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Life Outside of Cancer

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Polaroid SX-70. ©Brenda Coffee. All rights reserved.

Last week Marie O’Connor, a sweet friend to all and a breast cancer blogger from Ireland, wanted her readers and fellow bloggers to tell her a little bit about themselves that had nothing to do with breast cancer. Many responded with comments on Marie’s blog while others have written their own blog posts. So far I’ve learned Jan was a patent attorney; Lauren is a pediatric psychologist who’s an expert witness in abuse and neglect cases that come to trial; Philippa advises and manages educational development programs and has lived in Nepal, Mongolia, India, Sri Lanka and Myanmar; Martine was once offered a singing gig in Las Vegas; Jody is an active cancer advocate who pedals 25 miles, several times a week; Beth is an oil painter; Kathi is a home care physical therapist and a closet Adobe software maven; Katie is a writer; Jackie works in media relations and is wild about the Nebraska Cornhuskers; Lani is a college mathematics professor and Anna is a writer and cancer advocate. And me? I’m an entrepreneur who’s done everything from run a greenhouse manufacturing company to doing a hostile takeover of a public company. The one thing, however, that’s always been a constant in my life has been photography.<PREVIEWEND>

I have always been a camera freak: pinhole, Polaroid SX-70, 35mm, panorama, underwater, 8, 16 and 35mm movie cameras and now, digital. The medium has never mattered as long as I could make images and document where I’ve been. Cameras have gotten me backstage passes, 50-yard line access, flights in fighter jets and landings on aircraft carriers. I’ve documented Paul Newman as he raced cars at Watkins Glen, Robert Mondavi’s 90th birthday party, Olympic Track & Field time trials and life on the road with the Harlem Globetrotters. I’ve captured images of buried treasure, bluebonnets in the Texas Hill Country and the heartfelt moments of life and death. The strange thing about being a photographer and a filmmaker is that even though my camera lens brings me up close and personal, it’s sometimes like I’m window peeping. When many of my experiences are over, I don’t feel like I’ve been there. I remember the quarterback dropping back to pass, one shot at a time, increments done with a high speed motor drive, but ask me what happened next, and I may not remember it clearly if I didn’t see it through my camera lens.

Since breast cancer, I’m more interested in where I’m going than where I’ve been. I’m more interested in where you’re going that where you’ve been. Do you have a life outside of having cancer, publishing a magazine or working in the home? What defines you as a person? Do you only see yourself as a doctor, lawyer, Indian chief? Married, single, widowed or divorced? Or do you see yourself as curious, persevering and a loyal friend? We’re not our cancer, our profession or our spouse. We are the sum of the total of our parts. We are the whole person. We are the little girl that got locked out of the house; the skier who likes to stay on the blue runs; the woman who wants to travel down the Amazon. As people, we are flawed, but as children of God, we are perfect in His sight. Are you living a life that will make God proud? Are you living the life you were called to live? Why not?

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