What would you do to save your life? Anything that it takes? This 34-year-old mama of 3 girls made a decision that I am not sure that I myself would have been able to make. She chose to say no to chemicals to cure her cancer.
This Sunday morning my alarm went off at 5:25 am, and after staying up until almost midnight out of excitement, my eyes were heavy with sleep, but I was out the door and driving down the highway by 5:45, and knocking on Krista's door, 341 kilometres away, at 9:45 am. I was extremely nervous to meet her, and didn't realize how nervous until I pulled up in front of her house. The plan had been to do the shoot outdoors, in the forest, with an immense head dress and long robes, but with the rainy coast weather, last minute we decided to stick to an indoor location.
On the other side of the street was an open rolling field of green, with an old wood framed building stuck all alone next to the road, its only company a few trees along the property. It hadn't started raining yet but the quickly changing sky made promise of it, pushing away any views of blue. With an arm full of props, and my camera bag strapped to my back, I walked with anticipation to the bright red front door. Before I even reached the steps, Krista greeted me with a giant smile. Even though she had been a part of my almost daily life for almost two years, we had never met, and had only spoken a handful of times before I asked to do the shoot for her.
In 2015 Krista and I became friends on facebook and the longer I followed her story, the clearer it became to me that Krista was a warrior. Krista and I were both Beachbody coaches at the time, so we both had very positive, uplifting and PUBLIC facebook posts. Krista was sharing every detail of her fight against breast cancer, and when she was featured on a local news station I got to see how she had grown her own garden, and the amazing things she had accomplished on her journey to beat cancer without medication or drugs, and I silently cheered her on. At the same time in my life, my dads own battle with cancer was progressing, and I was dealing with the whirlwind of emotions that follows bad news. Through his battle, I watched Krista take a hold of her future, and hold it in her hands, as close to her heart as she could, and she believed with everything she had that she would beat it. She had to. Cancer thrives in negative environments, and she had bigger plans.
She chose to fight.
One of the biggest decisions that Krista had to make to completely remove the negative from her life, was to end her marriage. I can't imagine what life would be like to be diagnosed with life threatening cancer, but I can imagine that nothing is the same after. I can imagine that the way you look at the people in your life changes, for the better, and sometimes for the worse. I can imagine that you find out a lot of things about the people you love, that you couldn't have found out in any other way. I can imagine that nothing would be scarier than facing cancer without your partner that you've grown to love and depend on for more than a decade.
But I really can't imagine. And unless you've been through it, you can't either. I couldn't imagine making the decision to say no to potentially life saving chemicals because you know there's a better path, and I couldn't imagine what it feels like to end a 15 year marriage in the throws of it all.
More than all of that, I couldn't imagine leaving my own daughter behind, and that is what I can imagine fueled Krista every hard step after hard step.
Krista shared her decision to get divorced on facebook, and it exploded. She explained how giving everything that she had left to beat this, was all in vain if she didn't also rid the toxins in her soul. She needed to remove the toxicity of her marriage, or else her life would never be as positive an environment as what was required to make miracles happen. I had made the same decision recently, and related to every word she said. Watching the comments coming through Krista's feed made my stomach turn, as I watched numerous people make ignorant comments, with complete disregard to how much their words could impact her. But for every belittling comment, there were ten positive ones. The majority of her friends list has grown to love her as much as I have, and as we all have watched, baffled by what she's been able to do, each of us stood behind her in her decision.
She chose to live.
As her battle continued, Krista reached a low weight of 105 pounds on her small 5'0 frame. She had changed her whole life, removed all meat and dairy, and ate only organic, among so many other things. She no longer had the strength to workout, because every ounce of her strength was going into mothering her three girls, and fighting this intense battle. She finally decided that she needed help, and in her search she found something she never expected.
Her soul mate.
Shortly after she accepted the new love into her life, they became pregnant. Even more unexpectedly, she was pregnant with twins! A few months into her pregnancy Krista's doctors confirmed they could no longer find the cancer. They questioned her on her treatments, whether she had surgery, and what she was doing to fight her tumour and although she knew that they may not completely understand or believe her, she explained what she had done. Against their advice of alternative measures, and even with the test results in front of them, they refused to believe she was right.
But that didn't matter. The only thing that mattered was that she knew she was right.
She had succeeded in creating a life of pure love, and the unexpected new souls within her were the confirmation that her life had changed for the better.
When I read the words on my screen, the announcement of her pregnancy, I was in shock. I didn't know her personally, but she had changed my life in ways she had no idea. It made absolute sense to me that she would be blessed with these babies in her life, because she was a warrior that deserved the power of three hearts, even if just for a little while. When she posted shortly after about no longer being able to feel her cancer, I private messaged her, explaining that I had been following her story, and that I would be honoured if she would let me do a maternity shoot for her. She agreed, excited as this would be the first maternity shoot she has had, and I pulled together the idea of a warrior shoot. I created an inspiration board, found the perfect dress, collected beautiful props, and booked a local makeup artist.
When I got to the door I couldn't help but smile ear to ear, finally being able to meet her. I don't know how to put my feelings into words, but I just felt so familiar with her. It's odd to have a sense of familiarity with someone you've never met, but it happened.
Pawan Sekhon, the makeup artist, arrived shortly after I did. We sat in the kitchen and talked while Krista got her makeup done, and when she was finished I told Krista she had to eat because modelling takes a lot of work. So she made us all eat.
She cut oranges and pineapple, she had bowls of stew, and bread with butter. All of it was amazing, and being fed from THE Krista Brady was kind of a big deal to me. This was literally the bread and butter that saved her life. My face was starting to hurt from smiling, and seeing the happiness in Krista's face, and that beautiful tummy with two little babies growing so strong inside, who are going to have amazing lives because their momma is a warrior, made it hard to stop smiling. You can feel her magic. Her life, and those babies, are miracles. It was my pleasure to photograph her.
I hope these photos reflect her story.