Fact: Did you know that when I was in college and pretty much as long as I could remember, I wanted to be a Documentarian? It along with my Minor in Psychology (which should have been a double major but that’s a different story for a different time) was a passion of mine.
I always found and still find people’s stories fascinating.
I’ve always wanted to either create a beautiful piece whether it be through film or photography using stories that I found fascinating and/or needing to be told. Last year, I had the greatest opportunity to tell my friend’s story about his and his family’s fight against Cancer which kickstarted this. Subsequently, I had the honor of also telling my best friend’s fight with breast cancer not long after that. Looking back at his and her stories made me realize how important it is to tell certain stories; how important it is to spread awareness.
This is why I have decided that once a year around September/October, I am going to pick one story and tell it.
(P.S. If you have a story to tell, please contact me. All stories do not have to be a particular theme such as cancer. One story will be chosen every year to be told without cost. I’d love to hear from you! And as always, if you want a story to be told and your name is not picked, it is most definately not because I do not think your story is important, all stories are Important. We can figure out pricing if your story does not get picked for that year. PM me for more details.)
Oct 2020: Let’s Get Remarried (Photos Featured in People Magazine)
Sneak Peek: Let’s Get Married… AGAIN! This is going to get personal, so please bare with me.I met Stefan and Caitlin about 4-5 years ago. My husband knew Stefan ever since they were kids and was part of the original wedding party back in 2007. I had heard so much about Caitlin and Stefan back in the days before we met that I couldn’t wait to finally meet them.Having a child with Autism and that is nonverbal, I always get a little antsy about people meeting her for the first time, especially when there are kids involved. What if they don’t like her? What if their kids do not understand? My mind was put at ease that first weekend up in Vermont when not only did they treat her like they knew her their whole lives but when their two little girls became best friends with my daughter. I knew at that moment we would be lifelong friends and I valued their friendship more than ever.One of the last family trips we had, Caitlin had mentioned to me that she wanted to redo her wedding photos. Like any friend and photographer, I was so excited to potentially do them for Stefan and Caitlin to celebrate their wedding anniversary.When we got the news that Stefan had suffered a seizure and they found out that he had a brain tumor, the world stood still for a moment. It wasn’t just any brain tumor, it was Stage 4 Glioblastoma. To be part of this project was anything short of AMAZING. The love you both share is unbrakeable. I love you guys so much and hope that your day to capture memories with your beautiful family was everything you could have imagined and more. You all mean so much to us!
I would like to thank some amazing people that helped us out with this project in no particular order:
Sabina Gadecki Rich
Another beautiful bouquet by Carolyn Woodger
July 2021: Jess’s Story
“She stood in the storm and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails.”Jess, your attitude and positive energy through all this is so inspiring. I am so proud to call you one of my best friends. Thank you so much for letting me capture this special moment. Thank you for letting me capture the beauty and bravery you possess. I know it is not easy but you are destined for such great things and you have such an amazing support system.Cancer is only going to be a chapter in your life. Thank you for letting me share these, you are an inspiration to so many already. #breastcancer#breastcancerwarrior#Fcancer
September 2021: The Murray Family’s Story
Ok so as most of you know, I have a hard time waiting to post sessions. I usually have to do it the day of or the worst case scenario, the day after. So it is not a total shocker that I need to post this tonight lol. To begin with, I will admit that I stalked Lexie Murray for a bit. We were in the same group for Special Needs Kids on Facebook but there was something about her profile pic that stood out. It was a picture of her 3 boys around a light table. For most people, this would have little significance. For me, it meant that one of those cute little boys had vision problems. How did I know? Because we were using the same light table that had been provided to us by The Vermont School of the Blind and Visually Impaired. After finally talking to her and befriending her, we both had some similarities in that both our children were visually impaired and nonverbal. Then the real kicker was when I realized I had been working with her husband in the same department. In the years to follow, we developed a bond in which we could only understand when it came to our children and their needs. It was and still is refreshing to just be able to vent or ask questions to someone that understands. When I told her about my endeavors to try and feature a story every year and that I wanted to feature their story, she was on board. You see, for some time now, this family had been waiting on a service dog to assist two of their 3 boys. So without further ado, here is the Murray family’s story:On November 17, 2016 I gave birth via c-section to a small, but healthy baby boy. My third son. His first six months of life were uneventful, other than some difficulties with nursing, and we adapted. Then we began to notice some differences from our experience with our older two boys, and in observing other babies his age. He wouldn’t