On the journey of making photographs in life, I have met many people from many walks of life. And people love to talk and ask lots of questions. One of the most common questions I get is: “What kind of camera do you have?” I answer them honestly, and tell them “I shoot with Nikon cameras and Nikkor lenses!” And then I usually engage them in a discussion about photography from a grass roots level. This is about what makes a photograph that preserves a memory, capturing a priceless moment in time, or being able to freeze time and make an image that takes you back to the moment such that you can smell the air when you were there. Photography is really not primarily about cameras and gear. I suspect I would be able to make the same images even if I used the “other” brand of camera bodies and lenses. No, its really about the photographer and his or her vision, especially within the context of being a landscape photographer. Each image starts with a vision, which then leads to a composition, which then leads to setting up technical aspects of the shot and knowing what to do in each situation. This includes anything from custom white balance, to the aperture, ISO, and shutter settings, whether to use filters or not, and the list is virtually endless. But none of this is even possible, not even the vision at the beginning, if it were not for good physical vision first!
Yes, what is a photographer without their vision? This is what I pondered over the last six weeks or so. You see, for the last eleven months, I have battled a disease known as Medullary Thyroid Cancer, a nasty and tricky disease. I have had my entire thyroid removed, and a total of 92 lymph nodes removed from my neck and chest. All in all, I have been able to still work, still do many things I could do before, and still get out and photograph the beautiful things in life as I have done for years. In May, I noticed the vision in my right eye (my camera eye) began to get blurry. So I saw a local eye doctor and they examined my eye and told the vision had changed and that I needed eye glasses. I figured since I am almost 43, I guess this is no big shock, and its time to fess up and realize that I am at the age where vision changes happen! This was still not an easy thing to hear.
It just so happened that the following week, after Memorial Day, I was scheduled to fly to Texas and have a routine visit and checkup with my oncologist at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. I had a thorough exam where near the end, my endocrinologist and oncologist, Dr. Steven Sherman, asked me whether I had any other health changes since the last time I saw him. I told him about the vision change, and he immediately had me seen that evening by ophthalmology. That same night, after having my eyes dilated and examined, I was told that I had a 7mm metastatic tumor sitting on the macula of my right eye, and that I could lose the vision in the eye at any time. This was devastating news for me, as I thought of never being able to see life again the same, let alone through the eye of a camera. Dr Sherman worked closely with a retinal specialist and a radiation oncologist, and before I knew it, they had me setup for two weeks of targeted radiation treatment to my right eye. Here it is six weeks from beginning the radiation treatment, and the tumor is responding well, and my vision is improving. I credit the God-given medical acumen of Dr. Sherman and his experience with this disease as saving the vision in my right eye! I am so thankful and grateful for the expert medical care by the entire staff at MD Anderson, which is a world class cancer center.
I hope this post encourages some, but really hope that it opens the eyes of us all. We are not guaranteed a tomorrow. We tend to take things for granted in life, even something like our vision. We expect to wake up each day and go through life the same or better than yesterday. So, when life throws you a curve ball, don’t be afraid of it. Be thankful and grateful for each day, and for things like good eyesight! Because like so many things in life, you don’t know what you have until its gone. I do believe life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react and handle it. Now, get out there and enjoy today, stop and smell the roses, and be grateful to be able to see the vast beauty God has given us to enjoy on this earth! God bless you all,
“And without faith it is impossible to please God” — Hebrews 11:6
I am not really much of a writer, as I usually let my photography speak for me. But as the year has progressed along, there are some things that cannot be expressed merely through photos and images, so on this New Year’s Eve I will share these with you. First of all, for those of you who have been following my photography site throughout 2011, this is also a chance to meet you and introduce myself. I want to thank you all for taking this journey of photography with me, as it is not something to keep to oneself, but instead it is meant to be shared!
2011 has been a year like no other, both behind the camera, and also away from it. My Dad, who was a huge fan of my photography, battled bladder cancer since 2010 and continued this year. He passed away on September 2. Before I could catch my breath and grieve that loss, I was faced with another setback and shock. I found out the night before, on Sep 1, that I also have cancer. My first thought was, “Is this really happening?” I was adopted by him at a very young age, and there is no trace of cancer in either bloodline. But I had to accept the diagnosis that the doctors told me which is a stage IV Medullary Thyroid Cancer.. a very rare and tricky cancer. This all was the result of a small bump on my neck that I asked my doctor about, and never felt sick.. not even for one day. This kind of news shifts your priorities and thoughts in a hurry.
I had an 11 hour surgery in September and the entire thyroid and 50 lymph nodes in the neck have been removed. I am very thankful to have expert doctors at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center who have treated many from all over the globe with this disease. In March or April of 2012 I am set to have another complete neck surgery to remove more affected lymph nodes, as multiple surgeries is the only true “cure” for this cancer. So I have re-developed my “warrior” attitude that I had during my days in the USMC. I will need it to fight this.
I write this today to encourage you all to enjoy each day under the sun and to enjoy life. Do not sweat the small stuff (and there is LOTS of small stuff)! Take things one day at a time. Trust God, love your family and spend LOTS of time with them, tell your loved ones OFTEN that you love them, and treat others with respect and love. When unexpected things happen…BREATHE !! Remember to make memories and TAKE YOUR CAMERA everywhere you go.. some of the best images I have taken are from where opportunity and preparedness have met. So don’t leave it at home. Thanks for coming on this journey with me, and I plan on sharing many more images with you throughout 2012 and beyond. Happy New Year, and God Bless..
“Be still, and know that I am God..” –Psalm 46:10