going to shows, eating cheetos.   he was funny, with a dry self-deprecating humor.  he was moody.  he hung out in coffee shops to read, or to write sad poems.  we were exactly the same.

at the time, email wasn’t something everyone had, and i moved away to the west coast.  we kept in touch for a while via (*gasp*) letters written on paper.  put into envelopes – with stamps.  remember?  but that faded away and we lost contact.  it wasn’t until a few years after i had moved back to minnesota that he randomly found me (through music, of course) on myspace.  (which actually seems even weirder than writing letters.) one of the first things i discovered as we got reacquainted was that he had a cancerous tumor in his brain.  he apologized to me for bringing himself and his tumor back into my life.  i’m not sure exactly what my response to that was, but i’m sure it was the equivalent of shut the hell up / give me a break / we’ll get through this.

i tried to be a good friend.  in fact, i had to re-commit myself to the task several times because i work more than full time and i have two kids.  it’s not easy to sneak in time in person with friends, and todd wasn’t able to drive anywhere on his own to meet me.  there were things that i would be doing that he couldn’t do, like being at live music (the lights, the fast bright lights) or being in noisy, crowded places.  i would go pick him up sometimes and take him to ice cream or coffee, or we would take my kids to the playground.  even in the midst of intense chemo and with anti-seizure medication weighing him down, he would climb around like a little monkey with those kids on the playground.   it means the world to me that they got to know him, and that he got to know them, and it breaks my heart to think he ever felt he was a burden on me.   but, it was hard to find things to say to him and there was a wall of awkwardness between us.  last year i tried to convince him to let me take pictures of him.  not an elaborate photo shoot or anything,  just a few photos.  his response was, “so you can have something to remember me by?” or,  “what, for my memorial service?”   i mean, what do you say to that?  i’d say no, i just . . . want a few pictures of your face.  your face, right now.  i take pictures of things that i like, it’s what i do.  but he wouldn’t let me.  i used my phone and snapped a shot of him looking down, on a park bench one day as we sat in silence staring at the lake.

three days ago, as i was walking down the very, very long hospital hallways after having gone to see him – i took this picture.  he went into a coma last weekend.  the tumor was growing and causing his brain to move around, and as things expanded, it sent him into a coma.  they said it would keep expanding until it broke his spinal cord, and he would die.  there wasn’t anything they could do, it was just his time.  i stood by his hospital bed and held his hand, and told him how much i cared.  i tried to say goodbye to him but i couldn’t say the word.  i didn’t want him to hear me say that, i know he could hear me.  he squeezed my finger, i know he did.  he did it twice.  i knew all of this was coming but you just never know how hard something is going to be until you are standing in the middle of it.  i took this picture as i was leaving the hospital, knowing it was probably the last time i would ever see him.  i saw this painting of a beautiful tree, it made me stop and stare.  it was hard to focus on through tears but it helped me to feel more calm, and to start to feel the peace of saying goodbye.  i took a picture of it to remember that feeling, and hopefully to feel that peace as i go through this.

taking pictures of things brings a calmness to my mind, a sense that i am doing something right with my time.  this experience with todd has suddenly come crashing into this project about scars in a profound way and i know that as i spend the day shooting for the project on sunday, the day after he is laid to rest, it will be with different eyes.  i hope that what i capture will help ease someone else’s pain, as i will lean on it to help me with mine.

seeking participants for pilot group

we recently bumped into an old friend, pilates teacher Peggie Zoerhof.  her company is called The Intelligent Body and she has a pilates program for breast cancer survivors called the Pink Ribbon Program – the focus of it is to “offer strength, self-esteem and quality of life to breast cancer survivors.”

physical fitness is a tremendous part of daily overall well-being, and regaining the strength and flexibility after any surgery is a challenge.  but do you just hop back over to the gym after a mastectomy?  what about how you feel in the locker room?  or the pool?  i imagine for everyone, getting back into a fitness routine will take different forms and everyone will have different comfort levels – just as they would without the burden of cancer.  this program is noteworthy because it is a safe and positive place to get back into a routine, and to have some targeted help with your body post-surgery.  Peggie is a kind and gentle woman and thoughtful teacher.

Peggie expressed to us an interest in forming a pilot group for survivors, to build interest in the Pink Ribbon Program locally.  Here’s what she is offering:

“If you know as many as four survivors who could agree on a time, I would like to put together a pilot group.  Tuition would be free for this first group with just the cost of the exercise manual (pictures and directions for them to take with them) which is about $25.  The six week session would be proceeded by a 45 min. private consult to allow me to fully understand their history.  The six classes would be held in my home studio with the hope that participants are then able to graduate to a beginning Pilates class.  Each session will last about 30 minutes.  The 45 min. assessment for each participant will be scheduled at their convenience sometime before the start of the first class.  If the first class could start around April 26, the session would be done in time for the start of the summer sessions.
At first blush, a 30 min. session does not sound like much unless we consider that the program was designed for those who are about 6 weeks post op.  That said, anyone who struggles with lack of range of motion in the shoulder (due to breast cancer procedures) would be a good candidate.  Any candidate should be sure to have clearance from their doctor before starting.”
please consider this program if you are a survivor looking to get back into an exercise program, or pass the info along if you know someone that is. contact Peggie directly via her website, or feel free to give us a shout as well, we would be happy to pass your info along.

woops, february evaporated

oh, wait! we have a blog?

we just came up for air and remembered, it probably doesn’t really look like we’ve been doing much.  actually, we’ve been doing so much that we haven’t had time to tell you about it – so here is a quick update.

  • we are shooting all day this sunday!  we are so excited.  two amazing survivors that were among the first to respond to our ad on craigslist for willing models.
  • we have a meeting in the next couple of weeks with springboard for the arts, to discuss some non profit options and get some advice.
  • we are working on some interviews with people that have inspiring perspectives about breast cancer survival, and we are excited to share that with you.
  • we have at least 6 other people on board to do photo shoots, and have been brainstorming ideas for upcoming shoots.  we are closer to nailing down details for where our first show will take place – more on that as it unfolds.

keep your feedback coming, and please see our FAQ page if you are interested in participating in what we are doing!