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so much more than a haircut…

Huck and EZ have been hanging out together every week since they were 6 months old, and their babysitter would walk around with one of them strapped on her front and the other one strapped on her back.

Now at age four, the boys share a mutual love for Star Wars and Legos… preferably Star Wars Legos.

In the weeks since EZ was diagnosed with cancer, the boys have only seen each other two times. And that has been hard on both of them.

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So when the time came to decide how to deal with EZ losing his hair from chemotherapy, the moms agreed that the best way to help EZ feel better about shaving his head, was for the boys to shave their heads together.

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And seeing as Huck had always wanted a buzz cut, this seemed like the perfect plan. So we had our date scheduled. Celebratory hair cut presents were purchased and wrapped. I arrived and picked out the best spot for light in front of a big beautiful mirror. The hair stylist arrived and we were all ready.

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But when EZ arrived, we learned that he was in a lot of pain and he was not having a good day. It became very clear, as Huck was in mid-shave, that our perfect plan may not work out the way we imagined.

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The adults tried to reason with EZ, letting him know that shaving his head was a much better option than having his hair fall out in patchy clumps every day.

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But it wasn’t until I was driving home that I could really understand how this was about so much more than a hair cut for this four-year-old little boy. This little boy has had his life turned upside down and inside out… he can no longer walk, he can not use the bathroom without pain, he hasn’t eaten in days, his bones hurt, he gets poked, prodded, taped and needled every day.

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And in the middle of all this change, he lost his father, the only person who had ever given him a hair cut in his life, to a heart attack. It makes perfect sense that the last thing EZ wanted was to shave his head.

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So he very clearly said “no,” and they got back in the car with his beautiful curls untouched.

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Despite the tough morning and the head shaving protest, Alex did have some very good news to share about EZ’s progress with chemotherapy. Since so many people have so generously sent their love and support to this family, I wanted to share Alex’s update:

EZ’s last two scans reveal that the chemo has currently stopped his cancer from progressing. It has also reduced his tumors by 50% in size. This is a good start to a very long marathon of treatments that EZ will endure.

Dr. Month, EZ’s oncologist, shared that while his lungs and spine look worse to the eye, the bones will take the longest to heal. His lungs just look worse because he had a chest tube (from original biopsy) and he just got over a terrible cough and cold.

She reminded us of how important keeping him in his little Frida brace is, so his spine is protected. Meanwhile, we are pumping him with bone broth, probiotics, wheat grass and other homeopathic remedies.

To all sending your distant healing and prayers, we are deeply grateful and thankful for each and every bit of support, hope and love we are receiving. The children and I, as well as our extended family, are missing Roneil deeply. EZ is very clear on what has happened and shares that he misses his dad everyday. LU also is being very expressive and sharing her grief. We are pursuing different grief support measures.

A million thanks to all. XO, ap

And then the unimaginable happened…

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Just when this family had returned to their home from the hospital…

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And just as they were starting to come to terms with what their new life would be like fighting the rare form of cancer that was discovered in their four-year-old son…

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Ron Powell, EZ’s father, died suddenly Sunday morning on February 2nd, 2014.

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He died in his sleep, with his family around him. They believe that he suffered from massive cardiac arrest.

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Along with the entire West Marin community and anyone who knew Ron Powell, I am in complete shock and utterly heartbroken for this family. Ron was an incredibly kind person, with a beautiful smile and he was truly loved by everyone.

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Please consider helping this family, as they now face an even harder road than they could have ever imagined possible. Ezequiel still has a long fight ahead without his father’s support.

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And on top of learning her four-year old son has cancer, and then two weeks later losing her best friend and husband, Alex has to figure out how to financially support her family while remaining strong for both children.

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Overcoming this nightmare seems impossible… but there is hope… over 30,000 people have visited this blog post in the past two days… if every person donated just $10… that would be an incredible gift of love and financial relief for Alex, Lu and EZ.

