My Worst Fears…

When I found out that I had breast cancer… my first fear was… dying. I didn’t know how bad. The first thing out of my mouth to my older boys…. was “I want to dance with you at your wedding and hold your babies”…. they both cried. It was terrible those days not knowing how bad it was….. I didn’t have health insurance, I had life insurance…. and the last thing I wanted was my family to pay off my debts after I am gone. I wanted them to enjoy life….. So, soon after my fears were put to rest. As long as this doesn’t spread and we keep it contained, which hopefully chemo will accomplish…. My prognosis is very good. I just have to go through a lot of sucky months to get there…. probably like 18 months of sucky, actually… :/

Soon after, I met with a lady with cancer who scared me a little bit… although she was being real and honest, she said “I’ve seen men leave their wives, I’ve seen them cheat and I’ve seen some really be there for their wives”…. So, I soon found myself detaching from Darrell… becoming really distant. One of my worst fears was him leaving me because he couldn’t handle this process….. Did I really think he would? No…. but that comment really stuck out in my mind. Soon after, we discussed and we talked about it…. and he has confirmed he is going to be nothing short of supportive, loving and amazing through this process…. Ironically, he really kind of digs my bald head….

The next fear you have is losing your hair…. I’ve always had longer hair… very few times in my life has my hair been short. And, I honestly have NEVER loved my hair short…. I did it for the change. But, didn’t really love it…. so the thought of being bald, really, really scared me…. If you’ve followed my blog… you know that I had long hair, my friends encouraged me to cut it… Diane treated me to a beautiful hair cut…. then this past Saturday, I shaved it off… and I realized, hey this really isn’t so bad….. well then these past few days, it was coming out in clumps and I was getting the patchy look…. The first photo is my hair coming out on the lint roller yesterday… but that really aggravated and hurt my head…. so we decided since my husband is a professional head shaver we’d go ahead and just let him take it off…. My head hurt yesterday… today it’s almost numb to the touch, it’s very strange…

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This is the progression of my look…. I will have long hair again some day!! ❤

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My husband is amazingly proud of me. It oozes from him….. he’s not ashamed and ironically, I think he kind of digs it in a weird way…. We went out to dinner as a family before I was shiny bald and I asked them if they wanted me to wear a wig. They didn’t…. My family has been amazingly supportive of me. ❤

My next biggest fear is my breasts…. After all this is said and done… chemo check, double mastectomy check, radiation check….. I have to wait for my skin and tissue to heal before I can have reconstruction. I’ve had boobs since I was 11, actually maybe 10. When I was a teenager my boobs were abnormally large in comparison to other girls my age… Eventually, my kids sucked the life out of them…. lol And, so one thing that I’m really looking forward to is new boobies… and they will have to take the skin from somewhere and I don’t have a lot of tummy fat…. so I’m thinking maybe they can take it from the backs of my legs, maybe both areas, I’m not sure…. we’ll know more about that soon when I meet with the reconstruction docs. BUT…. there’s a chance due to the damage that my body will reject the implants…. I’m still really young, I know it’s not the END Of the world… and I can handle being flat chested for 6 months…. but, I PRAY that my body will not reject the implants! It really is such a huge fear of mine…..

I’m honestly not even worried about dying anymore…. I don’t even think about it. I don’t even allow it to enter my mind….. I’m really trying to stay positive and remain focused on each little thing I have to accomplish….

On a side note, my best friend Tracey had her first mammogram yesterday… My aunt had hers, my Mom had hers…. and I’m PRAYING for No Call Backs!!!! I cannot tell you how many women have messaged me or told me…. I had my mammogram! That is amazing…. amazing… amazing!!!!!

I don’t know still how I missed mine… after they told me I was ok… after weeks of fidgeting with my boobs, I just stopped…. I stopped completely checking them. Oh how I wished I didn’t allow them to ease my mind so much…. These days… I can feel my arm pits throbbing…. I know for 100% my left sentinel is positive… but the throbbing under both makes me suspicious. We won’t know until surgery if they are both positive or how many nodes are positive…. even being upstaged to a 3-4 doesn’t really worry me anymore…. I have come to know so many amazing women who have lived YEARS…. staged as a 4. I’m grateful to have had this time to educate myself and know more. My doctor really didn’t even want to put a stage on me…. she said but honestly that could change after surgery and at this point, if you had surgery you could and probably will be upstaged… She said it doesn’t matter… the treatment is the same. So, let’s take one thing at a time….

