Meet the families
Michelle, the first participant of With all my love, reached out to us last month after hearing about our project as a result of the annual Forget for a moment event for women living with breast cancer. Michelle was not the first in her family to be diagnosed with breast cancer. Having lost a close family member and learning she has the BRCA mutation, her diagnosis was especially difficult.
She was hoping to capture images of her family together at golden hour. We opted for a lovely and central location her young son and daughter could explore: the Fletcher Wildlife Gardens. On a warm May evening, we had the whole place to ourselves. We started off playing at the swing set, walked around the Arboretum and even looked for frogs at the swamp. Their love for each other was so visible, I focused on capturing their bond and made sure to photograph details as well, like little hands and feet that won't stay so little for much longer.
It was a pleasure to meet them and we hope that these photos will hold a special place for them for years to come.
Our session started with the eldest boy running right up to me and showing me his soccer cleats and shin guards that he wore for the session. I loved this family immediately. They were so open, they didn't know me except for a few email exchanges but they were effortlessly themselves. Before we even met, I was so struck by Simona's strength and honesty in sharing her story. Our session was scheduled the week of their wedding anniversary which happens to coincide with the pink blossoming trees in their neighbourhood. They set up a little picnic under the blossom trees and the beautiful chaos of three children with their own personalities unfolded, allowing for some wonderful moments to be captured. It was clear that this family had two things in abundance: humour and love.
Diagnosed with breast cancer just five weeks after welcoming their third child, at a time when most families are adjusting to life with a newborn, this family's experience must have looked very different than most. Underneath that cancer diagnosis is an entire family that is affected on many levels and that is why we are so passionate about this project.
We hope that the photos will help Simona and her family be transported back to this morning and the moments together.
Gillian, a mother of 3 girls was diagnosed in 2016 with Glioblastoma Multiforme, an aggressive cancer that begins within the brain. It seems strange starting this post with her diagnosis because we didn't spend much time talking about that or about treatments and all that goes with it. Instead, like past sessions, the focus is the family, the kids, playing and having fun and documenting those little moments together.
When Gillian submitted her application for a photo session, something she wrote will stay with me always. She wrote: "I'm trying to gather as much tangible evidence of my relationship with my daughters while I'm still here, because I worry that due to their young age they won't have much memory of me and our relationship once I'm gone". The weight of that sunk in so much more when I met her and her beautiful family. They rolled up on their bikes, took off their helmets and all 3 girls had these beautiful curls. Their different personalities shined through almost immediately. The photos taken may seem like a simple afternoon at the park on the surface, but beneath that is the connection that only they share. At this stage, Gillian and Neil are their daughters' whole world. Nobody knows their daughters better: what to say to get them to laugh hysterically (if you're curious, the words 'bum bum' elicited that huge smile on the swing set), how to comfort them, what event will cause conflict, and what each one will do when presented with the same challenge. They know their children like the backs of their hands. Childhood is such a precious time for children and their parents and this is why we choose to focus on this stage of life with this project. We know that this project can't make everything all better but our hope is that, if memories fail, the photos can bring them back to the little moments together, to a feeling and the beauty of their family.
Last June, Dominique's close friend Renee, contacted us in hopes of securing a photo session for Dominique and her two teenagers this summer. Diagnosed with Glioblastoma Multiforme in June 2017, Dominique has seen her daily life drastically change; movement in her right arm and leg has been affected, as well as her speech. When describing her friend's journey, Renee said: "It's been explicably difficult but Dominique has remained fiercely courageous and hardworking from day one and has not wavered. It is incredible what she has been able to accomplish with the limitations this cancer has posed her."
Since Dominique and her family love outdoor activities, we decided to have our session at the Fletcher Wildlife Gardens, a place they had not yet had the chance to visit and explore. Although her children weren't too sure at first about getting their photos taken, their hesitation didn't last long. We broke the ice with humour, and I learned that my repertoire of jokes needs to be updated for teenagers! I loved that they were up to do a few fun photos to surprise their mom. Seeing the three of them together was so touching. Dominique's children are her pride and joy and the love they feel for each other was evident.
Her friend Renee, whom she has known for years, helped throughout the whole process: emails, phone calls, driving them to the session and offering assistance throughout the session. I couldn't help but sneak a few photos of them laughing together. Family is about bonds and being there for each other no matter what, and from what I could see, Dominique and Renee are family.
Scott's wife Johanne contacted us in July to organize a surprise family session in honour of his 50th birthday in September. Following two misdiagnoses in 2011 and 2014, Scott was officially diagnosed with Stage 3 melanoma in January 2018 after a file review that was suggested by his oncologist surgeon. He had to undergo surgery in March, which left a large scar on his shoulder. He also had to have a many lymph nodes removed under his arm. Still in treatment, it has been a stressful and emotional time for their family.
For their session, Johanne wanted us to spend the afternoon together at the Arboretum, a location that has a special meaning for their family. As soon as I arrived, they welcomed me with such warmth. We walked, talked and got to know each
other as we explored this beautiful green space in the heart of the city. It was lovely to see them playing together. After a few family portraits, we focused on candid shots which involved lots of tree climbing!
Following the delivery of their selected images and complimentary prints, Johanne wrote us these kind words about their experience: " With all my love was a true blessing. It was a wonderful opportunity for our family to capture a special moment together as a family today and reflect on past memories that were created at the Arboretum. Myriam truly captured our girls personality....something that is so unique and special.
