Hope Photography Exhibit 2016

This weekend was a big one for me. There were two big events that have been worked towards for months. One was the Hope Photography Exhibit of 2016 organized by RFL Team Hope, headed by Catalina Staheli. I feel honored to have been a part of the exhibit this year.

Back in January, a notice went out in the Relay for Life Volunteers group about the exhibit. I remembered seeing the exhibit during RFL weekend last year, so to think that I could be involved in this was too tempting. I applied and a few weeks later I got a notecard telling me I had been accepted to be one of 20 (at the time) survivors and caregivers in Second Life to be in the event. We were paired up with these amazing photographers in Second Life, who through their generosity and caring were offering their services to take pictures of the participants. And this weekend, brought to a close the culmination of months of planning and work for each partnered pair in one great reveal. I was lucky enough to have Wyld with me during this and experience it with him by my side. The whole day was overwhelming and emotional for me, so I didn’t do much moving around, so today I went back to take some pictures and write this entry.

I read my story again and relived my journey. It was amazing to see myself up on that wall. I hadn’t looked at myself like that before. Thanks to Tempest Rosca and her amazing talent, the message of purity, hope, and rebirth came across. Not only did she make me feel special, but she has also become a “forever friend” of which I am truly thankful for. The following is the slideshow of the pictures I took today and a copy of my story.

In 1999, I found nodules poking out of my neck. I was on Utah’s free health care at the time, so they sent me to a specialist for a biopsy and tests. She told me the biopsies were suspicious but wanted to try controlling it with medicine to save money. This worked for years until I was removed from the medicine by another doctor. It wasn’t long before the nodules grew back and I became sick.

There were around 11 nodules found on my thyroid, two of which were cancerous. One of the nodules was a combination of two different kinds of thyroid cancer, the names of which I can’t remember or pronounce. Because of my doctor at the time, they grew back. I had to fight for a diagnosis and demand to be sent to a specialist, but it was a fight well worth it because two weeks later I finally had my answer. I had cancer.

I don’t remember much of that time. I remember being home alone when they told me I had cancer. I was crying and after I hung up with the doctors office could barely talk. I remember a few weeks after being diagnosed going in for my first consultation and a week after that, going in for my first surgery. I remember studying and writing my thesis for my Masters Degree right after I woke up and being bored in the hospital. I remember coming back for my second surgery the next month and doing the same thing as before. Then, three months later, having radiation therapy, which caused me to lose my hair in patches. And then two years later, I remember being told that I was cancer free.

Not too long after I joined SL, I found out I was cancer free and that there was a thing called Relay for Life to raise money for research. I have been a part of this for the last six years and every year on Relay weekend, I walk the whole night in honor of my journey and celebration of being alive. My journey took twelve years to complete from first diagnosis and treatment until the end when I was cleared of all cancer. I still have some medical problems from this time, but I am free of cancer, alive and very happy.

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