I am so excited to share this session with you! When we received their application, we knew this would be a fun and meaningful session. The Scharnau family is a family of 6 - Gregg, the dad, is fighting stage 4 pancreatic cancer, while his wife Susan and their four children support his journey. For confidentiality, we will not be showing any of the kids faces or sharing their names, but we want you to know they are all AMAZING!
Gregg is no stranger to cancer. Over twenty years ago, he was diagnosed with leukemia. His sister was a match and donated her bone marrow to help him. Susan met him shortly after his recovery, which is when she found out she was a bone marrow donor match for someone else. Gregg went with her for the procedure and she was able to help someone else. I tell you this part of the story because I hope it inspires you to become a donor. It's easy to sign up, they'll contact you if you're ever a match, and then you can help save someone's life - someone like Gregg.
Unfortunately, researchers haven't made as much progress against pancreatic cancer, but as I had the honor to be with the Scharnau family over the weekend, I know that if anyone could beat stage 4 pancreatic cancer it would be Gregg. He's already fought hard for over a year since being diagnosed and is continuing chemo as long as it's working. As you'll see in the photos, it may have taken his hair, but it hasn't taken his smile and his love for his family.
The first day together, it worked out that Gregg's parents could drive across town to visit for the afternoon. The sun was shining, there was a cool breeze, and you could feel fall in the air. The local park had a beautiful flower bed and a gazebo nestled under some large trees. As Gregg and his Dad stood in front of the gazebo, I couldn't help but feel as if they were somehow rooted among the trees too - giants of men full of character and love. As Gregg walked with his mom down the path, her face lit up with a love that only comes from a mom. We had a wonderful afternoon together before heading back to the house to wait for the kids to come home from school.
That evening, it ended up raining so instead of doing an outdoor session together, we hung out and thankfully had another day to wait for good weather. It was rather chilly the next day, but the sun came out and we were able to photograph each of the kids in their element and have fun doing some one on one sessions. We went out as a family that evening to the local football field since Gregg was a punter back in the day. We took pictures of everyone having fun together before doing some more formal family portraits. The kids went over to the playground so I could get a few shots with just Gregg and Susan. It can get emotional during sessions, but that's when the love comes pouring out and it's just beautiful.
People always ask me how I can do what I do - and it's photographing people like Gregg & Susan and their family that make it easy. Sure, the reason why we are all coming together sucks so badly, but to see the love, bravery, and courage to keep fighting is inspiring. And I know these photos can make a difference and they will help make things a little better. As with most hard things in life, we treated ourselves to ice cream after our session :) That night, we had a bonfire where Susan's brother joined us and then it was time for me to go home the next day.
I was so grateful the cheapest flights allowed me to stay an entire weekend with this incredible family. The hardest part about my job is falling in love with the families I travel to photograph and then having to go back home so far away. I would be lying if I told you I don't miss hanging out with Nicolette and her family in CT, Andrea and her sons in NY, Kim & his girls in CA, and more. I can only hope our paths will cross again.