Totally sidetracked….. lol Sorry!

My biggest fear initially was not being here for my children…. having to explain to him why Mommy is losing her hair, etc… For him truly…. was all of this shaving, cutting, etc…. Greyson is such an aware child…. and if you explain it to him, he totally accepts it. He’s really been my rock through this…. he rubs my head. When I cry… he asks me “Are you crying Mom… or No?”…. that’s his new thing, it’s the cutest… “Do you have a surprise for me… or No?”… He keeps me focused… He told me “Mom you look funny” last night…. I asked if I was still beautiful and he said “Yes…” He is truly a Dennis the Menace…. but I love him so much.

TGIF!!!!! 5 Days til the next chemo…. :/

It’s a tearful day…

Today, everything is making me cry…. but for good reasons. I feel like this…. Cancer… has forever changed me… It’s opened my eyes to something I never really even gave a 2nd thought. This disease was something that affected OTHER people…. I honestly never feared it, I never thought it would happen to me…. (like other things I’ve experienced in my life). I feel like my spirituality is at a new level, I know…. why does it take for something bad to happen before you turn to God…. ? I felt like I had forsaken him…. No, actually I just got really busy. I told Darrell that I feel like I can feel the prayers… when I think about God… my heart feels a warmness…. I can’t leave my house, I’m basically house bound…. but, I’ve never felt so at peace, so content….

And, then I see things…. things I NEVER paid attention to…. women with breast cancer and other cancers. Fighting for their lives… but inspiring others. I watched a woman sing her heart out after undergoing  her 8th chemo treatment yesterday…. she could barely breathe…. but, she wanted to sing Hero by Mariah Carey, to love and inspire other people. The tears…. just streamed down my cheeks…. Wow, just wow!

I was talking to a friend this morning and she said… there’s a reason that it’s me. I have a strong back bone, I have the ability to see the positive in a really bad situation… I’m not having a pity party, but just taking each day as it comes and in the midst of it all…. I’m meeting new people I’d never have met in my life…. I’m inspiring other women, connecting other women… who are battling this disease…. Maybe, she’s right? Out of this…. something positive is happening…. It’s making me appreciate everything. I appreciate my family…. I appreciate my husband… I appreciate my parents… I appreciate my Mother… I appreciate my friends….. I appreciate everything that everyone is doing for me… even the simplest of things to try to make this easier for me…. It’s amazing. Truly amazing. I’m paying attention to things I just didn’t take the time to see…. I watch my husband interact with our son…. He wakes up in the night while we’re up being silly… and takes the time to join us.. missing a little sleep… I’m really listening to my 4 year old and the things he says and does… and he’s just so freaking funny…. and says the cutest things and does some not so cute things, but he just can’t help but be cute….. I watch my older boys and how they interact with my husband and my 4 year old… and it just literally WARMS my heart….

In the midst of all the badness…. really bad things going on around everyone…. children taking their lives, friends losing long time friends… there has been a lot of death lately. I went to a funeral recently and I watched the people mourning and all I could think is…. “this cannot be my family, this cannot be my friends”…. Death although it doesn’t scare me…. it scares me how the people who love me would handle it…. so it makes me even MORE committed to improving my health… and doing whatever I can personally do to try to help this disease along… or actually stop it dead in it’s tracks….

I’ve been monitoring my tumor… it’s not getting smaller that I can tell…. but it’s also not getting larger. I wanted some miracle… like an instant reaction to chemo…. and see it like miraculously shrink…. It’s not. But… it’s not growing either…. and that’s a very good thing.  I’ve changed my diet dramatically… I’ve been eating a highly alkaline diet to hopefully stop the cancer from growing…. and I received my blood tests and I’m quite impressed… so I thought I would share on my blog.

