Brittany is a sitter for one of my best friends, and as I became familiar with her story, I was amazed at how much she has had to go through and for how long. I’ve asked her to share a bit of her inspirational story with us:
“In 2010 I got into a car accident on my way to a babysitting job. It was raining for the first time in months and I was in a stick shift. I hydroplaned and went through the airport fence. Apparently my theory of driving fast did not mean lift off. I woke up the next morning with half of my body numb. I was dizzy and not myself. A neurologist told me that I had a seizure while driving and put me on anti seizure medicines in hopes of that never happening again. Crazy long story short, seizure medicine caused me to have seizures, which meant more seizure medicines, and I had never had a seizure before and all of my brain scans and tests came up normal, so they were hurting me more than helping. I simply drove a little too fast on a rainy night.”
“In 2012 I started having stomach pain. I was nauseous a lot and had a hard time eating. I was told to cut out dairy and gluten and basically all of the foods I ate at every meal. This was probably the hardest of everything I went through because I was starving but couldn’t eat. They gave me medicine for the nausea and told me to just try to play mind games to not throw up. It got so bad one night my friend took me to the emergency room. It was there that I was told “there is a mass in your stomach about the size of a grapefruit. Where do you want to go, ucla or Stanford?” From 2012- mid 2014 I went to both ucla and Stanford trying to do anything to simply save my body from whatever it is that was causing my stomach and intestines to fail. I got lucky that it was not cancer, but it didn’t have a name. My failing immune system and intestines had no cure or even treatment options, they just came to the conclusion that too many anti seizure medicines had destroyed the nerves of my GI tract and took away their function. I turned to juicing and raw diets, allergy tests, genetic doctors, everyone you could possibly see at a hospital wanted to explore. It was hard but I knew in my heart it was the right thing, because even if I could not be cured, I was helping new doctors discover new things that could one day save someone’s life.”
“I was getting worse but was not about to give up. At the end of it all in September of 2014 I was called by a doctor at mayo clinic who had heard about my conditions and wanted to try a clinical trial of a new form of radiation. It had been used on certain types of cancer but never on anyone like me. His words were “if this does not save you it will kill you, but I’m confident in my practice.” With shaking hands and a beating heart I signed the papers. The actual treatment did not hurt. I was in and out every day for two weeks in under an hour. My parents, family, and friends were terrified. I owe it to them for being my rock even though everything seemed to be crumbling. Once I got home the effects took over. Everything hurt. I could not walk or eat. I had sores all over my mouth. I got a cold that turned ugly very fast. I thought “this is it. It didn’t work and my life is over.” We prayed and prayed for hope. We prayed for healing and we prayed for strength. I started planning my funeral. I gathered pictures and started writing letters. I cried and cried but still believed that things would be ok. And slowly over November and Christmas I got stronger. I not only walked but I ran a 5k with my best friend. I was still sick to my stomach but things started to turn around. I went in for my check up with a hope in my heart I cannot explain. I didn’t die. It had saved me. But just as things got better, I got the news, there is another mass in your stomach. We are going to remove it with surgery but we don’t think it’s benign this time because of the radiation you had. Shaking and scared and praying for a break I had the surgery. I kept my head up but I would be lying if I said I had lost a lot of trust and hope in doctors. But just like radiation I woke up. I was sore and sick but I got better. Three weeks after surgery I had my post op scans where for the first time in my life I was told “Brittany, you did it. You are in remission. You are going to heal and get better.” I am not a cryer. I usually laugh in situations I shouldn’t. But I sobbed. After five years of treatments I cannot even pronounce I was told I could move on. I could be better.”
I decided that I really wanted to donate a session in celebration of all she has conquered at such a young age. When she came out to take the pictures, she was feeling a little awkward under the scrutiny of the camera. Typically I instruct my subjects not to look at me and not to smile unless it feels natural, but I knew that for at least one shot she wanted a classic portrait, and it was important that her true, vulnerable self was able to shine through. We talked about what these images would communicate to her future self and that these were truly a gift for her, to remind her of the good that there is in the world and how worthy she is to receive it. She shone through the session and it was fast and joyful.
In twenty years, she will probably have a family of her own, and will have done and seen so much more. But these beautiful shots of herself as a young girl will be a constant reminder that every minute is precious and meant to be lived without reservation. It was a wonderful thing to be a part of this victory celebration for her.
Brittany sent out cards to friends and family spreading the good news:
“My life is truly a miracle. The stuff I faced was hard, but I never lost hope in who I was, a daughter of a king. And I knew that I was being taken care of through the whole thing. I wasn’t ever afraid of heaven. I sure did and still do love my life and wasn’t wanting to leave it, but I knew that I had a daddy watching me from up above holding my hand and cheering me on when hope seemed lost. But now I get to celebrate. I get to dance! And I hope that my story inspires others to never take anything for granted. No matter what you are going through, the key word is through. It won’t last forever and life is so worth it!” — Brittany
Two Happy Lambs Photography specializes in newborn, baby, maternity, family, and child photography in Santa Maria, CA and surrounding areas such as San Luis Obispo, Avila Beach, Arroyo Grande, Nipomo, Buellton, and Solvang.