Saturday, March 6, 2010


When I married Jon, I married into a great family. If you know the Hessels, you know what I mean :). One of my biggest supporters of my photography dreams when my business was just in its infancy was Jon's cousin Kathy and her adorable family.

I first started photographing their family way back in 2007 when I just starting to explore family portrait photography. If you've followed my blog, you may remember Maddie, Sarah, and When Colin came home. More recently, I photographed the entire family this summer on an unusually warm summer day with lots of golden sun:

My latest session with this wonderful family was earlier this winter. But this time, it was just for Kathy. And it was totally different from all the other sessions I've photographed for them.

As 2009 was winding to a close, Kathy stunned the entire family with a startling revelation.

She had cancer.

Kathy was diagnosed with stomach cancer, a type of cancer that is usually found in only the elderly. So at only 31 years old, it was quite a shock to learn that this type of cancer had invaded Kathy's body. The doctors immediately started Kathy on an aggressive chemo therapy treatment.

I remember when we first heard news... it just seemed so surreal. I mean, Kathy is young. She's healthy and in good shape and has three little children that she pours her life into daily. She SHOULDN'T have cancer.

I saw her at a family gathering not long after she had started her first chemo treatment. But she wasn't what I was expecting. I mean, she just found out her life was about to be altered by intensive chemo and a very painful surgery. If that had happened to me, I can imagine I'd probably sit in a corner and pass the time by worrying. and probably eating more cookies than I could count.

But not Kathy.

She was the same Kathy she had always been. Lively. Funny. Full of life. Unaltered.

I told her that I really admired her for having such a positive outlook. She told me she just didn't know any other way to be. And that right there sums up who Kathy is. She wouldn't let something like a chemo pump attached to her neck, or thinning hair, or the uncertainty of cancer steal her joy. She continued to LIVE. Really LIVE.

So when she asked me to come do a photoshoot of her after the chemo had taken her thick brown locks, I immediately agreed. She said it would be empowering. I couldn't agree more.

Her eyes are stunning and captivating. truly beautiful.

And this pretty much sums up how Kathy is facing life... with unaltered joy and a positivity rooted firmly in her faith

Kathy and her husband Mike have been blogging throughout their journey here . It's always entertaining to read Mike's witty posts, and I find it even more encouraging to read about their faith that has held firm day by day.

On Monday morning, Kathy entered the hospital to have her entire stomach and part of her esophagus removed. She has a long road ahead of her with recovery, more chemo, and the addition of radiation, but when we went up to visit her today, the same smile and joy that we've always seen in Kathy was still there. Unaltered.

If you're the praying type, send up a little prayer for our dear cousin Kathy. Please pray that the treatments would be effective and any lingering cancer would be eliminated. Pray that her recovery would be speedy and she can return to life a little more quickly than expected. Pray that she'd be able to enjoy her precious family and savor the moments.

We love you, Kathy, and we're praying for you always.


Audrey Coley Photography said...

Really touched by this story, and these amazing photos!

Tony and Kristen Mueller said...

Kathy you are in my prayers...I started crying when I read feels like just yesterday you and I were in Lisa and Jon's wedding...your smile then, is still the same today! Amazing courage and faith, girl. Lisa, love these images...great to have!!

Jessica said...

Beautiful post, Lisa. I will be praying for your family. Kathy seems like such a ray of sunshine... certainly someone with faith.

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jenn said...

What an amazing and beautiful story, it sounds like she is fighting so hard..thank you for sharing, my prayers are with her and your whole family as they stand by her!

Ashley said...

Oh Lisa, this is so beautiful. I love Kathy's outlook on life, and I'll always keep her and the family in my prayers. :)