I posted to Facebook this morning…

I received my blood work…. I’ve been doing the alkaline diet for 1 month prior to my blood results…. which is basically gluten free, sugar free, lots of alkalizing foods and veggies… I do eat chicken and fish which is neutral…. (some, not a lot)…. I’d lost 12 pounds from doing it prior to chemo…

My total cholesterol… 107 (<200), triglycerides… 45 (<200) my HDL was actually low at 50 (>60) my LDL 48 (<100) I think that is quite impressive…. 


My whole focus and purpose has changed…. and it’s been so positive…amidst all the negative…. I just feel really happy. It’s such a good thing.

Also… I wanted to post something that has really helped this metallic copper taste in my mouth… Thanks to my friend Sharon….

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Chemo starts today…

It felt like so much time was going by…. waiting for all of this “real stuff” to begin…. Now looking back, it’s actually less than a month…. I’m glad I had a few “free weekends” before I had to jump right into this yucky stuff….

November 14th will forever be a day that will have new meaning to me…. The 14th’s aren’t my favorite…. I lost my baby girl on February 14th too… BOO!!!

Now December 11th will have a new meaning…. #Cancer sucks#…. I’ve never really understood how cancer affected someone close to me… I pray I never have to go through it with someone I love…. PRAY!!!!! Others in my family have gone through it… maybe I wasn’t aware… but I was not there for them…. how sad… I wished I had been…. Now I realize that it’s just a gammot of emotions. Grief, acceptance, anger and now survival… I’m in survival mode. I’ll do whatever I have to do, however sick I have to get…. to be here for my family and my children. I’ve mentioned it before… I’m very tough when it comes to pain and pushing through things…. so I feel like unless it really kicks my arse, I’ll be ok…. They say it’s like a fog… you are here, but you really aren’t…. And they’ve mentioned chemo brain…. I already have this problem… stopping mid sentence and going “what was I just saying?”… and everyone looks at me and goes… “I dunno”…. THAT should be interesting….

Last night… was an amazing night… after a not the greatest day….. I’m so thankful to Marc Defang for choosing me. We had a conversation last night…. He inspires me. He completely changed his career path after his own hardships and he’s doing amazing… and he’s a better person for it!!!! He’s a gentle and kind human being, I can tell just in my conversation with him…. I asked him why me? He said… he just felt he had to. Many of the people that have decided to hold my hand through this journey are complete strangers… people who hadn’t even known of me…. I guess beyond my work with photography…. people can see that more than anything within my life, I tried to be an honest person, a loving and loyal person… most of all if I had to describe myself…. I’m real…. There is no bull with me…. I joke around sometimes… but usually I’m pretty straight forward with my intentions, with my love and respect for you… if you deserve it. It amazes me….. that maybe people who don’t know me can see that. I’ve always looked at people’s eyes…. you can tell if people have kind eyes or distressed eyes… or disturbed eyes…. Ever see someone like that? And you watch your back… ? Don’t make eye contact!!! 😉

I feel there are so many people to thank… Lisa Walsh, Amelia Old, Katie O’Neal, Diane Esposito, Tille Bonney – Kerna, DeLayna Kenney McCallum, Lisa Gaddy, Pat Gaddy, Juliet Harless, Tracey Curry, Tess Laczo, Ines Arunguren (sp?), Sharon Williams, Andrea Owens, Kat Gedge, Brianna Horne, Marc Defang, Lingky Sugg, Scott Forbes, Ted Greve, Stacey Hunsucker, Brenda Graham, Theresa Staker, Jen Lane, Jamie Geiss, Rebecca Nagy, Dayna Robidoux (she donated her hair!!), {Amy Rayfield, Kristin Hagemann – donated their hair recently}, MY MOM!!, Gaye Pietrocola, Patty Daute, Darrell Gaddy… my hubs, Taylor Thielen… thank you for coming back home, Preston Thielen… thank you for never leaving… If I’ve forgotten you, I’m soooo sorry…. It’s so overwhelming the love and support I have received through this time… and my memory will probably not get better!

