Submitted by Kimberly Courtemanche Photography
This is my mom, she is the reason I became a photographer and the reason I joined SFAC. She was a single mom and worked 3 jobs, she never had time to get sick until it was too late. She had Fibrocystic Breast Disease so finding lumps was nothing unusual, this particular lump she found November 8, 2001 on her 40th birthday . She waited and waited to go to the doctor because between my brother and I and work she never had time nor did she have insurance. Finally in June she went to a free clinic to get an opinion, the doctors opinion wasn’t a good one.
She was sent to Oncologist and surgeon and the next month was a whirlwind of doctors visits and test. July 26, 2002 two weeks after my 13th birthday we finally got the phone call confirming everything we feared. At 40 she was diagnosed with late stage 2b Breast Cancer and early stage 3 in some lymph nodes. She had a segmental mastecotomy August 12 and started six months of chemotherapy (Adriamyasin&Cytoxin followed by Taxotere) along with 30 radiation treatments in which she received third degree burns multiple times.
I was 13 and my brother was 10, we were terrified but we were all strong for one another. I remember it snowed that winter which was extremely rare where we live, my mom and I were driving down the road and I asked her to pull over. Look out into the woods seeing all of the snow laying so perfectly on the ground between the trees I was enthralled, I had never noticed such beauty in something so simple. I told her that I wasn’t glad that she had cancer but I was thankful for the way that it had changed my way of looking at life. She still had a long way to go but for the time we were in the clear, she was considered in remission but still had a lot of side effects from all of her treatments. My senior year in high school (2007) there was another huge scare, she had to have a bilateral mastectomy because the doctors thought the cancer had return but thankfully it was nothing more than a scare.
She started on the long journey of 3 reconstruction surgeries during 2007-2008, followed by reconstruction repairs in 2011, which eventually lead to an emergency mastectomy of the repaired left breast January 19, 2012. It has been a roller coaster ride for our family, she is in remission 10 years strong but this is still a battle she fights every day.
Today we finally had a victory shoot, to celebrate her life, her fight, her children and grandchildren. She has come so far, we have all come so far. I would never wish cancer on a individual or a family, however the one thing I learned on this journey was that everything happens for a reason. We may not see it or understand at the time but years down the road you will look back and see how it changed your life, your family, your world and you will understand that the one horrible thing that you never thought you would live through is the one thing that changed you and made you stronger. So keep fighting, never give up and most of all never forget.