Wears the Sunscreen?

This is Katie. She is a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend, and a Melanoma cancer survivor.

And she is the only one that can tell her story of survival, but there are many of us that can share it. That is exactly what we are here to do!

Katie and I have known each other since high school. We lost touch after, however, thanks to social media, we could keep in contact. She reached out to me asking if I would be her photographer for the visual story she was ready to tell. I was incredibly honored.

She explained to me that she wanted the images to be portrayed in a beautiful yet meaningful way. I knew instantly that I could do this but it needed more than just me, way more.

We talked about how this story could become an awareness campaign. Not only could Katie tell her story but she could help others in the process. And WOW, did the wheels start turning!!

I contacted Jordan of The Bronzing Room and asked her if she would be a part of this collaboration. I mean, come on, spray tanning?? What a great business to bring in! That IS the new form of sun! The healthy one! She gave Katie a beautiful glow and stirred in her new products as well. The session brought new friendships and lots of laughs and learning opportunities about healthy tans!

We spent months talking about how she wanted the photos to look and bringing light to an otherwise dark time of her life. I saw the happiness fill her eyes as we planned out certain shots we were going to capture and it filled me with excitement for what we would be able to show the world. A story of survival.

I contacted AZ Beauty Babes, Tiffany and Leanna, to create a more powerful look to this campaign to bring out the warrior inside Katie through hair and makeup. Each were done with a strategic element. The black winged eye makeup showed the fierceness of Katies’ spirit and the hint of purple in her hair for the battle she still goes through with Fibromyalgia that developed after her cancer treatments. Katie felt strong and ready to stand in front of the camera to tell her story.

Throughout this whole day we had Ryan doing video. He captured beautiful footage to make an impactful video of Katie! The link to watch is at the bottom of this post!

One of the first ideas we had, came from journaling that Katie had done through the 10 year journey from being diagnosed to her 5 year mark of being cancer free. She kept record of every appointment, her 14 surgeries, 5 different chemotherapies, 2 immunotherapies, and 14 rounds of radiation. We decided it would be fun to journal on a 10×10 backdrop and later discovered the therapy from within that creating this backdrop gave her. There were moments of tears and moments of empowerment when she stood back and took this all in. THIS is what she endured and fought and now stands in front of. It was a powerful image of what Melanoma can do and what she overcame.

The weight of her experience is shown in these images. Every medical record, every journal entry summed up here. And yet, that smile… There was so much happiness within the shoot which is who Katie is. A person who overcame an ugly disease and came out with a positive outlook to spread awareness to as many people as she could! I can’t tell you how many times we laughed and jumped up and down at how amazing the session was going! It thrilled her to know what was being made!

This was THE most fun of the entire session! We both let loose on the importance of sunscreen! This truly shows Katie’s personality and put a comical spin on a tedious task. Wear sunscreen!!! I have been so hard on my kids about it over the years more so for the reason of keeping their skin beautiful and young for as long as possible. Not so much for the reason we are talking about. After hearing Katie’s story, one sunburn could mean life or death. Wear sunscreen!

The shirt, “Wears the sunscreen?” was a phrase Katie came up with to bring awareness in a fun way! It can be worn by everyone! Lauren with Ivy and Olivia Custom Goods made this shirt and Katie is so excited to help to sell these to spread that awareness!

It just so happens that Katie loves sun shirts! They are very popular in the golf world. Worn by women who are out on the golf course for several hours in the bright sun. But guess what? They are not just for golfers! Do you want to protect your skin without wearing a heavy, long sleeve shirt in the Arizona summers? This light weight sun shirt made by Taylor Jordan is where its at! Katie wanted to promote these because they are just another form of skin protection. This may sound like an advertisement but as businesses brought together for the common cause, we are all here to help in the prevention of skin cancer. That is what we came together to help Katie to do.

The whole idea behind this shoot was the revealing of Katie’s scars. This is where it all started. She didn’t want to just snap a photo of them, she wanted to tell her story through the scars. Each scar has a different story but felt the same emotion. Each scar reminds her of her fight, of her strength, of her triumph, of her ability to share with others of the many misconceptions of what cancer can do to you and that Melanoma IS preventable.

If it hadn’t have been for Katie’s disposition, I would’ve had a hard time getting through these photos. She is a strong woman who endured so much. I wanted each image to evoke the emotion that came with each scar in the most beautiful way possible.

The love and support of her family is what got her through this trying time in her life and that would not go unnoticed in this session. We brought her family out after her shoot was finished and had a great time capturing that strong bond. Just as she had to be strong for her family, they had to be strong for her.

Katie didn’t go through this cancer alone. The pain was her husbands as well. He was her knight in shining armor through it all and the love felt was all consuming. He has been her rock, her safe place, her person. The power of love is a beautiful thing.

Words can not explain the love I have for Katie. I am incredibly humbled and blessed for the opportunity she gave me to help share her story through imagery. She taught me that positive outlooks bring positive outcomes.

I hope you will share this post to help Katie in spreading the awareness of skin protection and keep the message growing!

Click on the links throughout this post if you are interested in any of the products shown!

And PLEASE follow Katie on social! That is where she will be sharing her story!!

https://www.instagram.com/my_melanoma_world/

https://www.facebook.com/mymelanomaworld/

https://www.instagram.com/tammyzelezphotography/channel/

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