Brianna Horne… last night, you made us that video…. and your Dad and I just crumbled… the first time we watched…. we were crying so hard, we didn’t even see the last photo….. You are an amazing girl and I love you so much! The 2nd time we watched… we cried all over again, but noticed….. That was sooooo special!!!! ❤

Love you allllll soo much!!! Thank you Diane for organizing the fundraiser… I PRAY I can be there….thank you for trying to make this a little easier on our family…..

Many, many thanks to everyone…. for everything that has been done for us…. dinners, cards… gifts of money, gifts, gifts, gifts….. I am so blessed….. I’ve said several times… people are probably like.. “It’s just cancer”… people go through this all the time…. why all of this? Why all of this???? I don’t know….. I will not question it….. I joked last night, I said… what will I do when all these gifts and visits stop…. and Diane said… “You’ll have lots of new girlfriends”….. *tears falling down my face* Amazing. It truly is…. I think all the tears I have left… are cried out….. so today… I’m going to go upstairs and get myself ready…. I’d LOVE to wear my new shoes, but I just can’t do it…. they are so pretty, I don’t know if I’ll ever have the courage to wear them….. I’m going to put on my face…. and FIGHT LIKE A GIRL….



It’s so easy to get caught up in your day to day… Trust me, I was one of those people. I had no time for anyone, not because I didn’t want to… but it couldn’t get it all done if I did take the time… I didn’t have control of it, I didn’t manage it well, I made a lot of brides very happy….. but I lost me, I lost family, I lost friends.. (well thankfully they understood)… but I lost sight of so much….

I told another local photographer this morning, how humbled I am… I literally would do whatever I have to…. to give back to those who have helped me and are considering helping me. I am so grateful for those with so much on their plate already, agreeing to take some of my load…. It’s incredibly humbling.

I never paid attention before… I never had a reason to… We were at Jason’s Deli the other day… and I noticed the water bottles, pink caps and a photo on them… of ladies with bandannas…. I never noticed before. Why does it take for someone to become ill…. for people to notice? I guess if it doesn’t affect you, or someone close to you… you don’t notice. Change is welcomed at any time…. and it doesn’t matter what caused the change…. but it’s just important that you do.

I feel forever changed… in positive ways… I will help others however I possibly can….

As tomorrow approaches… and as I worry about things to come… I will try to focus on the positive…

So many people are rallying for me…. it’s truly amazing.

Am I ready for this???

Today, my journey begins…. I get my port put in… the port will allow them easy access to put my medicine in and take blood easily….

It’s felt so surreal…. until now…

Tomorrow I have to start taking steroids to prepare…

Wednesday I’ll start TAC chemo…

Initially, I felt like I had an army behind me…. But, it’s become more of a circle now…. I’ve had this amazing circle of people who’ve surrounded me…. I know that this is probably going to be one of the hardest experiences I will ever have to go through… but with this circle of people who’ve proven to love and care about me…. I feel like I am ready…

I’m scared. I’m really scared…. but, I can do this….



Good Day…



Sometimes you just have to make a conscious decision to have a good day…. There has been so much news lately of bad things happening to people… people losing their lives wayyy too soon. People are grieving their loss, children have lost their parents… and it really puts in perspective what I’m going through… yes, it’s going to be hard…. but it’s not the end of the world…. Can it come back? Yes…. could it be much worse? Yes…. But it isn’t right now. And that’s what I will choose to focus on…..


And I think so myself… at least I can survive this…. For that, I am blessed. Stop feeling sorry for yourself, Dawn… all of this is temporary…

Today, we have a lot to look forward to…. this has made me re-evaluate my relationship with God… He’s always been in my heart… but he’s not always been on my mind and right now I need him more than ever. Sadly, it takes things like this to make you think twice…. I hope he forgives for that… and I will be making it more of a habit to worship him… and be where I should be.

