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. 

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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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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”

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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.