Week 14- The Real Thing. By international documentary photographer Paige Stoyer during Week 11 treatment 6.
I feel these images are fitting this week. I’m at my lowest point both mentally and physically and, whereas most of the shoots have been fun, fantasy-style sessions, this shoot was documentary style showing a real day of chemo. I currently feel the way I look in these images. Concerned, exhausted and unsure what the future holds or if I’m strong enough to keep moving forward into more treatments that make me feel terrible. I only have 3 weeks of chemo left, and yet it seems impossible to see the end when I’m in pain right now. The thought of upcoming surgery, reconstruction and radiation feels like more than I can handle. Paige’s images capture some real emotions from both her and my perspective and I’m grateful to her for showing us this side of ‘beauty’ within fear and sadness. Kimberli
Writing & photography by Paige Stoyer. I was thrilled with the opportunity to work with my friend and fellow photographer Kimberli Ransom, to document the real day-to-day experience of her fight with breast cancer.
It is an act of trust to be allowed into these very real and difficult moments of her life and a show of her bravery to be willing to open up this way to the world.
I think we sometimes feel we have to protect people from the difficult stuff, the reality of battling cancer, of being sick. We strive to put on a happy face for everyone, to show how tough we are.
But being strong doesn’t mean you don’t also feel vulnerable, scared and overwhelmed. The range of emotions that accompany a battle like this are staggering and unpredictable, changing from moment to moment.
I know this first hand from having walked this path with my mom during her battle with leukemia. That has allowed me to have a connection with Kimberli about her journey, and though everyone experiences illness differently, to have at least some idea of what this is like for her.
Shooting this project has really taken me back to moments with my mom, being in the hospital with her for chemo and being in her house surrounded by the towering piles of medical paperwork that makes an already overwhelming situation even more daunting.
It is rewarding to know that while I will sometimes take a certain shot based on my own experiences, as we all do, when I show the image to Kimberli, it often resonates with her as well. That’s why Kimberli’s project is so important, because so many cancer patients and survivors will be able to relate to her moments.
Like the feeling of walking down those many cold and sterile hallways on your way to your next treatment or appointment.
I took the shot below because it reminded me of the feeling of being in the hospital for hours and days on end, where your life has largely come to a grinding halt and most things you do now revolve around this battle you are in. Your world looks completely different now, but outside things go on as usual, the drumbeat of day-to-day life. I distinctly remember during my Mom’s illness and before I went in for a surgery myself for a brain aneurysm a few years ago, looking out the window and feeling a disconnect from the world that was moving along outside. Realizing that everyone else was going about their life as they always had, but you were inside this hospital, with everything riding on this surgery or this treatment. We all go about our lives as if we are invincible and you just never know when your life will change in a moment.
The flip side to that is that when you come out the other side and are able to go on with your life, you will probably never take the day-to-day routine for granted in the same way again.
This photo is about the way you look at each treatment and the people who are caring for you. You wonder will this drug do the trick, is this the one that is going help me win this war? And how is it going to make me feel, what will my body do with this drug in it, will I have a bad reaction to it? You look to treatments with such hope and dread all at the same time.
You develop special relationships with the people who administer the drugs and help you navigate the medical maze, and your doctors who see you week in and week out, because you literally are putting your life in their hands.
Those shared moments of humor help you get through.
This one speaks to me about Kimberli and who she is. At the end of the day here she is looking right at us, showing us her both her strength and vulnerability and that she doesn’t intend to hide away but is facing this head on and asking us to come along on the journey with her.
As an artist I suppose there is a willingness and even a need, to explore these difficult and complicated aspects of our lives and our experiences, for Kimberli and I this is an opportunity to do this together.
I hope in our collaboration I am able to capture some moments that will help her to tell her story.