Meet Ava Raye.
I wanted to capture photos of Ava with her mom and dad so they had a platform to share her story, and spread awareness about childhood cancer. Ava has Wilms tumor, and her next MRI will take place in November, so doctors can determine her next steps in this fight. It's been a rollercoaster for her and her sweet parents since she was a tiny nine month old baby.
What I am learning about many parents of children with cancer, is that they are worried about other people's feelings. They don't want to burden others with the pain of their own story. They think that hearing it is too much for anyone to bear, because living feels like too much to bear.
As someone who is entrusted with many of these stories, I have to say that for me, the opposite is true. I feel deeply blessed by anyone who would share in this experience with me. This summer, I realized that it is an act of pure grace to ask for help, and that there is no shame in needing to be heard.
And as we share in light, and in truth, walls come down and we connect more deeply.
I thought this photo shoot, and the story, would be all about bravery and childhood cancer, but it's not. It's about Ava Raye. When I first heard her name, I thought of the Kevin Henkes book, Sheila Rae, the Brave. So in my mind, I imagined Ava Raye the Brave, even as I drove to our session location.
Sure enough, when I arrived, there was Ava Raye, wearing a top, that read, "They Call Her Brave."
Ava Raye's mom says that "Ava is the bravest, strongest, most stubborn little girl you will ever meet. Nobody would ever know what she is going through; she always has a smile on her face. She brings so much joy to everyone’s life, her smile can light up a room. Our little fighter will get through this next stage of treatment whatever it may be and wherever the road takes us."
As we spent a little time together, though, this wasn't about bravery, and it wasn't about cancer. It was time, standing still, so a little girl and her parents could hit life's pause button for a minute, and we could capture the moment.
We captured shy.
We captured laughing.
We captured adventurous.
We captured happy.
We captured Ava Raye. Ava Raye the Everything.
And the cancer? And the cancer's story?
It just melted away in the warmth of the golden sun.