I am honoured that our family had a chance to be "normal" and live in the moment and appreciate the day without worrying about what kind of uncertainties that cancer has brought to our family. Cancer may be powerful, but it cannot destroy love. Thank you once again for this wonderful opportunity...our family will always be so grateful!'
I met Amalia, Tyrone and their adorable daughter for their family photo session at the end of March, only 10 days after Amalia was diagnosed with breast cancer. Treatment was going to unfold quickly in the following weeks and so time was of the essence.
Amalia and her family chose to capture real everyday moments at their home. Those little moments that we sometimes take for granted have a heightened importance when given news that will quickly bring about changes to routines. Luckily, with a not-yet-two-year-old guiding the session, there is a lot of ground that can be covered in an hour.
The focus was on capturing a day in the life, candid photos of activities the family enjoy together.
Reading, drawing, dancing, singing and special one on one time with Amalia breastfeeding her little girl, it was a beautiful session filled with moments of connection, love and laughter.
It was a pleasure meeting this family and witnessing the deep bond that connects these three and the beautiful life they have built together.
More to come...
Bronwyn contacted us in April in hopes of booking a spring family photo session. Diagnosed a few months ago with appendix cancer, a very rare form of cancer, she wanted us to capture photos of their whole family having fun together.
It was nice to hear how she learned about our project through a fellow Ottawa family photographer as well as the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation.
We chose to go to the Arboretum for our session and the weather sure didn't disappoint! As we walked together through the trails, we shared stories about the joys of raising boys. I showed them all my favourite spots and we took advantage of the beautiful evening light.
In Bronwyn's words: " Myriam made us feel very comfortable right away and she was excellent with the kids. And the photos - wow. We are so thankful to have this moment of time captures so beautifully."
Julie was only 37 when she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. She made it through chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and multiple surgeries. Life moved on, her children grew and they enjoyed an active lifestyle as a family. Fast forward 10 years and the devastating news that the cancer had returned flipped their lives upside down once again with more surgeries, more hospital time and a stint in the ICU.
What stood out about Julie's story is not only the ripple effect such a diagnosis has on every aspect of life including the impact on those who love her most, but how powerful support and love can be to get through each unpredictable day, one day at a time. I was honoured to be invited into Julie's home to capture her family together.
In Julie's words: "I've had a really rough go, but I'm still here now. I don't know how much time I have left but I am living as well as I can and as positive and graciously as I'm able. "
When asked how cancer has affected day to day life, Melissa says: "It has affected me emotionally more than anything. I feel like my life is like a roller- coster right now". After the loss of her father from Pancreatic cancer in January 2019, her Mom was diagnosed with Gastric cancer. Melissa then urged her own doctor to send her for screening at which point a cancerous polyp was found during a colonoscopy. Melissa was diagnosed with Colonic adenocarcinoma.
When Melissa wrote to us back in February 2020, she shared with us why she wanted this photo session: "I have been trying to hold it together to help my Mom and myself. She is the glue that holds us together and was always the picture taker. We are a very tight-knit family so it would mean the world to her capture some precious moments with her children."
Unfortunately, COVID-19 restrictions prevented our originally scheduled photo session with Melissa from taking place as planned in April 2020. The initial session was to include her Mom. Sadly, Melissa's mother passed away a few weeks before we were able to once again offer the session to her.
We love that Melissa shared a photo of her Mom with us to include her during the session. We were able to capture moments with Melissa, her husband and their son in front of her childhood home shortly before they moved.
Melissa's strength and spirit are a true inspiration.
Afshan was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the spring of 2019 despite having had both of her ovaries removed years before. After long and complex surgeries and a round a chemo in the past year, there was good news: Afshan was able to enjoy a cancer free summer in 2020 with her family including being outdoors, playing at the park and enjoying art activities with her 5 year old daughter.
Following some pain that led to new imaging this Fall, she was told that her cancer had returned and that new treatments were needed. As Afshan was about to start chemo again, her childhood friend Chantal contacted us to share her story and quickly organize a family photo session for her. Afshan's last family photos were taken a few years ago when her daughter was a toddler.
We met at their house and walked across the street to the local park where we focused on a few family portraits and lots of candid playtime. Their love for each other and the bond they share was obvious. Their daughter’s playfulness and sense of adventure were so fun to capture .
As Afshan said, this is them now!
"Time stands still best in moments that look suspiciously like ordinary life" - Brian Andreas
This quote came to mind while photographing Will, Allison and their son Liam. It is what we wish for them and is really a part of what With all my love is about - making time stand still in the little moments, if even for a bit.
Will is 47, has never smoked, has no family history of lung cancer, so a diagnosis of stage IV lung cancer that has spread to, at least, his lymph nodes, stomach, and brain was a true shock for his family.
We met Will in the days before final test results were to come in. Test results to determine which gene mutation has caused the cancer would set the course of treatment. I was so touched by the bond between this family of 3. They had planned an amazing treasure hunt in their backyard and helped Liam search for the little cars that were hidden amongst the branches. Will and his son share a passion for cars. The way Liam looks at his dad, giving him kisses on his shoulder, the love between Will and Allison, was so beautiful to witness.