Category Archives: Sally Brewer Photography

Warrior Spirit

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The day I had my head shaved, it was cool, so I wore this leather jacket. When I donned my soon to be favorite scarf, I realized that I had a bit of a bad-girl biker chick look going on.  And I liked it!  As soon as I put the scarf on, Sally and I knew that we’d need pictures of that look!

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Upon seeing the pictures from that day, one friend commented that I looked like a warrior, ready to head into battle.  I liked that analogy, and somehow “warrior” got attached to this photo in my mind, too.  More than one friend who’s gone through breast cancer has commented that she never wanted to go out without her wig, fearing that she would look weak, sick.  That people would pity her.  I’m sure some people pitied me, but they never treated me like that.  I told these friends that I always felt like it showed strength to put on a scarf, some good lipstick, and a smile.  And now with more hair and little air of “sickness” to me, I think I’ve never looked stronger than in these pictures.  (Many thanks again to Sally for capturing such lasting images of strength.)

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Photography by Sally Brewer Photography

Lipstick: Dubbonet by MAC

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Just Me

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Before we headed out on our photo shoot a couple of weeks ago, I was looking around on pinterest for some things to put on my Run Lipstick Chemo pinboard.  I stumbled across some photos of a woman photographed just after she finished chemo.  She was wearing a plain grey t-shirt and looked so casual and contemplative in the pictures.  They were lovely.  So instead of showing up for pictures in one of the lovely silk blouses I’d chosen originally (which of course, we did photograph eventually), I showed up in a plain grey tank top and my favorite yoga pants.  I’d have never thought of being photographed in something so plain, but it turns out, I really loved the way all these pictures turned out.  It was so hard to only show a few.

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The other thing that surprised me about these photos—I’m not at all self-conscious of how I look, despite the fact that I was not even all the way through the first stage of reconstruction.  It’s a long process, but I have to say that my surgeon is not only very compassionate, but wants to make sure that I’m pleased with how I look every step of the way.  He made it very clear from our first meeting that he didn’t want me to feel like this was how I had to look because I had breast cancer, or even that I looked “good enough” for having had cancer.  He wanted me to be happy with how I looked.  Period.

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In those pictures I saw on pinterest, the woman still had her port in.  Why didn’t I have any pictures of my port?  I can’t believe it!  I told Sally that I didn’t want her to photoshop out my port scar, even still, you really can hardly see it in most of the pictures.  Thankfully, it’s pretty prominent in one of my favorite shots.  I like that I don’t have on fancy clothes or statement jewelry.  These pictures are just me, scars and all.  And that’s not good enough.  It’s just good.

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Photography by Sally Brewer Photography

Lipstick: Dior Addict Lip Glow

Bracelet: Choose Joy by lilblueboo

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Little Rewards

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I’m a big fan of rewarding myself—I’ll frequently set little goals with little rewards for completion.  When I was trying to get into the habit of running, I didn’t really have any running gear, so my first real running clothes weren’t purchased until I’d run three times a week for six weeks straight.  Things like weekly mileage or a longer “long run” earned me more. A couple of weeks before my surgery, Sally and I stopped in Zoe Boutique after our run.  Our friend, Susan, owns the shop, and we’ve become friends with the manager, Tara, too, so we love stopping in anytime we’re in the neighborhood.  They were getting ready for the annual Old Town Warehouse Sale, and looking through the racks they were preparing to take along, I saw it.  My mastectomy reward.

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One of the lesser know “perks” of reconstruction is the ability to wear backless or sheer-backed tops without worrying about pesky straps.  I would never have considered this lovely blue Alice and Trixie top before, but I decided to try it on.  I loved it, and I bought it.  Because I could.  I was excited to wear it last week when Sally took some photos of me, and since we were using Zoe Boutique as our “home base” while we took pictures around Old Town, we decided to do a few outside our favorite old town shop!

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Lipstick: Funny Face by Nars
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Getting My Model On

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I had the best time this week out and about Old Town with the always lovely Sally of Sally Brewer Photography.  I wanted some nice updated photos of myself—I don’t really feel like the old ones with all that hair really look like me anymore!  And so we traipsed around Old Town, me doing my very best to not blink while she captured the new, short-haired me!  Because that’s how we roll, I changed clothes (and lipstick!) several times, and she photographed me in several different spots.  I’ll probably break it up into a few posts because it’s too hard to pick even three or four favorites!
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I’m sure not every woman who has gone through breast cancer can find such a fabulous photographer to document her journey and how she’s come through it.  I know so many women fear breast cancer will steal their beauty, make them feel less feminine. But I feel like someone who didn’t know the long-haired, pre-surgery Jamie wouldn’t begin to imagine what my body has gone through in the past year.  Looking at these pictures, I see a healthy, happy, confident woman.  I couldn’t have hoped for more.  These photos are such a treasure.  Many thanks to my dear friend, Sally.
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lipstick: Dubonnet by MAC
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On Being a Survivor

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Having made it through chemo and surgery and having been told by the doctors that there is no residual disease, I have entered the third stage of my interaction with breast cancer.  Researcher.  Patient.  Now survivor.  That’s a hard word for me.  There are some benefits to using it—everyone knows what it means: I had breast cancer and I didn’t die. It means that at big breast cancer races I get the pink shirt and the cool swag bag.  It gains me access into a whole new community.  A community, it turns out, filled with vibrant, beautiful, compassionate women of all ages.