look at our faces, wasn’t grasping objects, wasn’t fixing and following objects with his eyes. He struggled to sit independently. And then there was the head tremor. It looked like his little neck was struggling to hold the weight of his head.At his 6 month checkup we raised our concerns. We were then referred to neurology. This was when our mental medical dictionary began to grow: Plagiocephaly, hypotonia, MRI,whole genome microarray testing, Fragile X Syndrome testing. We went through multiple tests, and after multiple failed attempts, (we won’t get into the traumatic details, and to make a long story shorter, we will skip them) an MRI. All tests came back normal. When he was between 7 and 8 months we began outpatient therapies, occupational therapy and physical therapy, as well as Early Intervention services. We suspected he was also visually impaired, so we were referred to the Vermont Association for the Blind & Visually Impaired. At this point there was no question that he was delayed, but continued to make slow and steady progress.He showed signs of cortical visual impairment, but we had yet to find a cause.For months none of us slept well. He was still nursing, so I partially blamed myself for continuing to nurse him, but he would also startle awake. I described it to his pediatrician and neurologist as what appeared to be an infant reflex that just never went away. His naps were always disrupted by this too.One afternoon during a nap I saw him begin to stir. I stood up from my chair, and went to him thinking he would wake up any moment. Then his little body began to rhythmically jerk. I wanted to tell myself it couldn’t be a seizure, but I knew. Part of me had already prepared for the possibility, and I had done research on what to do. Seconds went by as I watched him seize. Once I had snapped out of my initial shock, I turned him on his side. I watched and waited. Thankfully it was over in a minute or two. My hands shook as I typed a message to an old friend who happened to be his pediatrician’s nurse at the time. With the advice of his pediatrician’s office, we traveled to the hospital. Once he was cleared to go back home, an EEG was ordered, as well as additional testing. New vocabulary was added to the dictionary: seizure disorder. Before that initial 24 hour EEG he began to have little episodes of falling over when he was sitting. It was like he was losing his balance, and losing a skill he had worked so hard to achieve. The EEG revealed these were clusters of myoclonic seizures. It confirmed the suspicion that he had epilepsy, and we made the difficult decision to begin anti-epileptic drugs. More blood testing was done at that time also: a comprehensive epilepsy panel.Two to three months later our neurologist called us with the results. The moment was bittersweet. Almost two years without a diagnosis, and now we had one: KCNQ3 Related Developmental Disability. At the time there were less than 50 known cases worldwide. Around this time the Netflix docu-series “Dogs” was released. The first episode focuses on the story of a young girl with epilepsy who receives a service dog from the organization 4 Paws for Ability in Xenia, Ohio. I was already slightly familiar with the organization. A woman I grew up with had gotten a service dog for her daughter from the organization several years before so I decided to reach out. A service dog could benefit Seumas in so many ways. It could provide mobility support if and when he started walking. It could alert to seizures, guide him, comfort him, and create a social bridge when he didn’t have his own words.I began to do my own research on other organizations, but none of them compared to the reputation of 4 Paws.Just after his 2nd birthday we began the process of applying for a service dog through 4 Paws for Ability. Our intention was to have lots of time pass as we raised funds, give him some time to grow, learn to be a little gentler with his hands, and hopefully learn to walk. In five short weeks we had raised the $17,000 we needed to secure a place in a training class with his future service dog. We were amazed and so, so grateful. Our expected class was about two years out.Shortly after this, he began to walk independently.Just before the U.S. was hit with COVID-19 our middle child was evaluated for Autism Spectrum Disorder. From a very young age, 2 or 3, we had suspected he was neurodiverse and those suspicions only grew as he did. The evaluations confirmed those suspicions, and he received his diagnosis. At that point we were able to add him to the service dog contract. The boys would share the dog, now to be task trained in: mobility/stability, facilitated guide, tethering, seizure alert, and behavior disruption. During the two years we waited for the boys to meet their dog, breeder Moms and Dads with the specific traits important to what our boys needed were chosen. Many puppies were born, received basic training and exposure to everything you can imagine to prepare them for service dog life. Some “flunked” and were adopted, while others made it to the next phase of training. Then eventually those dogs went on to be evaluated for Advanced Training, where they would learn all of their specific tasks for their children or veterans.In April of 2021 Seumas & Izaak’s future service dog began Advanced Training. We wouldn’t learn about him until a few weeks before we arrived at training ourselves, so that 4 Paws could be certain they would be the perfect match.About 3 weeks ago we travelled from Vermont to Ohio. There at 4 Paws for Ability we met the boys’ dog, Alistair Cookie, a golden retriever & Labrador retriever mix from the 2019 Sesame Street Litter. For 9 days they trained us to be his handlers. We are a 4 unit team: myself as the facilitator, the boys, and Alistair.