Sass’N’Flash by Carla Lehman Photography was a concept that grew out of my wish for my daughters to grow up feeling loved, supported, strong, self–confident and unafraid to be exactly who they are. My older daughter’s nickname was Sass’N’Flash from the time she could walk. It perfectly described her, feisty, brash, brave and fun.
It also perfectly describes the initiative within my studio – honouring and empowering women. Sass’N’Flash is my project to love and serve others, to photograph bright, brave females, to lift them up and celebrate who they are.
My desire is to encourage little girls, tweens, teens and women to be brave enough to be themselves and revel in it! To step in front of my lens and let go of whatever is holding them back. To celebrate who they are, love themselves as others do and feel their personal brand of beauty burst forth.
Corelle is one of my Sass’N’Flash clients. Her Mother, Laura, contacted me to book a session to lift Corelle’s spirits. She’s gone through a very hard time, and Laura felt that a fun photo shoot was exactly what she needed to lift her spirits and bring her some joy. We photographed Corelle at home, adorned in her boyfriend David’s cowboy hat and a flirty little dress. We didn’t have a lot of time; Corelle undergoes 4 hours of kidney dialysis every day. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
This is Corelle’s story, in her words:
“I was born with kidney problems, as a baby I was really sick. The doctors had to operate on me when I was around 2 years of age. The tubes from my kidneys to my bladder were upside down and criss crossed. About two years ago, I had blood work done because I was having some health issues. A specialist happened to pick up my blood work results and that was the start of my diagnosis. When I first found out I had 7% left of my kidneys, the doctor was shocked because I felt fine and was completely healthy other than my kidneys were dying. They couldn’t do a biopsy because my condition has shrunken my kidneys to be very small in size. It’s called chronic kidney failure, there are different types and stages but because we don’t know what has caused me to fall ill I’m not specified. I’m in stage 5, last stage and my current function is 3%. Because kidneys hold a key role in filtering your blood of toxins and making red blood cells I have side effects. I’m always tired, as if I have no energy to do anything, which is why I don’t talk a lot (also because I’m shy), I have trouble sleeping as well. I am continuously itchy because of the toxins that lay in my body and I have trouble maintaining a normal body weight due to loss in bone mass and lack of appetite on some days. It hasn’t progressed overly fast but it is very scary because people do die from kidney failure every day.
I have had three surgeries, two were major, one was when I was 2 years old, and I had another surgery two years ago to have my catheter placed. The last surgery was to have the catheter come out for use. Going from always being active and free spirited if you will to being cautious and confined was hard. When I started dialysis back in December it became harder. I am supposed to do my dialysis four times a day which takes about one hour per exchange with 4 hours between my exchanges but there are days where I’m stuck in the city all day without any way to do it but I try my best. My daily routine on dialysis is basically me stuck at home trying to stay busy or occupied by doing normal house hold chores or watching TV it’s really boring honestly. The medication is okay, though I’m on a calcium pill and a blood pressure pill. I have to get blood work done once a month and go see my health team once a month as well. I think the hardest part was accepting that this is my life now and accepting how it changed me. The hardest part still is not being understood or feeling like an outcast because I am slower due to being tired or not being able to focus everyday like normal people. I also think the other hard part is having a weight restriction to what I can lift or carry and working on a different schedule then everyone else too.
The worst part is not knowing what could happen tomorrow; always wondering if I’ll make it through this and have a normal life again. It’s hard having to be careful all the time, wondering if when everything is said and done, I’ll be the same carefree person I once was who was, who was full of life and positivity. At the moment, I’m not on a transplant list and my transplant Work Up has been stopped due to some complications but once it’s back on track my boyfriend David is trying to be my donor.”
This session was so important to me; a chance to do something fun with a brave young woman, to help her let go of worry and stress, and be herself. I wanted to show Corelle her beauty and commemorate a time in her life when she is forced to be strong, even when she doesn’t want to. These images portray a resilient young woman, one who is determined to live a normal life in the midst of scheduled chaos.
Corelle, and Laura, thank you for the privilege of time spent with you, and the chance to create images for that tell the story of a feisty young woman, full of promise and hope for the future.