The never ending circle of gratitude…

Anyone that knows me well knows that I love circles…to the point of having them inked on my body!  This afternoon I received an email that, to me, is further proof   that all is cyclical, including gratitude (I didn’t really need further proof but I will lovingly accept it with a huge smile!).

Last March I embarked on this hugely personal endeavour to create Bella Forza…I knew that it would require at least three women (more when you count those who referred my first clients) to help me show what I wanted to provide through Bella Forza.

My friend and fellow photographer, Sam Chrysanthou, was generous enough to see what I wanted to do and to trust why I wanted to do it; she spoke to her friend, Sharon, to see if she might be interested…she was and she became one of three very important people in Bella Forza’s journey.

Today Sharon wrote me with some thoughts on what her session, last March, has meant for her:

“Cancer knocked my feet out from under me.  I doubted my body.  I doubted my ability to cope.  I doubted my purpose.  I felt so vulnerable, so fragile.

Cancer tested everything I believed to be true, everything upon which I had built my life.  I struggled with the meaning of my experience, one that rearranged my career and my family life.  What remained after cancer’s destructive path through my life?

Gradually, I realized that beauty, truth and love remained, but there were many dark days on the journey to discovering this. Rebuilding my life in a way that incorporates what cancer taught me is my ongoing challenge.

Enter Bella Forza and its compassionate people.  Lori and Sarah heard my story, honouring me and my cancer journey.  They recognized my strength and gave “picture” to it.

I came away from my Bella Forza experience knowing that I had reached a milestone in my acceptance of my cancer-changed life.  Lori and Sarah heard and “imaged” me into being.

My beautiful Bella Forza portrait is in a place where it catches my attention every day.  I pause for a moment and remember–

I am beautiful.

I am strong.

Lots of people love me.

And I am reminded that today, I will Be.Here.Now.

© 2013 Bella Forza

Strength.Beauty.Grace. © 2013 Bella Forza

I felt infinite gratitude when Sharon walked through my studio doors, and I sat in tears this afternoon, in gratitude, that the circle was complete and it is beautiful.

Strength.Beauty.Grace.

xo Lori

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Sharon

One of the hurdles for me in launching Bella Forza was the thought that I needed to have something to show people…if I’m offering a photographic product I should have photographs to show.  I know this seems so basic, but it felt a little bewildering to me; in hindsight I think it stemmed from the early fear of starting something new, of failure.

In the email I sent to my trusted circle asking for their thoughts on logo design, I had also asked if they might know of a woman who could benefit from a Bella Forza session.  I offered to provide the first three clients with the Strength Package (hair, if appropriate, and makeup by Sarah Byrne, a one hour studio portrait session, and a framed print from their session (including its digital file) at no charge in exchange for the opportunity to use their images and stories in the Bella Forza launch and marketing.

A few days later my friend, Sam Chrysanthou, said that she might know of someone.  And a  few days after that I was in touch with Sharon, who would become our honoured first client!

Sharon, to her absolute credit, was excited about the opportunity but wanted to ensure that she ‘fit’ our criteria for the initial three complimentary packages.  In an early email to me Sharon wrote,

“…I am completely well after a cancer diagnosis and treatment from hell in 2006.  My recovery occurred in 2010.  I look great now, with a full head of hair and rosy cheeks, etc…”

My reply to Sharon included,”

“…I think showing women at all phases is important and I am equal opportunity beautiful!  🙂  I think your image, together with your story (which I am anxious to hear!) will be inspirational and full of hope.  I want for Bella Forza to show women who are beautiful and strong before, during and after serious illness…I keep thinking of a vision board and, if women visiting the site are newly diagnosed, ill, going through treatment, etc, just think of how your image, story, and resilience will buoy their hopes!…”

Sharon’s Story

Sharon was guardian to her two high-needs nieces and nephew and mom to a three year old daughter when she was pregnant with her second child.  During the last month or so of pregnancy Sharon was losing weight, amongst a few other symptoms, and only two days before the birth of her son did the doctor run additional tests and subsequently diagnose her with Cancer.  After the birth of a healthy son, Sharon was able to stay in the hospital with her son while the doctors ran further tests during the evening and night-time hours.  As though the first diagnosis wasn’t shocking enough, she was soon told that they’d been mistaken and that her new (and all too correct) diagnosis was even more serious.  Sharon had Burkitt’s Lymphoma.  She explained to us that this form of blood cancer is very aggressive and its tumours double in size every 48 hours!  Sharon described an excruciating four months of in patient treatment, when her daughter was unable to visit due to the stringent ward rules that protect the immunosuppressed.  During those long days in her hospital bed; Sharon spent her time arranging for new living arrangements for her nieces and nephew, and was also able to secure a government stipend that would help the families who were stepping up to provide a new home for her loved ones.  I can’t imagine the angst of being a thirty-something woman, having a three year old, a newborn, a working husband, and three high needs children all depending on you and you are laying in a hospital bed with Cancer.  Sharon credits many with making it through that difficult time including her husband and parents.

© Bella Forza

Sharon, Taken by Lori Maloney at the Bella Forza Studio in March 2013
HMUA: Sarah Byrne

Sharon, after what she described a ‘hellish 2006 to 2010’ is now Cancer free, healthy, energetic, and full of life and optimism (I expect that she has always been of the glass half full variety!)  She spoke openly of the struggles that she and her family endured, both during her treatment and afterward.  Her passion for wanting to convey to people to take care of themselves, to know that these diagnoses can happen to young people, and that it is imperative to listen to your body is profound.

Sharon’s quiet, hopeful, and open demeanour are an inspiration and her ability to rise above difficulties is something we can all learn from.  Thank you, Sharon, not only for the trust you placed in Bella Forza by being our first client but also for provoking in us a desire to be realistic with our health and optimistic with our approach.

Strength.Beauty.Grace.

Lori