“I was diagnosed with Stage IV Lung Cancer in January of 2018 at the age of 27. I was 27 weeks pregnant with my second little boy. So, motherhood for me is a bit different than it is for all mothers. I live each day with the same frustrations, doing the same laundry & helping the same booboos as all moms, but I’m living with Stage IV Cancer.
About a month prior to my diagnosis I began to develop severe abdominal pain. My doctors kept telling me I was in pain because I was pregnant, but I knew otherwise.
After several scans and a biopsy, we were told that the cancer was in my lungs, liver, bones, and my lymph nodes. My first born had just turned two and I had another healthy baby boy on the way, this wasn’t really happening?
As you can imagine this came to a complete shock to our family. Being a nurse I knew what stage IV meant and I knew it wasn’t good. Two weeks after being diagnosed I found out I had a mutation called “ALK” driving my cancer. This meant there was a specific medication I could try to help slow the progression of the cancer. “you have a little longer to live!”.
At the time we were ecstatic, weird to be excited about something to do with cancer right?! I delivered my son, Brooks naturally at 30 weeks so I could start taking the medication, Alectinib. Right before and after Brooks was born I was very, very sick. I spent a lot of time in the hospital but the medication began to work. Some of my cancer started to shrink and others remained the same but the most important part was that it wasn’t spreading.
Brooks spent 72 days in the NICU. It was a very difficult time for our family but we are so blessed with such an amazing support system of friends and family that helped and continue to help us get through. We had 2 healthy baby boys!
About 3 months ago I started having lots of back pain. I was exercising daily and just assumed I had pulled a muscle. We moved my routine 3 month CT scan up and it showed no progression (everything appeared stable). I began PT and for a little while my pain improved. Unfortunately, it came back with a vengeance and we decided to do a PET scan. Let’s just say I pretty much lit up like a Christmas tree. 4 weeks ago I started radiation treatments and just finished 10 rounds to my femur, hip, lumbar spine and a rib. We are switching to the next medication that will hopefully target the new cancer and work as well as the last one I’ve been on for 3.5 years.
We’ve always known the medication wouldn’t last forever but it hit pretty hard when we first found out it was no longer doing it’s job. Our family has been beyond blessed with the most amazing people in our lives. There is absolutely no way we could go through these valleys without them. All the glory to God for putting them in our lives at the perfect, perfect time.
Our photographer & dear friend, Allie, said this to me during treatments: “We walk through fire, it will always burn us. We will melt, hurt, cry and become ashes, but when we see ashes, He sees a new creation. I know now it hurts and burns, but when you come out of the other side, you’ll see that this awkward season was to make you even more like Christ, even more like the Courtney you were always meant to be. Beauty out of ashes”. I’m grateful today for ashes & for beauty. I would never choose cancer, but I believe that I look at the world differently, that I’m a different mother because of it. I soak in the naps with them (especially on days when I need one too!). I study their faces, I take the trips, I go down the water slide with them. I live and I play & I’m not quite sure I would slow each moment the way I do if it weren’t for the “c-word”.
Motherhood looks different for everyone, but for me, it means that I’ve been given the gift to mother each day– and I take it. Every time.” Courtney, Mother
“I’ve always known that Motherhood required significant strength, but I’ve never witnessed this kind before. Courtney was diagnosed with Stage IV Lung Cancer at 25 weeks pregnant with her second little boy. At the time, her oldest son was 2 years old. When she was diagnosed they had no idea what a timeline would look like for her, but she chose to fight for time with her husband, Chase & their two sweet boys, Cross & Brooks. I began photographing them about 9 months after diagnosis, and fast forward to this session 3 years later & Courtney has become one of my dearest friends and the strongest mother that I know. A week prior to this session, Courtney received news that the medication prolonging her life had stopped working & that her cancer had spread throughout many parts of her body, specifically her bones. We decided that we would capture this hard, but beautiful season for her and her boys the day before beginning intensive radiation & new medication. We spent a little time as a family on their beautiful front porch & then decided to take “real” photos of what life with boys looks like. Lots of cuddles, bed jumping, kisses & “I love yous” were thrown around in front of my lens, and I think it may go down as my favorite session ever. Courtney inspires me as a mother & I believe we will do thousands of other sessions just like this because she’s a fighter & because we serve a God who heals. Watching her ride these waves with grace and tenacity is something that I will always be honored to witness & capture in still frame. Cancer is strong, but mothers are stronger.” Allie, Photographer