cancer eyes. (come what May)

“My boobs are trying to kill me.”

says May, a week after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

“and you know what i dread most?” she asks, as we’re having coffee in the NIKE cafeteria, that day.

Me:  the pain?  the chemo?  fucking hell, the fear of DYING???

“No,” she says.

No?  there is something worse?  there is something more awful than those items on my what if i ever got cancer, what would i fear checklist????

apparently, there is.

cancer eyes. 

“Cancer eyes,” says May.

ok, i think, ok.

(and in my head, i’m thinking, “what the hell?”)

But here’s the thing.

When you have cancer, you have the absolute, undeniable right to determine what is going drive you up the freaking WALL.

So for May, with her jet black hair and beautiful dark brown skin, dreaded, while bald as a billiard ball, sitting in the cafeteria, running the Wildwood trails, or making a controversial statement in a meeting, the cancer eyes from someone who might be looking at her saying, “yeah, May, that’s a great point.”

because she was bald and not, ahem, because she actually had a great fucking point.

that is what she meant.

so where does this leave us.

well, it leaves us here.

to a place where i get super selfish, because today was a bad day, as far as you can have a bad day discussing sneakers.

and i love NIKE.

and i love the SWOOSH.

and i think, if i were in May’s position, i would hate those cancer eyes too.

and here’s where May’s foresight came into play like nothing i have ever witnessed before.

she wanted photos.

of her with hair.

and of her without hair.

and the entire process in between.

so she asked if i would take photos of all of it.

and, in the spirit of cancer eyes, i said yes.

because here’s the thing.

May with hair is beautiful.


Bald May is more.

the adjectives are yours to choose.

mine are these:

strong, sexy, bold, powerful, defiant, kind, victorious.

look at these, then YOU decide.

and if you are fighting cancer, well hell, you’ve got a teammate in May.


her boobs are trying to kill her?


this is May.

and May doesn’t want cancer eyes.

and cancer won’t kill her.

and if today, you thought that you were bummed because work sucked, remember this:

work is work.  and we should take that seriously, because we are gifted/granted a job that allows us to live a fruitful life.


what May teaches us is that we don’t settle.  for cancer eyes, for acceptance, for making total human infallible mistakes.

life is short.

do the right thing, apologize if you don’t, correct it, and move on.

at all costs… avoid cancer eyes.

and May,


you’ve got this.

You know it, we know it, and quite frankly.

Cancer knows it and can crawl in it’s lameass dark stupid dunce corner and KISS OUR ASS.

your boobs are beautiful, and in their cancer free, reconstructed state, will continue to teach us that dwelling on the insignificant is, um… wasteful and insignificant.

to life.



ps… more photos, you ask?  well ok!!!!

pps… if you’d like to order the photo book i created for May as her thank you for allowing me to photograph her journey, you can buy it here.  All profits are given to her to donate to the organizations of her choosing.

This entry was posted in bald, breast cancer, cancer, confidence, female African American bald, female bald, mastectomy, photography and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to cancer eyes. (come what May)

  1. baravetto says:

    Well done, AC! Fuck cancer!

  2. M. Camargo says:

    Cancer has killed enough women in my family. My sweet and strong italian grandmother, my other grandmother that cancer not even gave me the chance to meet her! Four aunts and now is not only trying to kill my favorite aunt but also freaking out my mom because she thinks she will die like her sistes and my grandma. For all these reasons I do mammography since…humm.. i think i not even had boobs in my first one!! I love May’s guts, your text and your pictures!! This made my day and was a slap in my face to stop complaining when a fucking FA13 meeting didn’t work as i expected. (and I love Nike too!!) I would love to translate it to portuguese and share with my lovely mom and special aunt. Can I?? Thank you for the goosebumps and tears thinking of my family. Ah.. yes: FUCK YOU, cancer!!

  3. Carla Shelstad says:

    Wonderful! May is so beautiful all around! The pictures were just fab!! We love you May with all our hearts!!
    Cancer sucks ass, kick its ass May!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Amy M says:

    Well done Andrea. Perfect message for today, this week, and everyday. All the love in the world to May. You are a great friend for what you are doing to help her document kicking cancer’s ass!

