All the roads we have to walk are winding

I can’t believe it has been a year since Christophe (then: my boyfriend, now: my fiancé) got sick. Around this time last year, he was feeling tired all the time, loosing weight, coughing and getting night sweats. It took a lot of doctors and hospital visits to finally figure out he had cancer – Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. It’s a type of cancer that is quite common in young people and it can mostly be treated well.

Christophe received six series of BEACOPP chemo therapy and was supposed to go into remission around June. Unfortunately a PET-scan showed the cancer had grown back and on top of that he had gotten Guillain-Barré, a disorder attacking his nervous system. To treat the cancer he received ICE chemo therapy for two months, which did even more damage to his nervous system, making him end up in a wheel chair and having difficulties using his hands. When a new PET-scan was done, it appeared the severe ICE chemo didn’t work and actually just made everything worse.

The doctors didn’t have an immediate answer to what should come next, so they consulted with doctors in France who are working on a medicine for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The medicine was (is?) however not available in Belgium yet and even if it was, Christophe wouldn’t be sure to even get the medicine because it also has a bad influence on the nervous system and with him having Guillain-Barré he might not be approved. After some days the doctors decided to try another chemo therapy first: GVD. It’s not a go to chemo in Belgium, but is mostly used in the US. The good thing about the GVD is that in comparison to the ICE it was like a vacation. His body got a chance to recuperate a bit and his hair started to grow again. With physical therapy he was able to regain some strength in his limbs.

But the night sweats returned, and Christophe was loosing weight again. Also his hands and legs suddenly lost the strength he had built up with physical therapy. The doctors weren’t quite sure if it was the cancer or the Guillain-Barré pulling him down again. Betting on the latter, he was treated for chronic Guillain-Barré.

Up until now there has been no improvement in his ability to use his hands and legs. But the night sweats disappeared and Christophe put on some weight. The inflammation in his blood also went down. After two months of GVD we finally got some good news: the tumors have gotten smaller, the chemo has worked partially. Today he took the next step: Christophe is now in hospital for about a month to receive another severe chemo treatment, combined with a bone marrow transplant. Fingers crossed things continue to get better. November we are waiting for you.

(Photos from last year before/ during his diagnoses.)

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© Els Vanopstal

Let it all soak right through

Hello blog and blog readers! Long time no see. I have several things I want to share with you, guess I’ll just work my way back by posting some photos of my latest shoot, one with Mandy in the woods. It was the first time I knowingly used slide film (I used it once before by accident in the beginning of my film adventure), and I must say I am really pleased with it! The colors came out beautiful and they were so much easier to scan than the negative film. I will probably start using it much much more.

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Credits
Model: Mandy Van Damme
© Els Vanopstal

While you’re in the world

Sometimes I think about how other people see photography. For a lot of them, a photo is just a photo. It’s something you can look at, and like or dislike. It’s something you (I) do. And there’s plenty of people doing it. Nothing special about it.

This thought – it scares me. For me photography is not just something I do. It’s part of me. I breathe it. I don’t go a day without thinking about it. My whole life is wrapped around taking pictures. Because I am on a mission.

What do you want to do with your life? For me it is important to create things. To try and bring pieces of beauty in a world where things and people can get ugly. To give hope. Even if perhaps I am only giving hope to myself (although I hope it does extend beyond me – or will do so at some point).

Without photography, I wouldn’t know who I am. I’d be lost. Miserable.

And not everybody gets that.

But Laura does. She is one of the most passionate models I know. We understand each other.

And there’s comfort in knowing: you are not alone.

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Credits
Model: Laura Theys
© Els Vanopstal