17 Oct Holding Onto Hope – Hill Family Portraits
Last night, I got a message from Rachel that her husband Kevin, who has been fighting stage 4 melanoma cancer for some time now, has taken a turn for the worse. For those of you who have followed the Shutter Sweet blog, you might remember I did a family portrait session with them last year just before the holidays with their two kids. Rachel and I had talked about doing another session together, but the day we had scheduled didn’t work due to Kevin being really nauseous and it lasted for a season. We waited, hoping it would get better so we could reschedule… It didn’t.
In fact, things have been getting worse as different drugs and trials have not cured him and time moves on while the cancer spreads. The Hill family has been on an emotional roller coaster and it is just getting more intense as we near a miracle healing or death. For the first time, the doctors mentioned the bad H-word… Hospice. Kevin was scheduled to fly to California next week to be the very first patient on a drug trial that has given hope to doctors, the Hill Family, and all their friends and family. Since the progression of his symptoms, Rachel and Kevin felt it was best to get there sooner in hopes of starting ahead of schedule, so they rescheduled his flight for 10AM today because days matter. The rest of the family will still fly out next week. I asked Rachel if she wanted to try to squeeze in a session and she said yes since they could be gone for months.
The sun rises around 7:40 now so we planned to arrive accordingly. Our previous session took place one cold evening as rain was falling at a small park across from the GA Aquarium with large block letters that spelled out HOPE. We knew we wanted to go back to the same location for this session as the HOPE had been rebuilt and was new. It was such symbolism for this family and I was honored to capture it. When I woke up this morning to find it was raining, I wasn’t surprised. It was fitting. This family is still in a storm and it’s not blue skies for them. Thankfully, as the sun rose behind the overcast skies this morning, the rain started to clear and it was much warmer than our previous session. The new hope sign had a different backdrop that wasn’t as beautiful as the lights from the previous session, but again, it was fitting and we embraced it as rush hour traffic clogged the streets around us.
The kids were not there for the session this morning, so it was a beautiful time for Rachel and Kevin to be with one another before he departed. Kevin was still feeling pretty sick, but he pulled it together and was such a great man. He mustered strength not knowing what the future holds, but knowing if he doesn’t make it, these photos will be precious to Rachel.
As I have been working on these photos so they’ll have something to look at while they are apart, I was told that Kevin got an appointment with the doctor in California and will be taken care of for the drug trial as soon as possible. In the midst of suffering, there is good and there is hope. People have come from all over the nation to help this family through donations, connections, time and effort. Doctors have gone above and beyond. If you want to follow their journey, please visit The Hill Family Fighters. If you believe in prayer, I know they would appreciate your prayers right now. I’d like to share the sweet moments we captured this morning. I hope these make you hug the ones you love a little harder and a little longer today and every day forward. When you see a big H, like in the photos below, I hope you will think of the Hills and Hope.
I hope you don’t mind the unexpected post, but this family could use as much support as possible right now, because right now is all we have. Rachel and Kevin, thank you so much for allowing me to capture these sweet moments for you and be your documentary portrait photographer as you fight cancer with courage and faith. We will be anxiously awaiting updates as you are able in the days to come. Peace to you and all who are going through tough times right now.