I am sucker for surprise parties.
Seriously…they are the best. So when a dear friend asked if I’d be willing to photograph a surprise party for one of her sweet little first graders, I was all in. I mean, what could be more fun than celebrating with a room full of crazy, screaming, sugared-up, 7 year olds?!
I quickly discovered that this wasn’t just any ordinary surprise party. It was more of a “welcome home” party. And these kids were, to say the least, EXCITED. You see, for the past year, their sweet friend and classmate, Olivia Patzke, had been receiving cancer treatment for her medulloblastoma brain cancer, which she had been diagnosed with during their kindergarten year of elementary school. The disease had quickly spread to her spine, and the outlook was bleak and devastating. Crushed and heartbroken, her parents packed up their bags, took Olivia out of school, and traveled to Tennessee to receive a trial treatment through St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.
Despite her absence, her little kindergarten friends kept her close and very near to their hearts. A large stuffed monkey sat in Olivia’s chair for the remainder of the school year, to remind the students that she was still there with them in spirit, even though she couldn’t be there with them physically.
This “surprise party” was to welcome her back. To tell her how STRONG she was. And to tell her that no matter what, this squirly little group of first graders had her back. Through thick and thin.
Cancer. It has robbed this family of so much JOY. But let me tell you. It has no power over LOVE. It can’t take away the beautiful story that is being written through this strong little warrior’s life.
She is a fighter. She is a hero. She is a miracle.
In the words of one of her classmates, who put it oh-so eloquently…
“You are SO brave. You are stronger than the Hulk, Batman, and Spiderman combined.”
Welcome Home, sweet Olivia.
To follow Olivia’s journey, please visit her Facebook Page, Optimistic for Oliva