But I worry about using the term survivor.  In fact, I’ll probably use it when absolutely necessary (I love me some swag bags!) but I’m not sure I’ll refer to myself as a breast cancer survivor much.  I survived, but not because I’m stronger or made wiser decisions or am more favored by God.  I worry that to call myself a survivor somehow implies that those women who have gone before me, the ones who have succumbed to breast cancer, were weaker.  In fact, those ladies likely possessed more strength than I could ever imagine.

To survive something means that you’ve gotten through something hard, and I suppose that fits.  Many survivors—survivors of war, natural disasters, acts of terror– feel guilt about having survived.  Even long before the doctors pronounced me cancer free, I felt this guilt.  Throughout all of my chemo treatments, I was not nauseated.  Not a single time.  I had no sores in my mouth, my fingernails were in good shape, my fatigue never reached the level of debilitating (though I’m sure the napping helped).  Frankly, for the most part, I felt great.  And at the same time, I felt horribly.  Horribly for the women who were nauseated, completely worn down, couldn’t eat.  I wanted to have a great attitude all the time, but sometimes I felt bad just for being able to have such a great attitude.  Never was that guilt more acute than when I sat, wig-clad, at my good friend’s funeral.  It’s not fair that she has to be labeled “breast cancer victim” while I get to wear the badge “survivor.”  She was a strong, healthy, Godly woman.  I’m not better than her.  I just have a different story.

You won’t see a big pink ribbon magnet on the back of my car or anywhere on this site. (Though my daughter does love them, bless her heart.) At least not now. It has nothing to do with wanting to hide the fact that I’ve had breast cancer.  You won’t hurt my feelings by calling me a survivor, but that’s just not how I want to think of myself.  I prefer you think of me as a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend.  Think of me as a researcher, an advocate.  We’ve all survived something tough.  We’re all survivors.

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Not Your Normal Christmas Card Photo

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We have some really lovely family photos that Sally took of us a month or so ago.  Obviously, I want to use one of those for our family Christmas card.  But when we found out that I had breast cancer, Clay and I decided together that we were going to own this.  I don’t intend to let cancer take over my life, my every conversation.  But I’m also not going to pretend that it doesn’t exist.  I can be strong and beautiful and have cancer.  It seemed almost a little fake to send everyone a card in December, knowing that all the lovely hair in that picture is now gone.  So I had Sally bring her camera along to lunch after church today, and she snapped this one quickly.  I’m not really one for the long Christmas letter, but I know that there are some people who don’t hear from us much the rest of the year.  So this picture will go on the back of our card along with the address of my Helping Hands site.  Anyone who doesn’t already know can check it out if they’re interested.  But even if they don’t follow along with my posts there, I think this picture really is worth a thousand words.  I may have cancer, but cancer doesn’t have me.

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The Final Cut

Enjoying my coffee with Sally and Crystal on Wednesday, I ran my fingers through my hair like I always do.  Only this time, I usually came out with a strand or two of hair. Thursday, it was several hairs at a time. I called to see when Dragan could squeeze me in to shave my head. Actually, I put off calling him for a couple of hours, I wasn’t ready. But he could put me before his first appointment on this morning, which would be good for Sally to meet me and the kids wouldn’t miss much school. I took the appointment, though still wasn’t sure that I was ready. But this morning, I was ready. Just washing my hair and attempting to blow it dry to go have it cut left far more hair on the brush and the floor than I wanted to deal with. That’s just what I needed to see, it was time.
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Dragan braided it and cut off the braid so that I can donate it.  The kids did great, they’d wanted to come along.  We had fun and not a tear was shed. Though, as Dragan prepared to start shaving, my compassionate little guy came over to love on me just in case I needed it.

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Part of what made the day a success was the markers.  Thanks to Ashley’s video, I thought to take along some washable markers for them to use to decorate my newly bald head.  It gave them something to look forward to and they loved it!

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I thought I’d be at least a little upset over the loss of my hair.  But really, I’m ok with it.  So far, I’ve gone out in my wig, a scarf, and even bared my bald head a little. I was completely ok with it, and so were the kids. They love to massage and pet my bald head! I was worried about their reaction, and couldn’t have been more pleased with how they’re doing. I knew that being without hair, makeup was going to be more important than ever to me.  I’m so glad I took the time to do a good job, it really does feel like it made a difference.  Since lots of people on facebook asked, this lipstick is my current favorite, Dubonnet by MAC.  Seeing these pictures, I think a strong, bold lip will be important in the upcoming months, and I’m betting this lipstick will get a lot of use.

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It shouldn’t go without saying that these images are so special to me.  I worried seeing my hair fall to the floor might be hard. Mostly, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to hold it together if the kids fell to pieces.  Watching Ashley’s video gave me confidence that we would do fine, and it made me realize that I wanted those special images of my own.  I’m so grateful that Sally came along and captured this fun morning for us.  I feel truly blessed to call this talented woman my friend.

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Photography by Sally Brewer Photography

 

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Fall Family Photos

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In the weeks leading up to my first chemo treatment, I had a long list of things to do.  Mostly LOTS of appointments, but also normal “mom” things.  There are so many school events at the beginning of the year, coupled with a visit from family, Halloween costumes to be made, and a hurricane made for a busy few weeks.  Sally and I had talked about family photos, but they just didn’t get taken.  I was delighted that I was feeling ok after my first treatment and so we decided to meet up at the train station in Old Town for some quick shots.  We probably weren’t there for more than twenty or thirty minutes, but she was able to capture some of the most beautiful images.  I don’t really know much of what to expect of the next few months, but I do know that I will cherish these images of my family—I’m sure the time will come when I can hardly imagine having all this hair!

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Many thanks to my dear, talented friend Sally for these images.  They are truly special to me.

Sally Brewer Photography

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