My own diagnosis with breast cancer shortly after beginning the Braving Life Photography project has given me a new appreciation for how important it is to celebrate the strength and courage of those living with and adjusting to life after cancer.
My session with Heriot was the first I completed post diagnosis, surgery, and recovery. A native of Scotland, he is one of the kindest and most genuine humans I know. I have known Heriot for many years. He is also a photographer, among many other things. As someone who is used to being behind the camera, our session was so much fun and a change of pace for him.
In August of 2016, he began to feel tired and decided to get a physical. Cancer was the last thing he expected. Not long before, he underwent tests for cancer due to a family history of Lynch Syndrome. Lynch Syndrome is a rare genetic condition which gives a 50% greater chance of having cancer in their lifetime. His colonoscopy and prostate check came back clean.
The blood work gathered from the physical detected a rise in his PSA level and he was quickly diagnosed with prostate cancer. His prostate was removed in September and his recovery is ongoing.
As we wandered around Gemini Springs, Heriot and I talked about many things. He is a treasure trove of information and one of the most interesting people I have ever met. His life is the stuff movies and books are made of.
When we finished, I asked him how things have changed since his diagnosis. Heriot told me he appreciates life much more. At 58, he stays active but also knows when he needs to slow down, which is something that took some getting used to.
“Having cancer really changes your perspective on everything. I take nothing for granted anymore. I am glad to be alive and grateful for every day. Things that used to be a big deal, just aren’t anymore.”
Heriot’s story is similar to my own and countless other cancer survivors. The road is long, but it is also filled with hope, courage, and an appreciation for the present moment. Moments of fear do pop up but the determination to live life to the fullest is how we give cancer the middle finger.
Heriot is a son, father, grandfather, brother, and friend to many. He is also a survivor. I am honored to know him and thankful for allowing me the chance to share his story, and photos, with the world.