I've always admired boudoir photography but never imagined myself the subject of a shoot. A dear friend had been telling me about her amazing experience with Angela Duncan Boudoir and kept telling me I needed her in my life.
That was nearly 2 years ago.
Life has been happening to me a lot.
In the past years I've seen my body ravaged by an overwhelming barrage of things. I had been overweight my entire life even though I was very active. At 21 I had a gastric bypass. I lost right at 100 lbs. My breasts went from a 38G to a 38D. Then I added 30 lbs back with the loss of my father at age 26.
Finally, after 4 years of marriage, my husband and I were ready to have a baby. Three months in and our pregnancy fails. With it, a fight neither of us were prepared for had begun. A week following the loss I began itching severely from head to toe non stop. This was accompanied by hot flashes and night sweats. Little did we know this would be our lives for the next 2 years.
Oh, and the one time my husband got lucky in pretty much forever I got pregnant again...
Fifteen doctors later no one knew how to explain my symptoms, much less fix anything. Pregnancy was miserable.
We got our sweet baby Luna 3 and a half weeks early. The stress had me becoming preeclamptic. I was induced and 16 hours later taken in for an emergency c- section because I'd become tachycardic and my temperature was over 102! A week later we brought our beautiful baby home where I had to fight post-partum depression and the itching and the hot flashes and the night sweats...
The doctors decided it was all in my head.
They referred me to a psychiatrist and psychologist who then began feeding me medication for OCD, depression and anxiety. I knew they were wrong. So, I began seeking out ways to relax. I saw a chiropractor and massage therapist.
When Luna was about 4 months old I was particularly exhausted and went in for a relaxation massage. The therapist suggested a deep tissue massage as he'd noticed my lymphatic system was blocked up. Within days I was in the emergency room with severe gastritis. I was in so much pain I thought my bypass was coming undone. With an x-ray and CT they figured it out.
I had a golf ball-sized mass in the left of my sternum and a 5"x 3"x 2" tumor in my right chest.
A month later the biopsies showed stage 2 classical Hodgkin's Lymphoma.
The itching was due to cancer proteins blocking my pores.
Since then I've had 6 rounds of ABVD chemo. Nine months later it came back at stage 3 with two small spots in my abdomen. I then received 4 treatments of ICE chemo followed by an autologous stem cell transplant in September of 2016. This time I lost 50lbs. This brings my total weight loss to 120lbs since August 2007. Now I wear a 34D & most of that is to hold loose skin. I could probably go down another size or two without the excess belly skin as well. I still struggle to see myself at my true size but I'm getting closer.
Life is so fleeting. I behaved. I worked hard - too hard. I struggled. I fought to be healthy. No smoking, drinking, or drugs-- nothing. I'd survived so much. I'd survived sexual abuse at a young age, obesity, anxiety, depression, cancer -TWICE! Throughout my struggle to be brave, enduring, a survivor; I realized how little I was living. No matter how I'd behaved I still got sick. Sometimes I'd even forget. That is, until I'd walk past a mirror or get a questioning look.
I did this shoot so I could see myself in a different light.
My husband has always looked at me with such admiration and love.
I wanted to see that too. Body positivity has become a priority for me, as well as any opportunity to share my story. As our bodies change they show us not only where we've been but the fact that we have continued regardless of our obstacles. We must find the beauty in that and celebrate it.
My experience with Angela Duncan and her fantastic make up artist Mindy was phenomenal. I felt as though I was hanging out with friends.
We went for it with the makeup because when do you get the chance to have your makeup done by a true professional artist?
You'll never know what you're capable of becoming if you don't try, right?
While I did bring a bunch of my own things for the shoot, Angela also had quite a bit to work with as well. Collaborating was a ton of fun. The shoot flew by. When I got to review the photos she'd taken I was pleasantly surprised to see how much she had captured me. I love color (obviously) but when choosing my favorites I gravitated towards the black and white shots. I saw me. Before the cancer. Before the scars. I felt proud and beautiful. I realized all the color in my makeup, hair, clothing and even my glasses don't hide my shine. I'm so thankful to Angela for this experience. It has been my honor to do this with her. I would encourage everyone to open their minds to see themselves through the eye of Angela's lens. Take it in. Have fun!