If I could label my day today, it would be “perspective.” I have a friend who I chat with often late at night about cameras and cancer. She is a survivor and though we went to the same high school–we didn’t know each other before her diagnosis. She didn’t realize it, but I kept close tabs on her and prayed every chance I could for her and her family. And every day I look forward to hearing from her and hope that she has a good day.
Something similar happened to me in February this year. A little boy I photographed when he was 2 found out he had leukemia. Cancer. Tumors in his stomach. I felt numb. Reading his story was heartbreaking. I didn’t want to keep reading, but I had to. And since that day in February–I’ve had nightmares and woke up in tears and all sorts of crazy things. And I’ve prayed for Blake. His mom and I also went to the same high school. And so when I was asked to photograph a benefit they are having for Blake–and couldn’t–I was upset. This weekend, though, we are having mini sessions, and the majority of money made will go straight to the family.
So, I was talking with a friend of mine in Tennessee about organizing the mini session benefit and she wondered if I had volunteered to take photos in the hospital. I realized it was pretty inconsiderate of me not to think it, so I contacted Jill. Jill can take AWESOME photos, but probably not on the top of her list. She took me up on it. I went in thinking I would stay an hour or 2 and not really take many photos but spend some time and just be there. So many amazing things were happening at that hospital–that I couldn’t NOT document it. Unfortunately, the hospital has asked me to not post those.
I met them for round 5 of chemo today. They’ll be in the hospital 4 days this week for this round. At one point, they were in the hospital for over a month. Jill never left. Kevin maybe twice. It has turned their world upside down. It’s amazing how you think you’re having a bad day–something went wrong or you are down…. and then you think about Blake. He is 4. He had chemotherapy today. He has spent more time in the hospital than playing with friends this year. Doesn’t seem fair.
When I arrived, everyone was so happy to see Blake. High fives and smiles and hugs–and they had his bed all ready with his favorite toys. A blood draw and port check were routine to him. I’m not sure it even phased him. No tears. When he was all set with that, he went to check out his view. See if there were any trucks or construction sites happening below. I got to meet his friend, Ducky. Ducky has a port for chemo too. Blake is 4 and the word “tegaderm” and “ascites” and “chemo” are a part of his vocabulary. My 3 and 7 year olds have never heard those 3 words. He did a surgery on Ducky–and applied a tegaderm, similar to those that are on his belly, and it was all very amazing. Blake is no longer in isolation. He can now visit the play area at AFCH. And see other kids. And he gets to open the door and see the “street sweeper” when he comes around, maybe the most I saw him smile while I was there. Except when mom and dad played with him. He got to play catch with his doctor, a little soccer with dad, and mom’s pretty good with rockets and trucks.
Blake is a trooper. His parents are troopers. I get faint writing this up and I’m trying to keep my tears from being too apparent.
I know everyone has something. I know life is not easy for all and it feels like some days just keep getting worse. My very best friend and I spoke about how I can help and what life throws at us. She said “you know—this job has led you to amazing places and some pretty awful ones too.” Blake has taught me a lesson without even realizing it. There’s no such thing as a bad day. Hug the ones you love and realize everyone is dealing with something. Life is short, people. Make the best of it while you are here. I know next year at this time, I’ll see Blake with those curls back up top and running around like crazy in fresh air….without all of those tubes… and I will smile and thank God for answered prayers.
And maybe life is good for you. And maybe you have some financial freedom. If that’s the case, and you’re up for it, there are 3 things you are welcome to do if you feel like helping. There is a fundraiser on April 27th from 1 to 5 pm at Atomic Koi in Fitchburg. I’ve been watching carefully the advertisements and information and there are amazing things being donated — I’m happy to get you more information if you’d like. You can also donate here: http://www.gofundme.com/727st0. You can also go to any Associated Bank and mention Blake Rickert and donate. They have a fund set up there and all of the money goes directly to the family. Receipts are available if you ask.
Jill and Kevin are doing an AMAZING job. I look at them and listen to the story of how they got to where they are and I’m in awe–and takes everything I have not to break down and sob in front of them. I don’t think I’d have the strength to go on and they are doing it. They are waking up, taking a shower, brushing their teeth, trying to eat… all the while knowing they are headed to the hospital so their precious baby boy can have tubes and ports hooked up to monitors and chemotherapy. Don’t know whether to be mad or sad. Life sometimes does not seem fair. One thing for certain, though, it is an honor to know these 3 amazing people.