I can't always name the 'why' behind why I'm drawn to certain meditative portraits I create with the amazing women who grace my lens. Maybe I see the story that lies beneath the contemplative look? I met Mary through a breast cancer fundraiser my studio helps to support called the Red Devils. Mary won one of our auction donations; however managing a family, career, celebrating life with her grandchildren and her efforts to help raise money for cancer research, leaves little time for Mary to place herself at the top of the 'to do' list, even for one day. Finding a date in her busy schedule was no easy task.
Mary is the dependable one in her circle, the one you can count on to get the job done. Which is why it was so cool for her to experience this pampering day! I learned how passionate she is about raising money for cancer research and what fuels her tireless efforts. She spent almost 3.5 years crying in the shower every night and we will share her story to help raise awareness and help us all remember and pray for the face of cancer in our community.
You know that 'mom sense' we have when something doesn't seem right with our kids? Well Mary found hers on high alert when her 11 year old son Nicholas's health was failing rapidly with no explanation for its cause. He began spiking fevers, complaining of his body hurting and at times crawling up the steps. However, the doctors were unable to find the source of the problem. Finally, they sent Mary to a children's arthritis specialist at Hopkins. When she was told the earliest appointment available was over a month away, she cried and pleaded with the receptionist, begging for an earlier appointment. She knew in her heart that her son was dying and said, "He'll be dead by the end of the month if we don't get help for him now." The receptionist heard her plea and squeezed him in. She had all of Nicholas's labs sent over to Hopkins to be reviewed prior to their appointment. The physician took one look at Nicholas's labs and called for an oncology consult immediately.
It was Mary's pediatrician who would call her, tell her to sit down and then break the news to her as gently as he could. He told her there was no time to waste; Nicholas has leukemia and she needed to get him to the staff awaiting him at Sinai right away. To say Mary was a mess would be an understatement. She barely remembers the day, but distinctly remembers the sensation that her whole life was about to change.
Nicholas was admitted that afternoon and that night had his very 1st chemo treatment which would become their world for the next 3 years 5 months! The journey was excruciating; the lack of control was difficult for someone like Mary who specializes in taking control of situations to bring order. To watch her child endure the ravages of cancer treatment and be unable to take away the destructive side effects was the most helpless feeling in the world. There were no guarantees this treatment would help Nicholas; they prayed and awaited their answer. The waiting meant nights of uncontrolled vomiting, for which Nicholas would apologize for the mess he had made. Meanwhile, Mary was thinking, I'll do this everyday to keep you here safe! These nights ended with her in the shower, crying for her boy and her inability to make him safe and healthy. The nights rolled into years. The ironic thing is Nicholas too tried to protect his mom from parts of the journey that he could keep to himself, being crushed by how much he saw his mom hurting.
May 31, 2008 is a day Mary will always celebrate. This was the day they told Nicholas he had beaten his cancer, for now. Today Nicholas is 22 and is celebrating 8 years of being in remission. He loves deeply and has no tolerance for the small and petty things of life. He had an opportunity to give back to the Make a Wish Foundation that gifted him during his cancer treatment and was excited to learn a Maryland child would have the same gift he had of a cruise with his family. Nicholas has a 2 year old daughter that is the light of his life. Mary celebrates that she has been given a 2nd chance to watch her son become a man, to watch him embrace being a daddy and maybe one day a husband.
Mary is a force to be reckoned with. Cancer has tried to rob her of her son, her mother and her sister-in-law, but she's stood up to this ugly beast each time and beaten it back with the help of her family and her God. Thank you for all your efforts and tireless devotion to help others on this journey Mary!