I had the distinct privilege of hanging out for a little bit with the Small family, from Dallas Texas, this past weekend at the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island in the Bahamas. Being that my last name is Little and theirs is Small, we were fast friends from the get go. They were there to enjoy a much deserved family vacation, and grant Andrews wish to “swim with the dolphins”. Some of their friends and neighbors back in Dallas had rallied together to make this happen for them because frankly, they needed it in a way that hopefully none of you reading this ever will.
This is part of the letter that was sent to me from our contact at The Atlantis Resort;
“Andrew Small is an adorable 11 year old boy wanting to live. Since he was 5 years old he has been fighting for his life. He was initially diagnosed with Leukemia in 2005. After receiving a bone marrow transplant from his little sister, he went into remission. As part of the Leukemia treatment plan, Andrew received full body radiation. Without it, the cancer would still live within his body. With it comes the risk of developing other types of cancers later in life.
This is exactly what has happened. In May of last year, Andrew was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. Surgeons removed as much of it as they could. Radiation and chemotherapy followed. He has endured almost a year of pokes and prods. His veins became so scarred he needed an anti-anxiety pill to access them so that he could receive the chemo. After fighting so valiantly, the latest MRI has shown that the chemo is not working. The tumor is back and larger than the original. Doctors are out of solutions. The Small family have been sent home to fill Andrew’s days with as much living as they can.”
As you can imagine, I wanted to do everything I possibly could to easy the pain and suffering of this family. From the minute I read the email I started to feel for Andrew’s mother. I kept thinking about her and getting that lump in my throat (the same one I have right now). There was no doubt that I would meet them in the Bahamas and do a photo shoot of their family enjoying Paradise Island.
I’ll admit, I feared it would be a terribly sad encounter. I kept running through possible scenarios’ in my head. This is something I always do when I know I’m going to have a challenging photo shoot. I had plan A, B, C & D… Once I arrived on the Island, I spoke with Andrew’s Mom Julie, room to room. I liked her right away. We spoke openly about the situation, but without dwelling on his condition. After all, they were there to have a good time, and that’s what my photography brand is all about too. So from that moment on, I got right into my normal “playful” mode.
Corey and I met them down in “The Cove” where they had spent most of that week playing in the surf. All three kids were sweet as can be, and of course Mom and Dad were warm, friendly, and appreciative. We got started right after the introductions, with the exceptions of a hermit crab delay. Caroline found the cutest little hermit crab in the sand and of course wanted to take it back to Dallas with her. Trouble was, that little hermit crab didn’t feel like leaving paradise and escaped from her sneaker. So all three kids were on the hunt. I was afraid I had lost them before we ever got started. Luckily, my games and tricks got their attention and they forgot about the crab for a little bit. The sun was a little bright still, but just about the time we all found our grove and things were clicking, the sun was setting and we got this beautiful rain cloud off in the distance. The sun reflected off the water and gave us this fantastic ambient light, that put a special glow around this family. Now, I’m not one to read to much into things, but I will say that I do enjoy thinking of them in this special light. I hope you enjoy this little slide show we put together from their photo shoot. Please send them your positive thoughts, and take a moment to appreciate the ones you love.
From my heart I wish them peace and comfort, and a lifetime full of special memories from their trip to Paradise Island.