F#ck Cancer

Heather SnowI had a last minute shoot cancellation on a Sunday in Denver recently, and because of the foliage and quality of light this time of year, I really wanted to be photographing SOMEONE.  It seemed like a crime not to be.. it’s just so pretty outside right now.  So I put out a post on Facebook:  Sexy Denver woman needed.  Let’s make some art.  (It was worded a little better than that, but you get my drift.)  I got so many responses that it was impossible to choose.  I wanted to photograph all of these women.  I don’t do well when given too many choices of anything.  Picking out a restaurant or a meal that I want takes FOREVER.  SO needless to say, by Friday evening, I was still going back and forth, but I had finally decided to go with the first person that responded.  It took the choice out of my hands.  That’s when I received a Facebook message from Emily.  To sum it up (poorly), it said: You should take pictures of Snow (aka Heather Snow).  She doesn’t know that I’m writing you this..As you know, she has Leukemia…I can’t think of anything sexier or stronger than Snow and her drip stand, Edward.  

AND.. Decision made!

Heather and I have been making photos together for several years now.  She is a super funny comedian & writer (read her blog!).  She’s six feet tall, and since her last name is SNOW, we took some promo photos of her as the Abominable Snow-woman a couple of years ago, as well as many different headshots over the years.  We always have such a great time shooting together–I’m a big fan.  She learned recently that she has Leukemia (it’s the craziest story.. seriously, read her blog), and has been in the hospital for the last month.  When I say she’s been in the hospital, I mean, she couldn’t leave.  Ever.  Even leaving her room was a huge pain (because her immune system was so fragile).  So, no enjoying the amazing foliage and light I spoke of earlier.  To sum things up (poorly again–for real, go read her blog..right now even..it’s so much better), She went through chemo treatments, lost her hair (after trying out a couple of awesome short haircuts), had a major drug allergy (that they couldn’t figure out) which produced a rash over all of her skin, found a bone marrow donor, and got her blood cell count back up enough so that she could be released from the hospital for a short time.  Which brings us to the present.  She is out in the world right now, trying to stay away from germs, and in official remission, which is awesome, because it means that she should be able to have her bone marrow transplant soon.  After which, she will be in the hospital again for another month.

Heather Snow 2When I saw Heather for these photos, she was two days away from being released from the hospital.  She still seemed blown away by all of it.  How randomly it came, how supportive people have been, how some pieces have fallen into place, how difficult it has been.  Her room was filled with cards and artwork, and fake flowers (she can’t have real ones due to GERMS/pollen, etc).  One of the nurses said that it is the most decorated room she has ever seen in that hospital.  A repeat phrase I kept seeing around the room was “Fuck Cancer!”, which seems like a pretty great mantra to me.  Heather told me a lot about Leukemia, and how it turns people’s lives upside down.  How if this had happened to her 5 years ago, she would have been financially ruined.  How people lose their jobs and homes, or don’t get good donor matches, and so end up being hospitalized for much longer due to complications.  Or die.  She said that all that she has gone through is kind of a ‘best case scenario’ (good insurance coverage, family donor match, her body’s response to the treatments).  Which completely blows my mind, because of how awful it all sounds.  I can’t imagine it being worse for people.  She was honest, blunt, and real about her experience.  Which is what I’ve always admired about her.  No filter.

Thank you, Heather for being both vulnerable & strong, by allowing me to capture these images of you during this time.  I think they will serve as an inspiration to those of us watching, people going through it, and to you years from now when you look back at what you fought and survived through.  You are such a bad ass, even in the way you are fighting cancer.  And that is super sexy.  You rocked this shoot.  I hope you are getting to enjoy even just a little bit of the foliage before your transplant.  Fuck you, Cancer!

**Thank you, Averi Trevino for doing the makeup, and for Seddy Gomez & Heather Cameron for recommending her!

~Crystal Allen

To read more about Heather’s story, please visit: Sixfeetofleukemia.com

To donate to the Heather Snow Family Fund, please visit: Give Forward

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