She was sitting on the edge of her bed, her Boston terriers Oliver and Stella curled up in her lap, and, dressed in pink and pearls, she was a very pretty 27-year-old. I certainly didn’t begin the interview with the intention of catching her with her defenses down in order to record her raw emotions on tape.
Watch this multimedia audio slide show and hear cancer survivor Lainie tell her story. iPhone & iPad version.
It was just one of the questions on my two page list:
- paint me a picture of those first days after your cancer diagnosis
- how have you decided to live your life in light of your illness?
- when you were a little girl, what did you want to grow up to be?
That last one made her cry.
As a child, she wanted to be an actress. In college, a nurse. Since cancer ... her dreams have been to live life to the fullest.
Within a few moments she bounced back to the strong and positive Lainie Schultz who has beaten adrenal carcinoma, Stage 2 breast cancer, melanoma, and thyroid cancer. When diagnosed with breast cancer at 24, she cried for “only one day”, and has since refused to let the disease prevent her from enjoying her life.
Young cancer survivor Lainie Schultz wears bracelets during her fight with cancer.
Lainie turned to Broward Health in Ft. Lauderdale to treat her cancer. Because she was so young for a breast cancer diagnosis, her doctors sought genetic testing. More shocking news, she had a rare genetic disorder called Li-Fraumeni Syndrome which predisposes for cancer only about 400 people in the country.
Lainie has not only become a force field of positive energy for those closest to her - parents, fiance and large circle of friends - she has taken on the role of cancer survivor evangelist. She blogs intimately at My Journey with Li-Fraumeni Syndrome, and has been interviewed by print, television and online news media. On Voices of Survivors, she wrote the following:
It’s saddening to give up your innocence at 26, but when you’re stripped down to your unrefined self, bald, and have cancer, you find strengths you never knew you had. You develop relationships that are closer than you ever thought possible. You see love and support in those around you that overwhelm you at times. I have been able to meet others who inspire me and have given me a new meaning to the word, “strong.” Every morning I wake up, and thank my lucky stars I am able to call myself a survivor!After reading her words above it’s time for me to get a little choked up ... I know, I’m the hard bitten newsman with decades of objective story telling experience, never get involved, just keep to the facts please. I held my emotions in check during a week of photography, interviewing, editing audio and composing the multimedia piece. I’m a cancer survivor too, but have pushed aside my experience as being so very far removed from Lainie’s daily challenges.
So today I’m dropping my objectively, and will just come out and say it. I’m impressed by how Lainie is living her life, and I’m inspired by her. I’m sorry I made her cry, but not sorry she made me cry too.
Besides Lainie, I have to thank Jenny Mackie of Broward Health's Marketing Department, who served as creative director, set dresser and dog wrangler. Carolyn Jones was a master with makeup and wardrobe, and Antoine Heusse did the heavy lifting as lighting assistant.
To view more Miami multimedia photography, please visit my portfolio site.