The Heart of a Lion // Beautiful People 2013

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths.

These persons have an an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern.

Beautiful people do not just happen.”

-Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

In my last post I shared  with you how touched I was by this quote and that I have set out on a personal project to photograph people who are beautiful.  Being an Iowa portrait photographer, I of course photograph beautiful people all the time, but this project would be different.  I would find those individuals who have been to the bottom and back up to rise up and be strong role models for us all  I would find beautiful people that would inspire others.  I announced that the very special Makensie Owens is the first beautiful person of 2013 and now I will share her story.

Before having cancer I didn’t realize how beautiful life was, or how much I had to be grateful for.

When I found out I had Ewing’s sarcoma, the smell of rain became something I loved and I never before realized the little pleasures in my life.

When the doctor told me I had cancer, my first question for her was “Am I going to lose my hair?” Being 14, I was all about my image. 😉 As soon as she said yes, I lost it. It seems like my hair would be the least of my worries but it was just a sure sign that I would become the typical cancer patient. I floated around for awhile just saying “Yeah, I have cancer …”  and I don’t think it hit me until the day my dad shaved my head on our back porch.

That was my lowest point. I remember running to the bathroom and staring at myself and just screaming. It was all too real and I wanted my life back. I prayed to God. And had to find strength in him. I told myself that if I was going to have to do this, I would make it the best I could.

So I smiled at my nurses and thanked them when they were doing things I hated the most. I did everything I could to stay positive and show people that God was carrying me. I never allowed myself to believe I was going to die. I called myself a survivor during my entire experience.

My mom and I were at an appointment for my heart ultrasound during treatment once, and she asked God for a sign that I was strong enough to beat my disease. She said she looked over at the monitor and saw a roaring lion in the chambers of my heart. Since then, she has called me Lionheart, and it means so much to me that I decided to tattoo it on my left wrist, so that I always remember that I’m strong enough to overcome life’s greatest challenges.

If I were to have a conversation with pre-cancer Makensie I would tell her to see the good things in her life, and to cherish her time running and playing sports. I would also tell her to never regret having cancer because it was the best thing that has ever happened in my life.

To anyone who is diagnosed with cancer: Life gives you lions, cancer is your lion. Instead of running from those lions, chase them with all your heart and you will find that it was that lion that made you who you are. It will be scary, and it will be hard, but having cancer is an opportunity that only special people receive. It’s full of pain and suffering but some of life’s greatest treasures are hidden in that pain. You just have to fight and find them.

Everyone is beautiful, but I think life’s trials try to take away our Beauty.

Instead of allowing life to do that, we need to allow those trials to make us even more beautiful then we were before.

~Makensie 😉

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  • Nancy OwensApril 10, 2013 - 4:36 pm

    My heart is so full, Courtney. Your sweet pictures with Makensie’s words overwhelm me.

    I don’t think anyone else could have taken pictures of our girl than you. Your love for her shows in every photograph.

    Of course Kensie has blessed my life, just because she is my granddaughter. But I have to let you know that you have blessed my life also, first through your precious girls and the joy you all have brought into our lives, but also through your wonderful talent and the love you show through that talent. Thank you Courtney, you will always have a place in my heart.ReplyCancel

  • CourtneyApril 10, 2013 - 4:43 pm

    Thank you so much for the kind words, Nancy!
    I know that being connected with your family was no coincidence.
    Courtney =>ReplyCancel