  5. betsy says:

    AC, you never cease to make me dig deep and feel.. Thank you and Thank May for sharing in ALL her beauty and braveness.. YES, there are a lot of those that have had cancer touch them or people they know and a LOT who have beat it.. March on Miss May and squash it!! I’m sending clean beautiful energy your way.. Think the positive and leave out the negative.. As Mother Teresa once said.. she would not join an anti war rally, as it carried the talk about the war, but instead she would join a pro peace rally as it carried the talk of peace..

  6. Lisa Shelstad Ronglien says:


  7. Megan Reink says:

    Andrea, you are so talented. You capture May’s journey so well! May, you rock!

  8. Vicki Lang says:

    I don’t know how I came upon this site, but so glad I did. Amazing photos, amazing family, amazing May!! You have so much going for you – you are going to be just great!!! Thanks for sharing.

  9. Marlie Nelson says:

    WoW. That was incredible Darin.Thank you for sharing. Go May!!!!!!!!

  10. This was just amazing and May the Landon crew has you in our thoughts and prayers! You are an inspiration to so many people. Thanks for sharing this!

  11. Stacey Coonrod says:

    OK, I makes me stop and think life is pretty darn good, quite whining and get living!

  12. Lisa Turner-Sollers says:

    Praying for you and your beautiful family May!

  13. Stephen T says:

    20 year survivor and I remember feeling the same way. Thank you for the uplifting reflections. We are all here for such a short time and to remember that every day is another chance to turn it all around. Be thankful for the gifts of life and never take it for granted. Cheers May!!

  14. Nicole Morse says:

    We too are going through our own battle over here. Our Liz is just as beautiful perhaps even more so minus the hair. Cancer sucks. Thank you for sharing the beautiful shots. 🙂

  15. kathie shelstad-darin's mom and may's mother in law says:

    Thank you Andrea!!! Absolutely beautiful!! What a wonderful inspiration, for the world to see some of the most personal parts of May’s journey thru this horrible thing called cancer!! She already has is beat!!!

  16. Erika says:

    I was sitting in a conference room on Wednesday waiting for a meeting to start. I hadn’t seen May since the last SAMM/CAM go round. In she walks, and my first thought, WOW she has such a beautiful head. She looks absolutely striking without hair. Now I know that May is fighting the fight and I know that she looks damn good doing it.

  17. your friend HAS to get better! This was such a moving post and I love the photography. I literally just saw your comment on my blog, and yes such a small world with so many small connections linking people together! Hope you enjoyed your stay in Marrakech; I wish I were back there so much!

  18. Nicole Sakys says:

    Andrea – You have done such an amazing job documenting this journey for May! Thank you!!

    Maybelle – I love you friend!! You are incredible!! xoxo

  19. jodie says:

    From one photographer to another I don’t think anyone could have documented this journey of May’s any better! Amazing job!

  20. Nora Brown says:

    What a small world! I used to work at Nike years ago. I started reading this article and reflected on sitting in the Nike cafeteria and working at Nike. I then thought, “I wonder if I know this person?” Then instantly thought, “There is no way, I haven’t been there in years and there are sooo many people at Nike.” After reading further, I realized that indeed I do know who this is. What a beautiful story, pictures and person! And what an inspiration! Keep fighting May, and thanks to all for sharing and inspiring others.

    Nora (Former Team Sports)

  21. sarah says:

    stunning, nan. you are an incredibly talented photographer and a very.good.friend. i hope this beautiful story spreads far. happen to be writing from tomahawk drive. lots o great memories here. xo

  22. Kristi Wilson says:

    Admiration eyes. It’s the only lense I focus through after reading and viewing May. Her grace and beauty during this unfair and unkind battle is remarkable and humbling. AC, you beautifully captured her spirit and kindness. May, you are a gorgeous warrior, fighting with a passionate army behind you. Thank you for sharing. LIVESTRONG.

  23. Tara Lucas says:

    I recall seeing some of your photos of the Shelstad family and decided to look up your site to research whether you do senior portraits or not. I am so glad I did because I am so deeply touched by this. What a telling tale of not only May’s strength and determination but also the love and trust you two share in your friendship. Absolutely heart warming!!

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