Cancer free

I had a truly incredible experience while shooting yesterday, but based on how the assignment materialized, I was lucky to have made any pictures that meant anything. I was sent to shoot a breast cancer support group called the Bosom Buddies for a story about holistic care after chemo. I'm actually still not sure what the story is about (but not for lack of trying to figure it out), and the group had no idea I was visiting yesterday. We'll chalk it up to lack of communication in the newsroom. All I knew was that I would be taking pictures at a support group meeting.

While waiting with the president (left) and a board member (right) during a small pre-meeting meeting, another board member (center, was supposed to be at the pre-meeting meeting) showed up late. When she arrived she had a stunned look on her face and pointed to her shirt, which read  "Stronger than yesterday". Just minutes before, she had found out she tested negative for liver cancer. She had previously survived four separate bouts of cancer and had had nearly 30 surgeries to get rid of them, so she was ecstatic.

As she started hugging her friends, I quietly got up and snapped some photos and THEN introduced myself to her. She gave me a big, long hug and apologized for this being my first impression of her. 

I've never experienced anything in my life that I could possibly call upon to relate to her situation. My stomach hurts thinking about descending into the hell of cancer four times, and the stress of believing a fifth trip is imminent. I've never known that fear, so it goes without saying that I've never felt the elation that was now filling her soul.

This interaction was entirely unplanned and transformed an annoying confusion into an incredibly beautiful moment that I will remember for a long time.




Flint Made Me

Right before I left Flint, sports reporter Eric Woodyard asked me to put together a little promo video for his Flint Made Me project. The project started out as a scholarship and has evolved into a movement attempting to support the growing sense of pride in the economically depressed city.

It was a nice return to video work and a fun way to meet some folks around town.



Everglades Ranch

Today I went on my fourth feature hunt in my 2.5 weeks here at the Naples Daily News, which has been really a great way to explore an area that I'm learning is actually very diverse. I tend to try to get out of town for features, especially in a place like Naples where there is so much town around.

Although Everglades Ranch is just a hop away from I-75, a state forest and wildlife preserve protects it from all traffic noise. It's been awhile since I've had the feeling of being away from a lot of people. There's an internal tension created by the noise and business of everything that builds up, even if very gradually, and is easily relieved by just finding somewhere quiet!

I found a nice story while there as well. Tracey used to live in Pennsylvania, where she met her close friend and stable-neighbor JoAnne. Tracey moved to Florida, but when JoAnne passed from lung cancer this May, Tracey brought her horse, Braveheart, to Everglades Ranch to take care of him. Pictured is Tracey riding and petting Braveheart.



Lee County Schools

It's always nice to return from an assignment with a picture that the paper doesn't feel comfortable running.

The Lee County School board voted 3-2 last week to opt out of state-mandated testing, and on Tuesday, they voted again and the decision was reversed. Certainly some citizens felt betrayed.