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January 2011.  At the age of 32, my little sister was given a diagnosis that changed the rest of her life.  She had the dreaded six-letter word… C-A-N-C-E-R.  And to make matters worse, it was a type that is considered very rare.  Kelly had a carcinoid tumor in her lung, which had spread to the nearest lymph node, making it ‘a-typical’ and even more rare.  Despite the devastating news, her prognosis was “good”.  She was told that her young age and excellent health are contributing factors in beating cancer; which in turn gave her hope, an extremely positive attitude, and a strong will to live… For she did have three children under the age of seven to continue raising.

Within days of finding out she had cancer, it was decided that she needed the lower lobe of her right lung removed, along with eight lymph nodes (it was at this time when pathology showed it had spread).  Once she recovered from surgery, Kelly and her husband hopped on a jet plane headed for MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX for a second opinion with regards to treatment.  While there, she found out that she would need Chemotherapy – three days on, 18-days off, four rounds in a row.  The great news was that she could undergo this treatment back home in Michigan; with her husband, kids, extended family, and friends by her side.  What a relief for us all!

As with many patients undergoing chemo, there was a chance that she would lose her hair.  At first she was nervous about it, but soon realized that there’s nothing to worry about.  It’s only hair… It WILL grow back!  Plus, it was also the perfect opportunity to start playing around with different styles of hats.  Since I love taking pictures, she asked me to photograph the part of her  journey without hair, and I was honored.  In fact, it was the least I could do considering we live five hours apart, making it difficult for me to be there for her in other ways.  We planned our arrival for a couple of days after her second round.  I was anxious and excited all at the same time.  I was anxious because I didn’t know what to expect and excited because I couldn’t wait to wrap my arms around her.

April 2011.  In every aspect of the word, times are tough.  Tough for all parties involved, but it just blew my mind how tough Kelly, the patient, was and still is to this day.  Despite the reality of what could’ve been, it was during this visit back home that I realized she will prevail.  Even though she was exhausted, weak, and nauseous from chemo; she still wanted me to take pictures.  Here are some of my favorites (aside from the first two shots, please notice how she still managed to smile for almost every one)…

(Taken with my Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi and 70-300mm f/4-5.6 – Shutter: 1/13 sec; Exposure: Shutter Priority; Aperture: 5.0; ISO: 800; Focal Length: 220mm; no flash)

(Taken with my Canon EOS 40D and 50mm f/1.4 – Shutter: 1/250 sec; Exposure: Manual; Aperture: 1.4; ISO: 400; Focal Length: 50mm; no flash)

(Taken with my Canon EOS 40D and 50mm f/1.4 – Shutter: 1/160 sec; Exposure: Manual; Aperture: 1.4; ISO: 400; Focal Length: 50mm; no flash)

(Taken with my Canon EOS 40D and 50mm f/1.4 – Shutter: 1/1300 sec; Exposure: Manual; Aperture: 1.4; ISO: 400; Focal Length: 50mm; no flash)

(Taken with my Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi and 17-40mm f/4 – Shutter: 1/80 sec; Exposure: Manual; Aperture: 4.0; ISO: 400; Focal Length: 27mm; no flash)

(Taken with my Canon EOS 40D and 50mm f/1.4 – Shutter: 1/1600 sec; Exposure: Manual; Aperture: 2.8; ISO: 400; Focal Length: 50mm; no flash)

(Taken with my Canon EOS 40D and 50mm f/1.4 – Shutter: 1/250 sec; Exposure: Manual; Aperture: 2.8; ISO: 400; Focal Length: 50mm; no flash)

(Taken with my Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi and 17-40mm f/4 – Shutter: 1/100 sec; Exposure: Manual; Aperture: 4.0; ISO: 400; Focal Length: 23mm; no flash)

(Taken with my Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi and 17-40mm f/4 – Shutter: 1/30 sec; Exposure: Manual; Aperture: 4.0; ISO: 400; Focal Length: 36mm; no flash)

(Taken with my Canon EOS 40D and 50mm f/1.4 – Shutter: 1/5300 sec; Exposure: Manual; Aperture: 1.4; ISO: 400; Focal Length: 50mm; no flash)

August 2011.  My sister, my amazingly strong sister, is now CANCER FREE!

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