Today, Easter, is the most perfect day to launch a new weekly post called Sunday Sweetness. The word sweet is embedded in my vocabulary because, well, there is so much sweetness in life.
Friendship is, I believe, one of the sweetest things in the world so I thought it apropo to begin the series with it.
My experience with FBC (f-bomb breast cancer for new readers) illuminated the importance and value of friendship in my life (Silver Lining). In addition to my existing friends doing the most phenomenal things for me and my family during my illness, I actually developed some new and unexpected friendships. I say “actually” because making new friends was an unexpected (and Silver Lined!) surprise of the experience…much better than the surprise of learning just how sick I could be. I digress.
One of my new and now very dear friends is Elizabeth Messina. Not only is Elizabeth an extraordinary photographer (as in majorly award winning!), but (more importantly) she is an absolutely magnificent person. Her sensitivity, compassion and tenderness are huge contributors to her phenomenal talent. (Phenomenal being an understatement, by the way…)
Our friendship is a special one because of a very unique bond that we forged early in our relationship. Shortly after my double mastectomy and reconstruction, she came over for a visit. We were chatting about the surgery and she wondered “what do they (my newly reconstructed ‘breasts’) look like”?
After my diagnosis (which required removing my shirt for strangers on a daily basis), I had pretty much lost all dignity and humility about being topless. In trying (unsuccessfully) to describe what my reconstructed breasts looked like, I asked, “Do you want to just see them? “Sure!”she said. So, I pulled my shirt down to show her.
Her response was, “Oh my goodness. They are beautiful!” Beautiful? Is she off her rocker, I wondered? However, I knew that Elizabeth is not one to proffer false compliments. She’s as honest and forthright as a person can be, which is one of the reasons I’m so crazy about her.
She went on to say, “I’d like to shoot you. What do you think about that?” Shoot me…as in photograph me? Really? That was about the LAST thing I would ever in a million years have thought about post mastectomy. I mean, really. WTF?
But since I had nothing better to do (that’s how I thought in those days), I agreed.
A week later, she came over and and we did a full fledged photo shoot that includes some of the images that you see on The Silver Pen masthead as well as the images below. She photographed me in my grandmother’s fur coat, playing with Sweetly Six, and laughing joyously.
During this shoot, Elizabeth also photographed me without my top on, fully exposed. Talk about vulnerability…Wowsy. However, Elizabeth is one of those rare people in life with whom you can develop an intimate relationship very quickly. During our time together, she made me feel safe, secure and remarkably beautiful.
How, I wondered, was it possible to feel beautiful when (prior to this experience with Elizabeth) I looked in the mirror, all I saw was illness, mutilation and confusion (as in WTF happened to me?).
Elizabeth gave me the most profound gift that day…a gift that transformed my entire experience as a patient, as a mother, as a wife, as a woman. Fundamentally, her images demonstrated that despite all that had happened (and all that was about to happen), I was still me, which was the ultimate Silver Lining.