Brave Jersey City Breast Cancer Patient Shares Her Year Long Battle in Viral Video – Ray’s Ray of Hope [VIDEO]
This being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, one New Jersey breast cancer patient decided to document her year-long experience in a time-lapse video.
Why she decided to document it was probably to bring awareness, if not about the many women who suffer yearly from breast cancer, but to show the world how she personally experienced it.
Emily Helck's one-minute video of her year of breast cancer treatment went up on her little blog Sunday. It quickly went national.
Diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer in the summer of 2012 at the age of 28, the Jersey City artist and writer decided the best way to keep track of her medical progress was to take a photo of herself each week.
She wanted an accurate chronicle of her treatment and knew her memory would be untrustworthy: "You forget things that are upsetting," she said. "Your brain protects you."
"Truthfully, I didn't think I would keep it up, because I'm terrible at stuff like that," she said. Yet she did find she welcomed the ritual of setting up her tripod to take her weekly shot.
The photos aren't fancy; most were taken during the commercial break of whatever she happened to be watching at the time. Sometimes she's dressed for outside, sometimes she's still in her pajamas. While there is whimsy in her blog which she calls RTONJ (in a black-humored take-off of the "Real Housewives" TV franchise acronym) the photos convey a grimmer mood.
For what the viewer speeds through in 60 seconds was far more arduous in real time. She had a double mastectomy (mostly because her family history made her dread a recurrence), reconstruction, chemotherapy and radiation.
One reconstructive surgery got infected, necessitating more surgeries. And her radiation burns are clearly visible in some of the photos. In many of the shots, she averts her eyes from the camera. She hunches a lot, in part out of a protective feeling towards her chest.
Since she was taking the photos for herself, "It was not about looking good."
She stopped the weekly shoots Sept. 21, exactly a year after she began chemo. She then took all the shots, made them a time-lapse video, then posted it. Eventually it came to the attention of bigger websites, and then ended up on yahoo.com.
At last count, the video was getting about 10,000 new views an hour.
"It's incredibly heart-warming," she says of the reaction she's received. "It easy, with the Internet, to lose your faith in humanity because people can be so mean." She's received only a few obnoxious comments and those have been quickly squelched by the other commenters.
As to why a stranger would want to watch another stranger's year journey through cancer treatment, she's not really sure what's behind that. Perhaps, she thinks, people who are daunted when a friend or relative gets cancer find it safer to see how it was for a stranger.
And what if watching her march back to health gave them the information they needed to then be able to help the people in their lives? "If that happened," she said, "that would be great."
Probably no better way of putting on display the scourge that affects thousands of women yearly. And hopefully drive home the need to visit the doctor for periodic mammograms.
Good luck and Godspeed Emily – today’s Ray’s Ray of Hope