My name is Becky Hanson and I was a normal girl leading a normal life. I was 42 years old with two kids, a precocious and self-confident daughter of 10 and a kind hearted 12-year-old son with the soul of someone much older. I woke up every day and made my kids’ school lunches in a hectic flurry of noise and commotion before driving them to school in a rush, barking last minute spelling words in the car and cussing the fact that I forgot my bank deposit or post office box keys laying on the kitchen counter, subsequently necessitating a second trip to town because I was too disorganized to make just one. I graduated from college twenty-some years prior with a degree in English and a shiny certificate to teach High School, but never actually made it to the classroom. Like CIA operatives or rocket scientists or body artists or hypnotherapists, I had a slightly unconventional job. For over 20 years, I had trained horses for a living with my husband, and like most people, went to work each morning after dropping my kids of at school, a list of daily duties running on a constant reel through my head. I liked to snow ski and garden and to take pictures and enjoyed my friends and family in our backyard. With a glass of wine in one hand and a chunk of bread and cheese in the other, I freely complained about my weight like almost every other female on the planet and I wished that I was 5 or 10 or 15 pounds lighter depending on the time of year. Of course, I also wished I had more time and money to leisurely enjoy my life, but par for the course, there never seemed to be enough hours in the day or money in the bank to ever feel entirely at ease. But despite all of my insecurities, I really did take the time to count my blessings…..the husband of my dreams, two great kids, a beautiful place to live, and a job I enjoyed most days and I understood that I was supremely lucky to have a beautiful and healthy family.
And then, one warm spring day in March, in the midst of a frantic morning at the barn, I got a call from a neurologist that I had seen in hopes of rectifying some obnoxious shoulder pain that I had been living with for a very long time. With a wet saddle pad in my left hand and a heavy western saddle propped up on my right hip, the vibrating phone in my jeans pocket would have to wait until my tack was put away and the horse I was riding was hosed off and tied outside to dry. With my next horse brushed and saddle and ready to head out to the arena, I quickly plucked the phone from my pocket to see who had needed my attention. “Missed Call” from “Neuro Guy,” showed up in the green bubble at the center of my screen. “New Voicemail” just below that. The condensed version of the story is that Neuro Guy and his groovy MRI machine had inadvertently unearthed what would ultimately change the course of my life forever. Completely unrelated to the shoulder pain that had driven me see him in first place, was a mass in my L1 Spinal Cord. Said mass would later be diagnosed as a Grade 4 Glioblastoma, a very deadly form of brain cancer, that would ultimately be removed not once, not twice, but three times before it would finally quiet down and appear to sleep.
Throughout the course of two huge surgeries and what felt like near death radiation, I lost all of the function in my right leg and almost half of that of my left leg as well. Needless to say, I would no longer train horses. My function was mortally affected. My livelihood was affected. My marriage, my family, my vision of myself and the future that I thought I had so carefully crafted all changed with the arrival of my little tumor friend. Life completely changed for me in that moment and I would now be responsible for finding a way to change with it. It was my responsibility to be positive and make the most of what my Life had to offer from this point forward.
Life doesn’t stop for us. What Life does is force us to forge ahead. What Life does is move on with or without us and it becomes our responsibility to keep up with the seconds and the minutes and the moments and the days and nights and years whether we feel strong enough or tough enough or brave enough. What Life does is offer us happiness and sadness and jubilation and disappointment and joy. Life gives us options and opportunities and it pushes us to choose to embrace them or turn away from them…..to live Life or to die trying. And so Life forced me to see the world differently. Life took from me a talent that I thought I would do until I died and replaced it with a new talent that would heal me, and in some cases, those with whom I would ultimately share it. Life gave me an eye for the simple beauty that surrounds us all and Life gave me the chance to refashion who I was and to share with others that there is always Beauty, there is always Light, there is always Joy if we simply take the time and make the choice to see it. Life has put me on a new path. I no longer go by “horse trainer,” but instead by “photographer” and I strive to do justice to Life and the new opportunities that it has afforded me by reminding people that the choice to see beauty, remain positive, experience joy, and share that joy with others is all in the palm of their hands.