Wednesday, August 17, 2016

MY take: #MelanomaThroughMyLens Reflection Project

Earlier today I posted the press release by Save Your Skin Foundation about the new #MelanomaThroughMyLens awareness campaign - the new e-book launched today!  Now I would like to share my insight into the project:

In the spring I was asked as part of a group to share my story through photographs, a unique way to document a cancer journey.  I was provided with a camera and some very helpful guidelines from a professional photographer, and I thought long and hard about how to best convey the messages I wanted to share through a relatively new (to me) medium; photography.


Save Your Skin Foundation Founder Kathy Barnard championed this campaign to kick-start a public conversation about advanced melanoma, the patient journey, and to raise awareness about the various gene mutations involved with it to empower Canadians to know more about the disease. 

“Every advanced melanoma patient lives their own journey in a very personal and profound way. The moment you get that diagnosis, it is life-altering for you and everyone in your circle,” said Kathy Barnard,  herself a 10-year survivor of the disease. “Patients and their families go through so much; it’s literally like a roller coaster ride. When I was first diagnosed I felt alone. This is why I created the Foundation in the first place. Through this campaign we want to raise awareness of the advanced melanoma journey and let other advanced melanoma patients know they are not alone.”

We were guided to take photographs over the course of three weeks, each week with a conference call to help us with artistic direction and photography tips.  

From the very first call I was inspired.  Thinking outside the box about how to portray my experience with melanoma skin cancer, I recalled mental images of my greatest physical and emotional limitations in the two years since my diagnosis.

Stairs.  Steps.  My leg.  Post-surgery.  Lymphedema.  Bed-rest.  Slow recovery.  Painful.  One day at a time.  One step at a time.  And there it was:  my theme.  I would photograph the steps along my journey.  

It all began with my basement stairs; for weeks after my surgery (superficial femoral lymphadenectomy, deep ilioinguinal lymphadenectomy) I was unable to go downstairs in my house to my own bedroom.  I thought about those stairs for weeks lying on my makeshift bed in the living room, unable to walk around.  I pouted and agonized and feared and fantasized about how my future would become... if I could ever even go downstairs again.  

Those photos didn't actually make the cut for the final e-book, but some of these other steps in my journey did... here are samples of my amateur photography.  (oh yes and Claire took some of the photos as well - kudos to two budding photographers in this house!) 


Oh and a quick note... these photos are NOT "photoshopped" - a few people have asked me LOL  ie. this one of the hallway at Sunnybrook is true, Claire actually managed to capture it on film with NO people walking in it.  It was good timing!  :-)

                                  Countless hospital stairs.... a maze.

It all felt like an uphill battle... even my porch steps into my house were nearly impossible some days.  I painfully remember Scott and my Mom practically carrying me into the house in May 2014. 

I also wanted to capture the light in my somewhat sun-drenched past, perhaps beach photos and bright skies.  But again they couldn't all make the cut... our favourites ended up being dawn at Meaford harbour and the others which are in the e-book with descriptions of my feelings when they were captured.  

There was also the feeling of fear that I wanted to portray... with the backdrop of sunlight... hard to explain but see if these help:


Our beloved Meaford Harbour stole the show with gorgeous photos at dawn... here are some of my faves: 

Sunrise... dawn. A new hope.  Community.  Family.  Support. One step at a time. 

If you haven't already, please do click on the e-book and take a look... all six sets of photos are moving and inspirational.  I was stunned by the final edit - I identify very much with the others in the e-book.  
Though I have not met all of them I feel we have a connection through our stories documented in similar ways, through photographs and vivid emotions.  The scars, the metaphors, the earthy imagery, and the red car!! 
Way to go Kathy, Danika, Sue, Mike, and Terry!

I am honoured to have been asked to share in this project, and I thank Save Your Skin Foundation for their continued dedication to helping others in their skin cancer journeys - and everything they do - they are a very busy bunch!  

Thanks also to Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc., and the PR team who facilitated this project, it has been great to work with you.  Last but certainly not least, the fabulous Photographer.... I miss our weekly calls.  I appreciate your empathetic mentoring and your professional expertise, it was wonderful to work with you.  I appreciate your advice and I hope we will keep in touch.  

Thank you everyone, for your continued love and support; couldn't do this without you. 

Article and Photos © Natalie Richardson 

Please click and share and help spread the word, I appreciate it.  We all appreciate it.  xoxo

Oh yes.... 

Intrepid: dauntless, bold, courageous, gritty, gutsy, bodacious. 

1 comment:

  1. To my intrepid daughter. It has indeed been a journey of challenges and changes. You have faced them with defiance. May all your next steps, be with confidence and panache!