“I do it because I can, I can because I want to. I want to because you said I couldn’t”
I had a call a few weeks ago from my beautiful most beautiful friend Amelia from Nan’s Garden. She asked if I could help out on a special experience she wanted to put together for her cousin, Emelye. Amelia conceptualised something pretty incredible and based on Em’s story alone, I was in! But wait until you read the story and see what Amelia made to represent the path Emelye was about to walk.
But here’s Emelye’s Story first…..
“I am the youngest child of 5 and I’m the only girl. Mumma’s little angel; a blessing. She didn’t think she was having any more kids and always wanted a girl. She finally got me.
My mother sadly passed away when I was 15. She had a heart attack and it was horrific. I was 350am October 1st 1999. It feels like a lifetime ago and it was a week before her 54th birthday. She was the most amazing and loving woman I’ve ever met. Being the only girl was hard to deal with and I thank God for my Aunty Ann and my cousin Amelia who took me under their wing and helped me so much. I’ve now lived longer without her than I have with her, which saddens me. I struggle to paint and do my art as it was something we did together and she guided me on. I always think how life would different if she were alive.
At the time it made me realise no one is safe. Even the best people can be taken suddenly. It made me realise that good health is so important. It also made me realise how much our mother held our family tightly together, as we all really fell apart for a few years when she passed, now we are starting to rebuild and be close again.
My best memory growing up would have to be our family trips to the beach at Burleigh and having bbqs there. Also our trips to O’Reilly’s look out or Mt. Tamborine dam. My brothers used to scare me about the drop drop bears coming the get me ha ha ha. Another memory I have is going to granny’s and playing with my cousin in her massive garden with the scrub Turkeys and looking for cicada skins in the bamboo tree. That was always a hoot!
Around 10 years ago, I was really overweight. Sadly, I’ve yo-yo’d a lot with my weight it never stays off even if I try. Now I kinda know why. I train cardio 6x a week yoga on Sunday mornings, strength and conditioning 2x week and weights 3x week. I’m a strong little weapon let me tell u. This is a great passion of mine too. I love the Heath and Fitness industry! I also love coffee catch ups with friends and walking along the beach. I love scary movies, painting, photography and eating – even tho my body doesn’t feel the same! hahaha. Instragram is a favourite place for me to look at yummy pictures of food and be inspired.”
For the past 5 years Emelye had been experiencing a multitude of symptoms that were seemingly unrelated and she just hadn’t “felt right”. She had a gut feeling something was wrong, with symptoms including, anxiety, panic attacks, infections, facial numbness, strange reactions to medications, vertigo, vision problems to name but a few. She says that some people thought nothing was wrong with her and she was just “crazy”.
After imploring with doctors and a CT scan one year ago that came up all clear, an MRI was ordered. Emyly hoped that the MRI would give her the answers she had hoped for. It certainly did give her answers;
A Large acoutstic neuroma was found, growing 10mm into Emelye’s ear canal….
“This all made me realise that life is precious. Family friends etc are so important although I still stress about some things but, I have been more relaxed with it all lately. It brought out my true friends when I thought everyone was just fake in this world these days. It also brought Amelia, Aunty Ann and I closer again which has been incredible Without them I would have crumbled into a giant mess. They are some of the most beautiful, caring, loving people on the planet.”
I asked Emelye what the treatment is for her acoustic neuroma and what fears she had surrounding the procedure;
“It’s a lengthy procedure involving 2 surgical teams neurosurgeons and ENTs. I also require an ICU bed post operatively for a day. They will make an s shape incision assuring me its a minimal shave of my head. They will cut it out and the ENTs will have to cut and drill out were the tumour has grown 10cm into my ear canal. then I’m put in an induced coma 12-24 hours depending. I may have to have radiation therapy, or lots of drugs post op they need to wait and see and confirm it being benign which they are sure it is.
I’m fearful of getting facial palsy. I can deal with the hearing Loss, but don’t wreck my face! It’s very high priced “real estate” as the surgeon put it. 😉 The doctors assure me they will do their best, otherwise there is treatment and they can and will fix it. I’m also petrified of gaining a lot of weight and becoming overweight again post operatively, and not being able to do what i love at the gym. I have great family and friends around me to help me get motivated to get back to the gym and regain my fitness and strength. The tumour is pushing on my brain stem. Although the chances are low, I could die or have paralysis. My personal conditions of life I have spoken to my doctor about is that any paralysis from neck down and I don’t want to be woken up. It’s very scaryto think about even if that’s a very low risk.
Even the thought of being so groggy and sick post operatively scares me. It’s all very surreal ATM, to think tomorrow morning I go under it doesn’t seem real I guess I’m at the hospital now and still like wooooaaaahhh this is happening even though I’ve known for about 7 weeks now. I’m worried its malignant I don’t even wanna think about the shit that’s entailed with that God they told me if it is its light out with in a few months.
What am I ok with?
Surprisingly the thought of if I die during this it doesn’t scare me. I’d rather pass on a life of being permanently disabled and not being able to do the things I love so much. That’s my feelings.”
SO! Amelia wanted to create a butterfly story of images that represents transformation, a period of change, hibernation and re-surfacing bolder and more beautiful than ever before.
We found a lovely location and set to it. The morning we spent together was amazing, and connecting. Emelye and I chatted about everything and anything. When we are faced with a massive life change such as this, a lot of social walls are easily removed and talking on a deeper level without fear is presented…..and to me that’s what life is all about!
Emelye’s surgery was a success, the benign tumor has been removed. Of course this has not been an easy time. She has Palsy on one side of her face and has been experiencing severe vertigo, nausea, headaches. But her spirits remain positive and her attitude is fierce! She certainly is that butterfly!
Here’s Emelye’s take on our time that day; I don’t think I’ve received a more beautiful testimonial x Thanks Em xxx
“Omg Jess it was amazing! Gosh it was more then I ever expected! The wings Nan’s Garden created were exceptionally heavy but so exceptional amazing too! 😉 I felt invigorated and beautiful. I’m still shocked I so easily got naked for the photos of my tattoo. I’ve never done anything like this before so I kind of didn’t now what I was doing but once I relaxed and eased into it it was just so much fun, and for a day, I forgot I even had a tumour.
You were so great with making me laugh and smile asking me questions and you are such an easy person to get to know. You are a very bubbly and open. Your personality rocked we had common ground with the gym and you are a free spirit! Thinking back to that day I’m smiling now.
At the end of the shoot I was thinking get these wings off ha ha ha however I felt beautiful and alive; and like a super model. I didn’t have a care In the world. I didn’t realise I had been be eaten alive by mozzies it was so much fun. You are a brilliant photographer and seem to really capture the important moments and have such great ideas and take photos from gorgeous angles and I loved the ones through the forestry and flowers etc. My gosh wow my jaw drops every time I see the photos, I’m like “Wow that’s me” …I’ve never felt so beautiful. The session was more then i ever expected. Thank You.”