And, later today…. although Vinny is working all day…. Diane and Vinny have invited us for dinner after the Panthers game today…. and with all that she has going on with her friend’s loss, I really didn’t expect for her to keep these plans. I’m so grateful for all of my friends. I have some amazing close friends…. Tess & Lou… you have been by our sides through some good times and bad… on both sides and whenever I need you, you are there. I love you both! My bestie Tracey, I don’t get to talk to you often… and we don’t get to see each other nearly enough…. but it’s the kind of relationship that you don’t have to. It just is and remains… no matter what. And very recently, before all of this drama…. Diane and I connected… and hit it off… and I am so grateful for her presence in my life, especially now…

Have a great Sunday everyone…





I’ve been sitting here… for a bit, trying to find the words…. I feel like everyone wants me to be positive… stay positive, be positive… you can do this! But it’s SO freaking hard…. in 3 weeks my life has been turned completely up side down sideways…

At first, all I cared about was surviving… when you hear the word cancer… you automatically think the worst….

Now, there’s so much to work out… so much to think about… so much to grieve. Last night, when driving through our neighborhood… my husband said. “It doesn’t feel real, does it”…. no, it doesn’t… but then again it does. It will soon feel real enough.

I’m seriously grieving our business…. I feel like it’s something that we’ve babied, nourished and we’re just having to give it away…. or allow it to die… It feels like… “hey here’s my child…. I can’t take care of it anymore”…. How can you just be OK with that? I am having a very hard time. Yes… I know it’s all about surviving, trying to be positive to beat it…. but I feel like it’s perfectly normal to grieve…. I know that people want to encourage me, to lift me up…. but unless you walk in my shoes, there’s no way to understand…. just how hard this is.

I have never been a vain person… but I’ve always taken pride in my appearance…. I’ve mentioned, I have my own insecurities… and I feel like this is just going to take it to another level… I won’t have breasts for awhile…. I’m grieving all of this…. I’m adjusting to my short hair…. I feel like I’ve aged, 10 years… I see photos of myself and I just feel like I look old… will this age me even more??

Everyone is trying to help me, I mean everyone and people I never, ever expected…. and I’m so amazingly grateful. The smallest thing sends me into tears…. The outpouring of offers, it’s seriously hard to even grasp…. or express my appreciation. I feel like I’m slipping into a state of “numb”…. so I pray that I will be able to continuously express my gratitude…. I don’t want anyone to feel like one gesture means less to me than another…. so if I become a state of “numb” or “too sick” please, please know how much I appreciate everything. I may not be able to blog or Facebook or recognize everyone who’s helping….

I’ve been reading a book, that helps prepare you for this journey… it’s raw. It’s honest. It doesn’t sugar coat…. Everyone reacts differently, so I pray I am one that doesn’t react adversely to chemo… I don’t know if it’s best that I’m reading…. or maybe I should be taking it as it comes. Sometimes I feel like reading about it, makes me dwell…. and worry. I may just stop reading this book… but then again, maybe it’s good to know what to expect. When I was pregnant with Greyson, I read everything I could and prepared myself for what I was in store for and I feel like it strengthened me so much. I honestly don’t know what’s best in this situation.

I feel like everyone thinks I’m so strong…. and I should always be strong. But, I’m not. I feel very weak, a lot lately…. I’ve been through a lot… I’m sure this won’t be the last life altering event I deal with…. and for that I’m grateful…. I can survive this and I will TRY to focus on that….

But, please allow me to grieve, please know I can’t be strong 100% of the time…. thank you to my bestie from NC for letting me chat with her this morning on Facebook… and I simply sent my BFF in Nashville a message this morning that said… “I’m having a bad morning” and she said… “do you want to talk?” I told her.. honestly no…. but she called anyway and I’m glad she did…. I found my words again. For a while, I literally lost it….

Thank you to Juliet Harless for fulfilling my Mom’s request for a specific photograph… I appreciate you doing this for us…

That’s all I have for today…. Maybe one of these days, I’ll add more photographs to make this more interesting…

Good News…

There was good news today… the cancer does not appear to have spread… they still are not convinced, I don’t have breast cancer in the right breast, but we decided rather than undergo another biopsy and surgery, we are going to move forward with chemo first/mastectomy/ radiation if necessary… and we’ll be taking a risk that I may get lymphedema… but it’s a small risk 1-5%… I will have to be extremely careful not to do anything with my arms for 2 years following surgery, no lifting, nothing at all strenuous. If I have to have all lymph nodes removed… my chance of lymphedema will go up to 15-30% and then I really need to make sure I don’t do anything with my arms for 2 years or longer… It appears for the next 2.5 years at least… my career in photography is over. I feel extremely sad about that…. but, I will survive and I will be here to see my children grow older…. and that is really what everything is about, now… and we’ll have to pray to God that we figure out a way to manage through it all, financially and emotionally…

