On an overcast Saturday afternoon, I drove to Veronica's house for our photo session. The brief for our image-making was a little different to my usual family sessions - we would be making images of Veronica for her upcoming book, Made Beautiful By Scars.
And the scar story we'd be capturing? Veronica's experience with breast cancer.
Thirteen years ago, as a single mother of a 6 year old girl, and a soon-to-be-bride, Veronica received the diagnosis all women dread - she had a malignant lump in her right breast. And it had spread to her spine.
She was called in for an urgent MRI scan to see if there was anything they could do for her.
"I was now feeling the cold steel of the scanner beneath my butt in a backless hospital gown; I was freezing and uncomfortable with needles in both arms. Suddenly, I felt the most indescribable rage pour through my heart, hot all over with it. I was angry. Angry at God".
"Now, in that coffin-like space, I yelled out to the great Universal force. It was all I had left to do:
If Anyone is there, I am so Pissed at You, WHAT THE HELL??!! I have a little 6 year old girl who is going to be left alone. I'm getting married in a few days. What have I done that is so bad that I deserve this?
Veronica says it felt "so good to say it". To let that rage out.
Still laying in the MRI, something changed, shifted.
"Suddenly I felt deliciously warm all over. I felt a blanket of light, of warmth above me in the scanner...
"I lay there for a few moments soaking that in. Feeling the warmth of the huge light energy wrapping around me, a sense of patient love, sense of humour and deep non-judgment of my predicament. I felt a question rise in me and I called out to the warmth wrapping me in the cold belly of the scanner:
So I choose. And if I get to choose, what if I choose something else?
Mere moments later, everything changed. The anger disappeared, replaced by a feeling of love and connection, a deep knowing she was going to be okay. More than okay. The specialist, who had discovered the cancer in her spine, now examined the new scans just taken and found no cancer there. She was going to live a new life, a radiant life. Helping others, being a healer.
All these years later, Veronica is still thriving. After having the breast tissue and nipple of her right breast removed, and an implant put in, Veronica has been cancer-free ever since.
She has turned her attention to the many scar stories of others, collecting them and sharing them in her new book, Made Beautiful By Scars (including my own experience with melanoma, which you can read an excerpt of here). She is shining a light on the dark times we all experience, in different ways, showing that great adversity can be a powerful catalyst for immense growth and wisdom.
Photographing Veronica was an honour and a joy. You can read more stories on the Made Beautiful By Scars website (and growing movement!) here. And you can pre-order the book, Made Beautiful by Scars, here!
~ Deep thanks to Veronica for allowing me to share these images, and her story. ~