Then, at 19 months old, she was diagnosed with cancer. We spent several days in the PICU at Seattle Children’s and the thought of picking up my camera was suddenly terrifying. I was so aware that I could be documenting moments that would end up being some of the only tangible remains of my daughter that I’d have one day. I was having some sort of semi-conscience protest about these scary turn of events in our once seemingly “perfect” little life. That’s partly why we take pictures though isn’t it? To document moments to share and reminisce over later. But, when it comes to your child, you expect to sit down with them one day and flip through photo albums and share the memories together; laugh at their two year old naked bottoms running through a sprinkler in the backyard together. That is the dream anyway.
When that same child is diagnosed with a life threatening disease, the picture changes. The dreams change. At least they did for us. It was a while before I started taking pictures again, the way that I used to; before I got more comfortable documenting the life we were faced with instead of always clinging to the one we’d been forced to leave behind. It was a tough and scary transition. Oddly enough though, the few pictures I have of Olivia in the PICU, in the early days after her diagnosis, are ones I often look back at. To see how her hair looked before chemotherapy made it all fall out. To marvel at her sitting there reading books not long after she had been so close to death. I see how vulnerable she was but also how resilient. There is hurting and relief, and fear and hope, all in one picture. There is so much worth in that moment for me, as her mother.
From that stay in the PICU, we hopped on the cancer treatment roller coaster, which eventually led to a bone marrow transplant. A Soulumination photographer took pictures of Olivia and our family about three months post transplant. We have the image you framed and sent to us hanging on our living room wall. There is as much beauty in the bald headed girl with an ng tube taped to her cheek, smiling back at me from that familiar spot in my parent’s driveway (almost two years ago), as there is in the curly headed girl with a robust appetite that sits before me today. Those images document an important and treasured part of our story. Her story.
I have since learned the true worth of a picture and know that sometimes, the ones that hurt the most to take, are the most treasured of all.
It is true, I think, that the gift of a moment in time – a moment that we cannot get back – a moment where we touched and smiled and were simply together with the people that we love and cherish the most, is a truly priceless thing.
We thank you for all of the work that you do, the time and effort donated by your administrators and talented photographers alike, to bring families like ours treasured moments to last a lifetime.
With warm regards and many thanks from our family and, in honor of Liam Anderson and Cody Sangster, who were taken too soon and are dearly loved and greatly missed.
Rachel Ambroson (Olivia’s mom)
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