As some of you might already know, a huge part of my business is dedicated to female empowerment and body-positivity. There have been so many amazing stories this past year of women who have conquered their fears and the voices in their heads that keep shouting at them that they are not good enough.
Today I want to share a story that is very close to my heart. I want to share the story of my beautiful friend, Dianne. Those who have met Dianne will tell you that she is a fierce and spectacular woman. The day I quit my job as a teacher to pursue my dream as a photographer, we went for lunch. We shared our hopes and dreams of the future and she was so encouraging and lovely. She was also on the verge of a new adventure and decided to move to Cape Town. I was sad at the thought of her moving away but I was also so empowered by the fact that she went after the things she wanted out of life. It motivated me to do the same in my own life.
I remember about a year ago Dianne gave me a call. I was camping with a group of friends and I remember walking out of hearing distance to talk to her. She said she wanted to do a shoot with me. I was very excited but could also tell by her voice that there was more to this shoot idea than meets the eye.
She then broke the news- she has been diagnosed with breast cancer.
She told me that the shoot was a way for her to process all of the emotions and of the events that would await her. I was amazed by how strong she was and how determined she was to stay positive. She said she wanted to use the photos from our shoot to tell her story and to empower other women who might be battling through the same war. That’s what we’re doing today.
We did the shoot in Cape Town, after Dianne’s surgery and chemotherapy treatments. When I saw her for the fist time I was amazed by how gorgeous she looked. She looked strong and healthy and exactly the same as when I last saw her- just without her long black hair. She shared with me that many people have actually approached her asking why she shaved her head. They assumed it was for fashion reasons! We then started exploring the city to find an urban spot as backdrop for our shoot. We found a few construction areas and trendy streets that worked perfectly. Then we approached the busy alley.
When we reached a busy, but gorgeous, alley I suggested to Dianne that she should go down the alley and walk back towards me. I told her that my idea behind this shot was to capture her fierceness and confidence. We tried this a few times but every time she would start laughing and glancing around her. I later realised it was because of people looking at her that she felt exposed and vulnerable. We took a quick break in which she told me that walking down that alley was one of the most difficult things she has ever done. She was confronted with the image of what she used to be versus the image that she thought she saw now. What the world saw was a strong, beautiful woman who walked down the street, but what Dianne saw is someone who is new and different than what she used to be.
I realised in this moment that the cruelty of cancer is not just what it does to your body, but the havoc it wreaks on your soul. It makes people believe that they have been reduced to something smaller- a lesser version of themselves.
But Dianne decided she would not allow these thoughts to hold her back on this day. She walked straight back down that alley and when she came walking back I saw the fierceness in her eyes that only Dianne has. I was so proud of my friend. Facing your inner fears is one of the hardest battles one ever has to fight and she came out victorious.
It’s almost been a year now since Dianne had been diagnosed with cancer. It’s been a year of fighting, being strong and, most important of all- living. Here are Dianne’s thoughts on the year she’s experienced:
“Exactly a year ago a diagnosis of cancer changed my life forever. It opened a door to self-exploration and insight and (with the exception of chemotherapy) was a positive experience. Friendships fell away and others strengthened. It gave me an opportunity to declutter, purge and, most importantly, let go. For this gift I am eternally grateful. Cancer to me, was the realisation that the only thing I was battling and needed to survive, was my own self criticism and self imposed limitations. This journey (and its not over) taught me to be kinder to myself, to honour myself and to release those situations and things and yes- even relationships that did not serve me. It taught me that a woman is so much more than her breasts and her womb and her hair. Standing in a space without any of these, I found me and I am enough. So a year later I am even more ready to take on my life purpose clothed in dignity and grace.”
Like I said before- I am so incredibly proud of this strong woman. Empowered women empower women, and Dianne has always been (and always will be) a woman of strength. Thank you for allowing me to share a tiny glimpse in your incredible journey. Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for being the most wondrous thing you could ever be- you.