this is life. // JESSICA DYCK: on facing multiple barriers

Social media can be a huge time suck for me. Hands up, who’s with me? And, I often find myself wondering what is really genuine these days. Particularly on Instagram when I get a like or a follow from someone I admire or an awesome company… is it really them?

But there is a wonderful side to social media. As a self-described nosey person I love to see what family and friends are up to in their day to day lives, especially when I don't get to see them often. It allows us to stay connected, and in some cases allows you to re-connect with someone you may not have otherwise. 

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It was thanks to Facebook I was able to reconnect with Jessica from elementary school. As a child she was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy which impacted her balance and limited her mobility. It was suggested she use a wheel chair, but her family - who encouraged and treated her just the same as her twin brother and older sister - opted for the walker. I actually remember decorating this walker in class one day! I also have memories of writing and acting out a play with her and going with her mom on a field trip to White Rock. 

Langley Headshot Photographer
Langley Headshot Photography

After almost 18 years in physical therapy and countless surgeries she moved from a walker, to crutches to the canes she uses today. Even though we know her to be outgoing and talkative, behind the scenes there were struggles of self confidence. Thats what made achieving some amazing goals even more important to her: a great career, buying a home, and learning to drive! Like I mentioned, being nosey, it was wonderful to see all this unfold. Especially around the time I started seeing posts of Jeremy. It was 2012 when she met the love of her life. Jessica said “He treated me well, and made me laugh, I was an equal. I finally felt entirely content with my life and who I was.”

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Langley Photographer

But in 2013 her world changed. 

At the young age of 28 she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. She describes it like a punch to the stomach. 

“How could I have cancer? I was angry and felt like this must be a joke. It wasn’t”

Langley Photography

Jessica received chemotherapy, and both internal and external radiation. Eventually she was hospitalized because the treatments were taking its toll. It hit close to home for me because we were born the same year. It just didn't seem right, it never does. It was a long road for her. But I am relieved and happy to report that she just celebrated 4 years cancer free!! Also 6 years with her man :)  

So this is life, for Jessica. 

She has faced obstacles and has come out with a positive outlook. The words she shared with me are powerful:

“Through everything I have learned that nothing is concrete, nothing is set in stone. For my story my family stuck by every step of the way. My boyfriend loved me during the good, the bad, the really ugly. My true friends are still here. Change is unavoidable through. Some friends drifted away and my immune system will never be a good one. On a devastatingly sad note, cancer took my Nana from me just before I was cleared.None of us are without heartache but it important to allow happiness even among your darkest of days.

In the future I hope to find an outlet to speak with those professionally or personally on the journey of facing multiple barriers. I feel we cannot foresee our struggles, but we can definitely control how we respond to them.

Some of us may be thrown a few more curve balls than others, but we are ALL out on that field called life. Give it your best shot!”

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I felt so honoured to capture Jessica and social media allowed for that to happen. Together we can all use these platforms to create awareness. Her recent Facebook status could not be truer: “For all you reading this, for the love of life get checked” It was thanks to a routine check up that her cancer was discovered. So please heed her advice and make sure you are going for regular check ups. 

Thank you Jessica, for allowing me to share your story. 

 

ROB ENGELQUIST // this is life.

So here’s the thing, I’ve been known to be all about the ladies. Because let’s face it, we ROCK! lol. Between my beauty & boudoir lines the focus has been on creating an empowering experience for any and every woman. That was until Robbie. 

Rob reached out to me for a headshot and I was glad to do it thinking we’d get a few simple & classic images. I’d say we got more than that. He is the inspiration for me starting my blog series: this is life. So much of my work features women and I love this opportunity to include the gentlemen. It means a lot to start it with Robbie because I know he has such an important story to share. 

I’ve know Rob since high school where he was well-known, the life of the party and an avid hockey player. Never did I realize at that time what was going on in the inside. Now at 33 everything he has been through has brought him to be the phenomenal writer, rapper, stand-up comedian & aspiring actor we know now. With all these achievements under his belt and many future dreams it may be surprising to learn he doesn't even like leaving his own house. Rob has schizophrenia. Diagnosed at age 18 and on a journey ever since. 

“As a child I heard strange and distorted voices inside and outside of my head, I also suffered from vivid hallucinations that left me feeling possessed and extremely scared.”

His struggles began much before the age of 18, with the voices beginning as early as 3 years old. As it progressed so did his anger and rebellion and his parents were doing everything possible they could to help. He turned to drugs and alcohol and lost all respect for authority which eventually got him expelled from school. It got the point of being so overwhelming and suicidal he was admitted into RCH Psych ward and later spent 3 months in Riverview Hospital.

“The mental pain that I endured in the day followed me into my dreams, the demonic screaming that I heard when I was awake stayed with me when I fell asleep”

 

So this is life, for Robbie.

 

Even though he was given the diagnosis of schizo affective disorder, he’d like you to know that's not who he is, rather something he has. I have always admired his willingness to share about his struggles and the incredibly powerful things he has done to help spread awareness. At 21 he became a comedian in a group called ‘Stand up for Mental Health’ and did over 200 shows in a span of 8 years. After that he was able to record some of his songs on a few albums and loves to spend his day writing and listening to vinyl records. He now teaches police officers at the justice institute about mental illness, and his purpose in life is to spread the love this world so desperately needs. 

Although I already knew much of this story, I learned many new things (read the full interview here). The most exciting was to hear about the autobiography he has been writing. Living with a mental illness can come with some stigmas, and we need to change that. When I see Robbie all I see is a talented individual who has the most unconditional love for his family & friends. He is so great with our kids, and excited to be an Uncle himself soon…and I can’t forget - an unreal cook! That’s his passion and joy and he cooks every single day.

If you, or someone you know is struggling, and ever need to reach out you can contact Robbie on Facebook or email: robakamantis@gmail.com. He says getting help can be trying at times, but don’t ever give up. It’s important to express yourself to someone you trust. 

I’ve been passionate about every woman deserving beautiful portraits for years. During my sessions we have fun and my goal is to have you leave feeling uplifted and empowered. When Robbie saw his images I was blown away to hear “wow, I have never seen myself this way”. In that moment I realized every PERSON deserves amazing portraits of themselves. 

Do you have a story to share and a desire to be photographed? 

Reach out to me at: hello@kristypowers.ca