When I met Shariah and her mom for their golden hour photo shoot early in September, I was immediately struck by Shariah’s beautiful smile and the joy in her eyes. Both Shariah and her her mom certainly have reason to smile now. After an extremely difficult year during which Shariah was diagnosed with a rare childhood cancer, she is now, thankfully, cancer free.
I’m honored to volunteer as a Gold Hope Project photographer and grateful to have had the opportunity to meet Shariah and her mom. When Shareen reached out to me, she expressed her wish to celebrate her daughter’s recovery with photos, and to share her story. I hope her story gives hope to other families struggling with a pediatric cancer diagnosis.
At age 11, Shariah was an otherwise healthy tween, active in sports, including basketball and two different cheerleading squads. She loved to sing, dance and draw, and spend time with friends. Then out of the blue, Shariah started suffering with stomach pains that continued for months before doctors were able to pinpoint the cause.
After a particularly bad bout of stomach pains, and a series of tests, doctors discovered a mass in her abdomen. The next day she went for surgery and doctors removed the mass, which was the size of her head. A week later, Shariah and her mom received the news that no parent wants to hear: the growth was cancerous. She had a rare form of cancer called undifferentiated Embryonal Sarcoma of the liver. And only two weeks before her twelfth birthday, Shariah began an intense regimen of chemotherapy and radiation. She had treatment every three weeks for 5 days.
“After her first chemo treatment, her hair started coming out that day,” Shareen, Shariah’s mom said. “She was strong and didn’t miss a beat by putting a hat on. We went from [basketball and cheerleading] practices and games to doctors appointments and hospital visits,” explained Shareen. “This was an extremely difficult time and transition for us. It was through the prayers and the help of family and friends that kept us strong and going.
Now, a year later, Shariah is doing amazing back in school for 8th grade as the captain of the cheerleading squad. We thank God for his grace. We are so thankful to all the charities and donated help to getting us through this and back to some normalcy,” says Shareen.
The Gold Hope Project is a non-profit organization made up of volunteer photographers that gift families battling pediatric cancer free photo sessions for their children. The organization’s goal is to make sure that these already over-burdened families have an everlasting documentation of the joy and whimsy of their children while simultaneously raising awareness of and funds for pediatric oncology research and treatment. Learn more about TGHP Here.
Do you know someone who may be eligible for a session through The Gold Hope Project (TGHP)? I encourage you to head to their website to apply for a session.
Ready to book your family portrait session? Get in touch HERE!
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Winner of the 2020 and 2019 Most Loved Family Photographer award by Hulafrog, Debbie Camba Photography is a New Jersey Family Photographer based in Scotch Plains. She specializes in natural light, authentic and timeless child and family photography.
She photographs outdoors and in homes throughout Scotch Plains, Fanwood, Westfield, Mountainside, Cranford, Summit, Springfield, Madison and the surrounding area, including Union County, Morris and Middlesex County, and is available in other locations upon request.