A New “Do”…

I have so many people here in the Charlotte area, across the US…. truly who are rooting for my recovery! But locally, I have the support of a bunch of ladies and gents… but yesterday.. 4 very special ladies were part of this day…. which is representative of my new journey…. In preparation for chemo and so I don’t shock my 4 year old… I decided to cut my hair very short…. in doing this, Diane Esposito asked me if she could treat me at her hair salon (Planet 21, Arboretum)…. which was so generous and as I’ve probably stated in every single post… I love her!!! In the process of doing this… a friend in the wedding industry asked me if she could do anything for me… I asked her to come with me to my hair appointment…. I love you Katie O’Neil…. and in the process of all of this… Dayna Robidoux another friend from the industry… told me she’d love to come and donate her long locks… to locks of love and I love you Dayna for doing this with me!!! It was an amazing day…. truly an amazing bonding moment…. It was such a fun day…. a really special girls day…. which honestly, I cannot tell you how long it has been since I have had a day like that…. way too long.

I love you girls… and cannot thank you enough for being there for me during this journey…. boy does it feel strange! To put a shirt on and my hair not get stuck…..

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(I just realized I probably drive people crazy with my lack of proper punctuation and instead (…) that is me! 😉 I’ve always done this) lol

Today… we’re back to the surgical oncologist… Diane will be coming, as well as my NC bestie…. Tess…. just to support. I have no idea if they’ll be allowed back… but if not, they’ve both said.. they are happy just to come along and support…. and if I remember correctly last appt…. Diane about died in suspense…. and I will not do that to her again 🙂 This time she can come hang with us….

Fighting… With An Army…

Through this journey, I have made some amazing new friends…. I’ve felt the love and support from the dear close friends in my life and you know who you are…. I know that I can fight this, even if I am upstaged or the news on Wednesday isn’t the best of news… I feel the love of what feels like an army standing behind me…. cheering me on. I cannot believe the offers… the offers of random strangers making me hats… little girls making me bracelets in support of my cancer… people offering to help with fundraising, people offering to make me meals and delivering them to my house and committing to once a week making meals…  random emails from people with gifts with a weeks worth of meals from Dream Dinners…. People bringing me water… borrowing me a juicer so I can juice for my health… My husband’s co-workers… I received a shawl that every stitch was prayed over… My husbands boss has allowed him to attend appointments with me and he was out of vacation time and his check was not docked…. DeLayna from D Kenney Imaging… is helping me edit some of my weddings… And also Levi Wiggins from Photographer Edit…. they are helping me so incredibly much, that was one of my biggest worries…. I have people praying for me… all over the country. It’s truly so incredibly humbling…. I’ve probably overlooked things…. I’m just me… My journey into the wedding industry has not been an easy one… I’ve kept myself very secluded with very few people I held near and dear…. and so to see people who are just contacting me randomly with offers of support…. truly means so much. My family… has been amazing. My Mom… will be someone I will have to depend on….. one of my best friends… Love her so much!

All of it… every single little thing… to huge, monumental things… even just extra long hugs… and allowing me to cry… mean everything to me… My husband…. who has been my rock, seriously…. tells me…. don’t be worried about being weak, just lean on me…. <tears>  making sure I’m eating properly, eating enough…. so I don’t lose too much weight…. My doctor…. She’s on my facebook page… and sometimes I message her with worries….

I have no idea what the future holds… as far as photography for me…. it’s so dependent on so many things…. It’s been so hard…. a lot of very hard,  large, life decisions being discussed…. Please say prayers that our decisions are the best decisions…

I hope, since you can’t hear my voice…. that through my words… you will all understand how much I appreciate everything single thing….. I’ve NEVER been one to ask for help… I just did it myself… so when people ask me… what do you need? It’s so hard for me to say…. and honestly, I do not know what I need….. so thank you…. all….. for EVERYTHING!!!!!!