This journey in photography has been full of the unexpected in all the best ways. I met the Kraft family over a year ago with what started as fall family photos only days after the birth of their second daughter, Lucia. I've since photographed their many milestones and events. But, when Janelle asked if I would photograph her hair cutting day, I was honored more to photograph them more than any other day. Janelle was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma this fall and is leading a brave and inspiring and hard fight to "Beat the Hodge". I truly believe there's nothing she can't do.
And now I have to stop you. This next photo is one that stops me in my tracks as a photographer. It feels like my most important photo. I can't explain it. When you read Janelle's post below, you will see what this moment meant to her.
Here is the story as posted by Janelle Kraft, Monday, November 16, 2015, 9:30 PM
She is clothed in strength and dignity and laughs without fear of the future. Proverbs 31:25
Hair is a really big deal in our house. Our family has well, A LOT of hair! For the past three-years we have firmly established a morning routine that distracts Teagan to sit still long enough to get her hair done. We distract with art projects, card making, breakfast eating, a timer, and conversation (and anything else that works). It's the sacrifice that we've been willing to make just to make sure our toddler has a good hair day.
Patrick always comes home talking about his haircuts. I know his hair stylist by first name. He jokes about using a product called "man magnet", and I believe when we met 8-years ago he had bleached frosted tips.
With hair being such a focus of our household, you can imagine how well it went over when my Onc told us the ABVD chemo treatment would make me lose my hair. It's even harder to process when you get diagnosed with cancer on a Wednesday, and get admitted to the hospital for your first chemo on the following Tuesday. I never expected to get diagnosed with cancer (never ever) let alone at 35, and then be told the treatment would cause my hair to fall out. Dang. That's enough news to make anyone have a bad hair day.
Thankfully, my hair didn't start falling out until last week so I had 3 glorious weeks to process the impact my hair falling out would have on me, my family, my friends, and complete strangers. I was most concerned with Teagan and the child life specialist at the hospital suggested to involve her in the hair cutting process. I thought about how to involve her a lot. At 4 she was old enough to understand and with her personality, unlikely to forget.
Ultimately, Patrick and I talked and deduced that Teagan was quite the cutting expert. She can wield her dark blue handled scissors better than most adults and has had extensive training in cutting strips of paper at Montessori school. I figured that clearly certified her to cut my hair.
Last week, in preparation, Teagan picked out 4 fun hair wigs from Amazon. We're trying to keep things a bit silly - because seriously it IS rather silly that a woman undergoing cancer treatment has to lose her hair in order to get better. Teagan's wig selections are interesting; 2 crazy clown wigs, a blue Thing 1 or Thing 2 wig, and a dark blue wig. We're having fun with these as they continue to trickle in the mail. We all had one on after dinner this evening!
Sunday was the big day. I was nervous but I was ready. My hair was falling out into my hands. My mom knew it was time to cut my hair. Patrick had been watching this happen all week and was really supportive through the process. He and his buddy also decided to cut his thick locks for the cause!
My hairdresser arrived at 11:00 to supervise (I'm always big on calling in the experts for back-up), Jonna our friend and photographer arrived to document (I'd love to share this story with other mom's with cancer and with our girls), and our moral support team arrived. Teagan did a great job and started to cut my pony tail off. Then her BFF's Paige and Henry took turns cutting my hair as well. Everyone cheered. My hairdresser supervised and cut. Patrick buzzed off more and more.
I started getting nervous a little way in and Lulu started fussing for me. I asked that she be set on my lap and she proceeded to sit with me and keep me calm through the rest of the process. She just smiled and watched my hair get cut shorter and shorter. My locks kept falling on her hands, legs, and face yet she just calmly sat and watched. In what could have been terrifying, having Lulu on my lap actually felt quite different. It felt like a hug from God. I kept thinking that regardless of circumstances, we are all children of God, lavished in his love. It's God's love for us that matters. It doesn't matter what I look like. I was surrounded by people who loved me. I'm blessed. I never cried. I knew it was going to be okay. I was at peace.
The kids were never scared, they recognized me when we were done, and felt empowered in the process. I suppose there still could be fall out from this (if Teagan cuts anyone's hair in future months, I apologize in advance), but from my perspective, we succeeded in "normalizing" something that's totally not normal and we made it fun in our own silly way.
Once my hair cut was done things got really crazy because Patrick, Jason and Henry all buzzed their hair! We had haircuts going everywhere. It was pretty humorous to watch and wow. I'm pretty lucky to have so many people willing to jump in and do anything to help make this process easier. This was a big milestone, I really couldn't have imagined this happening any other way.
We had a steady stream of visitors throughout the afternoon. People dropping by to check-in, bring treats, make sure we were doing okay. That was also pretty amazing. It was like an unofficial post party (which is totally Krafter style). You're all amazing. This continues to be a journey. Thank you for walking this with us and providing moral support, entertainment, prayers and encouragement. I'm also declaring this a "good hair" week for everyone! May your hair be perfectly styled, combed, colored, pony tailed and curled. :-)