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Donations can be made via PayPal or at any Wells Fargo branch by referencing the RONEIL POWELL MEMORIAL FUND. Please denote “Gift Donation” on your transaction. The Federal Taxpayer ID # for the Roneil Powell Memorial Fund is: 46-4722983, Wells Fargo, County of San Francisco, Ca.

The RONEIL POWELL MEMORIAL FUND was established for the deposit of gift donations by the community for the sole benefit of the Powell/Porrata Family during this cancer crisis. The RONEIL POWELL MEMORIAL FUND is not a California 501(c) nonprofit organization. Please consult your financial professional for tax advise regarding your gift.

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Thank you for sharing this post and for supporting this family. Now please go tell your family you love them, because life is insanely short and it doesn’t give you any warning… the majority of the above photos were taken in March 2013… less than one year ago.

one very long year…

When you have a child, a single year suddenly has a whole new meaning.

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0-1 = your needy sack of pooping potatoes turns in to a happy, wobbling and babbling miniature human.

1-2 = your happy, wobbling and babbling miniature human turns in to a laughing running firecracker holding a match just under their wick… seemingly delightful yet threatening to explode at any minute.

I am just at the beginning of 2-3, so that is as far as my brilliant analogies go for now. But having experienced two years with a little human, who is a hilarious blend of my husband and myself, I can only imagine how much more intensely we will love this Dr Jekylle and Mr Hyde character by the time he is four.

Which is why I lose it every time I think about this family who just found out that their four-year-old little boy has stage four cancer and that they will have to spend the next year hoping with all their hearts that chemotherapy and radiation will be enough to cure their son.

Until I heard the news about this family, I didn’t realize that discovering something is terribly wrong with my child has become my biggest fear. You just don’t think something like this will happen to someone you know, and you certainly don’t think it will ever happen to you. Arann said tonight that he couldn’t do it. He doesn’t think he is strong enough.

Luckily the Porrata-Powell family is incredibly strong and they are extremely well-loved by their community. But it is going to be a very long year as they try to make life as normal as possible for their little family, while simultaneously fighting the biggest fight of their lives… so any extra love and support they can get from outside of their community will be hugely appreciated.

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To learn more about this lovely family and to see how you can help, please click here: http://www.ezpowell.org/

Sarah and Zach… a quick peek…

This is just a glimpse of a few favorites from the wedding I photographed two weekends ago in Greenville, South Carolina, the town where I mostly grew up. The wedding was for my best friend from high school, Ann’s, little brother, Zach, also known as Baby Zach, which is how I remember him… so the idea that he was getting married was hard to get over.

The timing was perfect, I was coming home for my annual family reunion beach trip and Zach was getting married the Saturday after I arrived, so I just stayed in Greenville an extra night and joined my family the next day.

I met Zach’s soon to be bride, Sarah, the night of their rehearsal and was very excited to find that she was down to earth, fun and beautiful… the perfect kind of bride, and wife for my best friend’s little brother. And the two of them have a heart wrenching love story that started after high school and grew stronger through Sarah’s cancer that was discovered a few years after they started dating.

It was amazing how openly her cancer was discussed throughout the events, and without the fear that normally surrounds the C-word, but needless to say the tears were not far from everyone’s eyes during their vows to care for each other through sickness and health.

I felt honored to be there and to help document their day for them… and it is not often, as a California based photographer, that I get to photograph in a big fancy traditional church… which proved to be a challenge and a fun creative tool.

I loved the contrast between the two preparation rooms…

I didn’t intend this photo to show off Sarah’s left shoulder where she had her cancer, instead I noticed it during my editing. It is one of my favorites because I think it has a calm and beautifully strong feel to it and I hope she feels the same way.


I wish I could say I planned this photo to look this way, but I didn’t and it was quite a fun editing surprise… although it has a surreal dream feel to it that may not appeal to everyone, so luckily I have normal ones as well.

The Presbyterian Church had a rule about not photographing during the ceremony, which in some ways was nice because it meant I had to be more creative.

And there is so much more to come… but the editing is a lot slower since I am on the road…. so stay tuned for more of Sarah and Zach.

And here is Ann again… I love friends who love being photographed… it is so much fun… this was entirely her idea.

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