Capturing cancer recovery through a weekend of photos

Dawn J Sagert, and John A Pavoncello
York Dispatch

A Disney Channel commercial and a family member battling cancer led to a recent weekendlong photo shoot at Lauxmont Farms.

Maddy Strine, of Manchester, snaps photos during the Cancer Recovery Glam Photo Shoot at Lauxmont Farms in Wrightsville, Sunday, March 5, 2017. Strine's aunt, Jennifer Sitler, of Lower Windsor Township, (not shown) organized the event after seeing photos made of Strine following Strine's final round of chemo therapy in March of 2016. Sitler wanted to empower others recovering from cancer with that same symbol of strength, so she applied for the grant and organized the event. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Maddy Strine was 18 and in her first semester of college when she was diagnosed with stage 3 lymphoma. After surgery and three rounds of chemotherapy, she was declared cancer-free.

From left, Photographer Becca Eden, of Bokeh Blooms in Spring Garden Township, snaps a photo of Meghan Harman, 10, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2015, Conrad Wetheral, 10, Sadie Wetheral, 12, who was diagnosed with osteosarcoma at the age of 8, and Mallory Harmon, 12, all of the Baltimore area, during the Cancer Recovery Glam Photo Shoot at Lauxmont Farms in Wrightsville, Sunday, March 5, 2017. Dawn J. Sagert photo

But the treatments were hard on her body. After beating the cancer, Strine booked a photo shoot with a local photographer, and it ended up being a big confidence-booster.

The photos symbolized the beauty and strength within Strine  that withstood the harsh treatments her body had endured, said her aunt, Jennifer Sitler of Lower Windsor Township.

Sitler was watching the Disney Channel with her children when she saw an ad for Disney's "Summer of Service" grant. The Lower Windsor Township woman told her children, “We should apply for the grant to get money to help other families with kids with cancer get photos done like Maddy’s.”

Mandy McLain, left, of Amanda Naylor Photography in Manchester, photographs Meghan Harman, 10, of Baltimore, Maryland, during the Cancer Recovery Glam Photo Shoot at Lauxmont Farms in Wrightsville, Sunday, March 5, 2017. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Thanks to Sitler's idea, about 20 young cancer patients ages 4 to 19, who were in various stages of treatment or remission, were photographed last weekend. Twelve professional photographers and five makeup artists donated their time and talents to  the children and their families  on Saturday and Sunday.

“I could just see it light up on her face — she felt great out there,” said Tara Harman, of Baltimore, as she spoke of her 10-year-old daughter, Meghan. “I don’t think she was thinking about cancer at all.”

Meghan was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2015. She went through six rounds of chemotherapy. A month later, she relapsed and received a bone marrow transplant and has been fighting various complications from the transplant for the past year.

Tara Harman shared the opportunity with her longtime friend Christine Wetheral, of Catonsville, Maryland, whose daughter Sadie, 12, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma at the age of 8. Following a year of chemotherapy, the energetic preteen has been in remission for three and a half years but has had bone replacement surgeries and knee replacements.

“Sadie loves all this kind of stuff,” said her mother. “She loved having her picture taken, and her brother could come, so it’s been wonderful.”

“It just makes them forget about all the stuff that they’re going through. It just makes them have fun. Out of something bad comes something good, because they meet new people and have a good experience,” Wetheral added.

“The purpose of this photo shoot is for these kids and families to be able to celebrate and document their recovery process — their child’s journey through this,” Sitler said.

“It felt really nice to get pictures of us because we can show people ‘we’re stronger than you think’,” Sadie Wetheral added.