Stripping Away

Chemotherapy is designed in a series of treatments and is probably one of the most fascinating processes I have every experienced. I was injected with a series of drugs over a four hour period that were administered every three weeks over the course of four and half months. The intervals are just long enough for your body to rebound and you start feeling good, then in you go for another round and begin the process over again. After the first treatment I didn’t feel to bad and I thought wow this might be easier than I originally thought. But as the treatments progressed, each one becomes progressively worse because the effect is cumulative and your body becomes weaker. As the drugs are being dripped or injected, a strong wave of nausea overtakes your body and all your normal senses are thrown off balance. It helped that I was at the peak of fitness at the time I began the process. I had been working out, had little body fat, and was pure muscle. It probably the fittest I have been in my life.

I was determined to face the process and own it instead of allowing it to own me. I was very optimistic and fearless heading into the process. I knew I was going to loose my hair shortly. It was still one of the most shocking moments of the entire process and I will not forget that creeping feeling of being in the shower, running my hands through that stubble was left on my head and have it all just fall out. You lose all body hair, everywhere, and it was so strange to be naked, and stand in front of a mirror completely stripped away. I approached the whole process as a journey into myself, journal a lot of the process, and I was curious as to how the process would impact me. I discovered crispy fried bacon was an absolutely delight the morning after a treatment and always seemed to revive my energy. I ate well, slept a lot, but most of all I continued my life a normal as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening in my daily existence. After about the first two treatments I was given a promotion at UPS and become the Systems Operations Manager, the job I currently have. I process all the data, bring the drivers in at the end of their day, upload their data and close out their payroll. It was overwhelming mentally sometimes to stay focused and learn a new job, but luckily I was promoted into a position where I was instantly given full benefits and it paid a good portion of the treatments. I don’t think many around me were even aware that I was undergoing such treatments. Yes I would loose the day of the treatment, feel awful the day after, but would feel pretty good by the end of the weekend following a Thursday treatment and be back to work on Monday. In the summers I am a professional landscaper and gardener and that summer had one of the most extraordinary gardens I had ever created, I just had to take more breaks and lots of naps throughout the day. I did have to let go of photography that summer because my body was becoming unpredictable. I was afraid to schedule clients, because if I became too weak or sick, I would have to cancel the photoshoot. For me, photography is something I muster every fiber of my being to create. It was a very long summer, but I eventually made it through the treatments and have been healthy and strong for three and a half years now.

But where I have grown as a photographer and an artist from this experience is that I am now able to cut to essences of what is essential. A lot of my imagery is a stripping away of my subjects to get to the core of where they are true to themselves. I have been stripped to my bare essence and faced myself in the mirror. I saw a glimmer of beauty in myself and I search for this remarkable beauty in others. Why is it that so many people cannot see the extraordinary things within themselves? My subjects seem transformed by my process of discovery of them, for each it becomes their own journey into themselves. I had a guy come in the other day to look at his images after I had finished them and he was overwhelmed to see what I had seen. He later told me it was such an emotional moment and he almost cried. It is intimate, it is personal, and it is the way life should be. How have we culturally gotten so far away from being or seeing who we truly are? Why does it take a crisis for us to discover who we really flipping are?