Sometimes it seems the world is hell-bent to jade us at every turn—self-serving politicians, senseless violence, rising prices, static wages, climate change…. But occasionally, the status quo is overshadowed with sources of untainted inspiration—much like the proverbial flower pushing through the cracks of a city sidewalk. Such inspiration might seem a rarity these days, but it’s out there and you know it when you see it; so I needed to share a recent bit of inspiration. In keeping with the flower-through-the-sidewalk metaphor, I’ll break it down even further—cancer is the sidewalk, the inspiring flower pushing through it would be my friend, Alison, except that she is such a warrior that I’m not sure describing her as a flower is accurate. But you get the idea.
Alison and I met a couple years ago when I photographed her and her colleagues at the start-up where she was working. Earlier this year she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Initially, I was heartbroken by her news because it reminded me all too much of a dear friend who lost his battle with cancer and left behind a ten-month old daughter, a loving wife, and multitudes of grieving friends (we miss you Scott Greene). But my initial sadness about Alison’s diagnosis was immediately blown out of the water by her relentless positivity, strength and uncanny sense of humor about her situation. She has stayed true to that mindset every step of the way, from her initial diagnosis, through her double mastectomy, chemo, and most recently, through having her “new tatas installed.”
A few months ago, on Facebook, I posted a remark about my gratitude for the opportunity to have photographed some of Philadelphia’s premier cancer researchers. Alison commented “maybe you can photograph this smart-ass cancer patient again some day.” I thought, “why wait until someday?” I texted her back and we slated a portrait session right away.
These images are a few of my favorites from that shoot. Alison was still in the midst of chemo but her radiance and spirit shine bright—shaved head or not. Inspiring? Hell Yeah! Instead of caving in to a defeatist attitude, Alison has used cancer to instill a singular clarity of purpose: living in the here and now, with gusto. She’s not sweating the small stuff so many of us balloon into fabricated “problems.” By doing so she sets an example most of us should follow. To that I say “bravo, Alison!” It’s an honor to call you my friend. Keep on crushing it.
Addendum: be on the look out for a followup shoot, once Alison’s hair grows back in.