August 18th, 2007.
I had to do it. The pain had reached an unbearable point. I couldn’t lay, sit, stand, or breathe without immense pain shooting from my abdomen the night before I told my parents that I needed to go to the hospital. Something was wrong. It started out like a stomach ache. I thought it would pass, but the pressure grew. Sweat dripped from my head as my body temperature rose. I couldn’t even take full breath without wanting to scream. I was 15.
I’ve never been on the patient side of things. I’ve never broken a bone or really had any serious injuries growing up, besides that one time in kindergarden where I needed stitches. The doctors rushed me into a room and began an assortment of tests and asked hundreds of questions. Nothing seemed to help. My spleen was enlarged and was at the cusp of bursting. There was little left to do with the clock ticking down. The operating table had my name on it for the morning and I was left to spend my first night in the hospital.
I remember being strapped up to so many things. My fear of needles was a bit exaggerated and people kept coming into the room all night long. There wasn’t a clock in the room and I would dose off and on again for unregistered amounts of time. I’d wake up to a nurse at my bedside and with a needle ready to go, “We just need a little bit more blood.” Then, out they went.
The next morning they lifted me onto a gurney and said I was being moved. It was so strange to be laying on this moving table throughout the hospital. The lights shined brightly overhead as they passed along one by one. I kept trying to turn over and look where I was going, but was told to stay still. I didn’t like being disoriented on top of everything else that was going on.
“You’ll see your parents soon after you arrive,” and the ambulance doors slammed shut. Apparently I was being shuttled over to another hospital. That’s as much as I knew. They brought me in, I saw my parents, they took more blood, measured my pee, and they ran more tests. Near the end of the day we had an answer.
Only a handful of times do we go through something in life where we can remember everything precisely as it happened and down to the smallest weird details; plot points in our memories containing strong emotional ties to our past. We can replay those moments over and over - straight until we reach a point where we can remember the smells, sounds of what was happening. Those instances remain in with us for life.
I’m going to be vague at this point. There were tears, there were family members standing around me. My doctor sat at my bedside and broke the news to me. There I was with an answer that broke me apart inside. I had cancer. I was diagnosed with ALL; Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
That's what this photograph represents to me. That moment. When you feel betrayed by your body. When life throws itself completely out of control. The day I shot this, I wasn't feeling 100%, and it made me think back to those days where I constantly felt sick. I've had a rough idea of this image in my notebook, but everything grew and took form that day. It felt right, even though I wasn't feeling that great, but that made this more personal to me.
I intended to shoot this photo in a field of tall grass that I discovered deep in the forest a few months ago scouting, but when I reached the trail to get there, there were piles of chopped up trees everywhere, building a wall around the path. For a moment I was upset, then realized this location actually describes exactly how I'm feeling; broken.
I'm 100% healthy now and I've found a career that I love.