Kentucky Woman Commemorates Conquering Breast Cancer with a Legendary Photo Shoot
Every so often a special story comes around that is just meant to be shared. We all know life can feel a little rough sometimes and unexpected events happen to us that become completely earth-shattering. However, even in those moments when the world seems to come to a screeching halt, we have the power to choose whether it keeps us down or to fight back in whatever way that we can.
For Lisa Baxter of Western Kentucky, life decided to throw her the biggest curveball during an already difficult time. After suffering urgent medical issues from a digestive disease that caused her significant weight loss, she found a lump in her left breast.
"I didn’t think at 44 it could be breast cancer. My mother and uncle both had stomach cancer, so it wasn’t even on my radar. Even though it didn’t make sense, I knew without knowing. The morning I opened the results confirming the diagnosis was the hardest."
Despite the heartbreaking diagnosis, Lisa picked herself up and headed into her battle with cancer with her head held high.
"I let myself feel bad that first day, cried it out, and then I got down to business. At first you think why this is happening to me and then quickly realize it touches so many people and it’s not just about you anymore. It’s such a whirlwind in the beginning and there’s more questions than answers. From that day to now it’s been up and down but also filled with blessings I never expected."
Show of Strength
After a year since receiving the hardest news of her life, Lisa decided to commemorate the anniversary of her diagnosis in the best way. The idea came to her while watching one of her favorite shows.
"In the early days, while I was anxiously awaiting appointments, test results, and more information, I caught the final season of 'The Last Kingdom,' where one of the characters, a brave queen that had bravely fought many battles, ultimately succumbs to breast cancer. I already owned a sword and thought if I could bravely get to the other side, I’d make a show of strength to commemorate."
Vision Brought to Life
With an image in mind, Lisa searched for a photographer, finally finding Amanda with Simply Savvy Photography. With 17 years of experience and an extensive portfolio, Amanda was the perfect photographer to capture Lisa's vision. According to Amanda, Lisa kept her idea for the shoot a total secret until the day before.
"Lisa booked a session back in the fall but didn’t discuss exactly what it was for at that time. We’d connected to make plans prior, but Lisa was trying to keep the actual theme a surprise. To a lot of people, this would probably be scary, but I feel that I work best when I don’t have to overthink it. I think that’s how our shoot came to be so much magic. It was just organic in every way."
From the wardrobe to the props, Amanda had no idea what to expect until she arrived at Audobon Park on that cold and windy day.
"I showed up with a camera, and then here she is looking like 'Xena: Warrior Princess.' We just went with it!"
From Cancer Survivor to Sword-Wielding Queen
Despite Lisa's idea for the shoot remaining a surprise, Amanda is no stranger to these types of photo shoots. In fact, they are some of her favorites.
For Lisa, even when she didn't think that she could, she found strength to fight her battle with cancer by leaning on her loved ones.
"Finding joy in the every day and letting people know how you feel are so much more important when you view life through this lens. I have an 11-year-old son that is my strength and purpose. As a single Mom, we had just made it through Covid, homeschooling, illness, relocating, a Covid divorce and I wasn’t sure I had the strength to make it through cancer. With the help of our family, my son had the best summer ever and I’m glad those are the memories he will have. They are all the reasons I found the strength to make it through every day. I did it all for them."
All in all, Lisa hoped her photos would be a reminder of her triumphs as well as an inspiration to anyone else fighting their own battles.
"Today, it is very easy to look at the highlights of others comparatively and I want to impart that my everyday life is still one filled with ups and downs and living with chronic illness. This is a snapshot in time, and we all ebb and flow into new chapters. Many people are fighting battles and celebrating wins and I hope this resonates with anyone that can relate."
For anyone dealing with their own battles, hopefully we can all learn to pick up our swords, hold them high into the sky, and celebrate our wins no matter how big or small.
"We can all do brave things."