SIGMA Shares

When the Going Gets Tough: How Photography Helped Me Through My Biggest Challenges

Photography has been part of me since I was really young. I am a wife, a mother, and an artist. I am defined by these things, and out of all three I’ve viewed myself as an artist the longest. As with most things, my work has evolved over time. My subject matter has shifted based on the season of life I’m in. More importantly, photography for me has been therapeutic. It’s helped me through various traumas in my life, but particularly after I began to make a career of it.

Lemons into Lemonade

In 2015 I was pregnant with my third child, and the small startup I worked for was bought out by a much larger corporation. I was losing my job, but had the option to interview with the corporation if I wanted. At the time, I was spending my early mornings, lunch breaks and late evenings taking photography classes online. Instead of interviewing for a new job, I decided to take this opportunity to officially launch my photography business which centered around newborns, children and families.

Around this time, I also started teaching and mentoring. It had been a long-term goal of mine to eventually teach, and I was so grateful to be given the opportunity. I didn’t know it at the time, but photography would continue to pick me up throughout my career, and provide a means of expression and comfort through the coming years.

The Diagnosis

While I enjoyed my photography business, my real passion was photographing my family. They were the reason I picked up my camera on a daily basis, and continue to be my guiding light to this day. But at the time, only a year after launching my growing business that consisted of both clientele and teaching photography classes, the refuge of family life took a serious turn.

My husband and I noticed my oldest son, who was four at the time, was limping. We scheduled a doctor’s appointment thinking it was probably something as simple and normal as growing pains, but wanted to be safe and make sure. He went in to see his pediatrician, and the following day I received a phone call from his doctor telling us to pack our bags immediately and bring our son into the oncology unit at our local children’s hospital. My son needed further testing for leukemia. He was diagnosed the next day with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

At first, I didn’t want to pick up my camera. I had to quite literally force myself to. Looking back, I’m so glad I did. Because now my son has something to look back on and see all that he went through, all the procedures, emotions and achievements. He doesn’t remember much of his three-year treatment, especially in that first year, but he has tangible memories now that show just how far he’s come.

How My Photography Evolved

From the moment my son was diagnosed, photography dramatically shifted for me. While my most prized work centered around photographing my family, it shifted to photographing my family at home after his diagnosis. I closed the client portion of my business but continued teaching. We were spending so much time at the hospital, and I often found myself longing for us all to be home. When we were, my camera was an escape from our other life at the hospital. I found solace in photographing my boys playing together. I wanted to photograph our everyday, routine moments. Moments that are often overlooked and seem so trivial and mundane to some. I wanted to photograph my boys getting dressed for the day, playing in puddles, taking naps, and all those in-between moments that made up our week. I found myself yearning for color, something that the hospital lacked. I found solace in capturing color and light in a new way. Carving out time to be with my camera and photograph our home life gave me so much peace. It helped me through one of the hardest times in my life. It gave me purpose.

Several years later, that four-year-old boy that was so cruelly diagnosed with a life-threatening disease is now cancer free, and we have hundreds of images to look back on and discuss. It’s not lost on me how important photos are, but that importance was definitely heightened after my son’s leukemia diagnosis.

The Gold Hope Project: Photography for Pediatric Cancer Patients

During his three-year treatment, I was introduced to The Gold Hope Project, a non-profit that gifts pediatric cancer children and their families a free photo session. The Gold Hope Project consists of over 800 volunteers worldwide. Since launching in 2012, over 1,000 families have been photographed. I vowed that when my son was better, when things were a little easier, that I would become a volunteer photographer for the non-profit. I felt an overwhelming urge to give back to the pediatric cancer community and give these families a priceless and tangible gift through photos. One year before my son was officially cancer free, I became a volunteer. Besides photographing my family, creating images for other families in need – families I could connect with and relate to – gave me a newfound purpose.

This past year I’ve traveled to and photographed three pediatric cancer children. I’m so grateful to be given the opportunity to shed a little light and love for these families during a difficult time. To give them photos I know they will treasure, because I certainly treasure ours.

Through pain and trauma, photography has given me hope. It’s everything I needed when I felt my world slipping right out under my feet. It’s given me a priceless and tangible gift that can never be replaced. And most importantly, my photographs have shown my son just how far he’s come, how much he’s achieved already in his young life.

Has photography help you through challenging times? Share your stories in the comments or on our socials to help inspire others who may need to hear some encouraging words!

Comments (1)
  1. Bex Maini says:

    100%! Meg this resonates so much with me, not in quite the same way as we haven’t been through the same as your family but when I suffered with post-natal depression after having my twins, it was picking up my camera that kept me going. A kind of therapy.
    Even now, a little bit of macro photography in nature soothes my mind if I feel a bit chaotic!
    Thanks for writing this!

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