It has been a long time since I began writing about Rita’s Journey. So much has happened since she was first diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time. I began to tell her story just before she started her treatments.
I have been so blessed to be a part of her life, to be her friend and to be able to photograph Rita and her family over the years. Our first shoot was a family photo session with her husband, Jeff, her son, Jack, and their two dogs.
The second photo session was to begin her journey as she negotiated the treatments for her breast cancer. We decided to photograph her journey so prior to her first chemo session, we went to the train station in Denton, Texas armed with a piece of 50’s luggage and a 50’s hat box to prepare her for her journey. I began telling this story in this very blog. In fact, you can go back and read the details starting in 2012..
I photographed Rita as she was losing her hair from chemo at the third session we did. She had her hair stylist come and shave it all off. There were lots of us there supporting her and celebrating her strength.
The fourth journey session was done at a local park. Those images became more poignant and touching as we set up each shot.
Session 5 was her last day of chemotherapy and Session 6 was her last day of radiation. Each time her husband came with flowers and her friends came with balloons and goodies to celebrate yet another milestone in her journey. We were all so excited as she finished up her breast cancer treatments and her MRI’s came back clear.
The seventh session that we did was planned after Rita found that she had cancer once again. It was not the spread of her breast cancer but rather a new cancer. This time is was in her brain. I found Rita to be amazing yet again in how she accepted that she had a new cancer, and how her faith held her up to face the next surgery and treatments. I had been talking to Rita about doing a “sophisticated woman” session with her prior to her finding out about her latest cancer. She called me and said “if you want a sophisticated shoot with me, let’s do it before I have to have brain surgery.” So, we set it up and it was a grand day. Not only did it take both of our minds off of her impending surgery but it was the most fun shoot that I had had in a long time. We laughed, talked and celebrated the beautiful woman that she is. After Rita’s second cancer, she changed her hairstyle completely. Instead of long colored hair, she opted for short, slightly spikey natural colored hair. She was getting such compliments on it as her hair grew back, that she kept it short. It looks fabulous and very sophisticated. It definitely made the “sophisticated woman” session even better. At the time, I didn’t know that it would be the last session prior to her decline in health.
I have done only one session since then. It was just a short time ago and it wasn’t a session at all. Her husband planned a surprise birthday party for her and I was invited. Naturally I showed up with my camera so I could take candid shots of her family and friends who came. There were so many people that we were all spilled out across the yard and there was no parking close to her house. Her mother, brothers, sisters and other family members were there along with some of her husband’s family. It was a fun party and Rita had a wonderful time. Some of her friends from outside the local area flew in for the surprise.
I visited my dear friend, Rita yesterday. It is the latest of several visits I have made recently as Rita prepares to leave us to spend eternity with God whom she loves so much. She has battled breast cancer twice and won. The last several months she has been in the biggest battle of all fighting brain cancer. She has had brain surgery, radiation and chemotherapy to battle this difficult cancer. Each time she received a cancer diagnoses, she has met the new challenge with determination and faith in a God who loves her. She has shared Him with everyone she could along the way. She knows that although this battle is going to be lost, that God has a better plan for her. She has completed what He wanted for her to accomplish here on earth and now He is calling her home. Those of us who will be left will miss her greatly. We will have deep sadness but also a joy in knowing she is no longer struggling, or suffering and that she is celebrating in a place where there is no pain, or sadness but only joy.
You have made each of our lives a whole lot better, Rita. You’ve made us laugh, lifted us up, shared yourself in so many ways and, yes, taken charge a bunch of times. You are loved, Rita.