With a very busy week and on to the weekend, something special happened that was extraordinary, something unique and much needed. With Fantasy Faire going in full swing, another event took place on Saturday evening, an event I will cherish forever etched in my memory. So without further ado, here goes!
SL resident Catalina Stalheli is a photographer in Second Life, she got her start by doing photos of people and places. She began an experience that would take her to the top of her work in grand fashion, and believe me she certainly outdid herself in this regard. Over the last several month’s she compiled a number of images in a series called “Why Do You Relay”.
By the time it was said and done she had well over a hundred images such as mine as you see here. I am very pleased with this image and use it on my inworld profile. Catalina thought about something else that really touched her heart. She thought, why not do a series of the survivors and caregivers? So, armed with an idea she went to Trader Whiplash and the Relay Rockers team, and presented her idea.
I can only imagine at this point the reactions she gotten from what she told me they went for it. Catalina told me she really didn’t know a whole lot about building but the results are such you couldn’t tell any difference. With the help of Melodie Jigsaw and others, the seed was planted, a dream beginning to take shape and form. She wondered who to get and an idea was put it place that a number of people would be sponsored for this. With a list in hand, she started contacting people, I was first on the list and after she told me her idea, I readily agreed to be a part of this, not knowing what layed ahead.
Catalina contacted me shortly after and asked if I be willing to do a photo session and a time was reached in which I went and had a session done. we talked and laugh the whole time while she took picture after picture to see what would or wouldn’t work. she told me professional models goes thru this all the time and even said for me to sit back and relax and let her do the work. She did the same with a number other people and the work was nearly completed. The building in the meantime was being built and was completed on time, and everywhere you looked it was done with beautiful shades of purple through out and white tiled floors.
The exhibition was scheduled for May 2nd at 1pm slt. I had gone prior to preview the final build and it is really beautiful with lots of open space and lighting, then at 1pm slt a ceremony started with some words from Catalina to which you can read next, here in her own words is Catalina’s speech;
So to start with, hiyas. And welcome to the 2015 Relay for Life Photography Exhibition. I’ve been waiting five months to say that.*laughs*
I’m not quite sure where to start, but like Julie Andrews said in Sound of Music, let’s start at the very beginning.
There was a point where I felt like the world had been swept from under me. Lost, alone, hurting. And I went to a friend and said “Please….I need a friend right now. I can’t breath.”
And he gave me the hug I needed, the words of comfort, and he told me to play the song Stand, by Rascal Flatts, and he told me that I was one of the strongest women he knew. And somehow, just curled up, listening to this song, over and over again, I found the strength to breath again. To stand up and fight back, to hold on to those who matter and who care and to keep pushing forward.
This past summer I sat in the doctor’s office with my father as we heard the news. He has cancer. The doctor couldn’t even tell us what kind at that moment. Just that they’d be able to tell more after further tests and scans.
This was after two years of working with the American Cancer Society on Relay for Life in Second Life. And when we got home, after my dad was comfortable, I opened up my laptop and logged in and immediately found those I knew who worked with me in RFL. I’d been there to hold him when I watched my dad cry for the first time in my life. And now it was my turn to cry. And I did, surrounded by those I call friend and family here in SL, I cried and I rambled and they were there until the last tear dried and the last rambling words were spoken.
So the journey began, taking over my father’s finances so he didn’t lose the house, so that he had groceries, figuring everything out as he prepared for the radiation and chemo treatments. All while preparing to move 4,000 miles to northern Alaska, where my job is. I flew up here on July 29th. He began his treatments on August 4th. One of the hardest things I have ever done is hug my dad and get on that plane.
We skyped and talked all the time and he told me what he had to go through. How the radiation was causing his skin to burn and blister. How the chemo was making his throat so raw he could barely eat or drink anything.
And on December 12th, just a few days before I flew home for Christmas, he got the news that the treatments had worked. They couldn’t find any cancer remaining. It was the best Christmas present in the world. My dad is a survivor. And I cannot tell you the emotions I felt when I got off the plane and got to feel his arms around me again.
Through my work with Relay for Life and my portrait series ‘Why Do You Relay?’, I’ve been blessed enough to listen to hundreds of stories like his, stories from survivors, fighters, family, and friends. And each one is precious.
Through the Why Do You Relay portrait series, you have gotten to see a small glimpse of these stories that are shared. This exhibition flowed from a dream into a promise when I sat back and thought about creating a way of lengthening the message people can share about what they’re going through. I want people to be able to share their story in more than a single phrase and in this exhibition, we’ll see nineteen unique stories. Stories of what people are going through now and what they have gone through.
Partnering with the Relay Rockers this year, I am proud to say we created something new this year, a photography exhibition that features the stories of survivors and fighters. We have nineteen extraordinary individuals coming from thirteen different teams across Second Life to join together with us, sharing stories of their personal journeys. Some are just going through the first steps while others are long time veterans. And all were so amazing to work with and I have been truly blessed to be a part of this.
What we asked of them was not easy. Many came to me and told me how they struggled to put into words their fight. As you walk around and can take your time to read their stories, you will find touching, uplifting stories of courage, strength, and sheer willpower. I hope you’ve got your kleenex nearby.
The portraits that accompany these stories are a small gift from myself and the Relay Rockers. and each participant will receive full perm copies of their pictures as a thank you. I am by no mean the best photographer out there, but I hope that each who participated smiles when they see theirs. It was a true labor of love and I thank each of you for letting me do these for you.
As you go around, you’ll also see that there are a ton of kiosks out. And that they’re not all for the Rockers. This exhibition could not have been possible without then participation of relayers from across the grid, and as a thank you to everyone, at each survivor’s alcove, you’ll find a kiosk set the team of that survivor’s choice. We could not have done this without everyone joining hands and standing together.
And you’ll see one very special alcove, belonging to a wonderful woman, Riko Kamachi. When we first started sharing with the community that we were going to be doing this exhibition and would anyone want to come help sponsor or volunteer to take part, Team Strange Journeys was the first group to step up and say Yes! And they sponsored Riko, who was fighting for her life against this terrible disease.
Riko lost her fight to cancer on February 25 this year. And her passing was felt across the community. And we hadn’t had the time, such a precious thing, to take her pictures and get her story. And at first the team thought they’d have to pull her out and I said no. No. We are honoring those who have survived yes, but also those in the fight. And not everyone will win. And I said no, we’re not going to remove her. I don’t even have the words. Just….wasn’t going to happen. So I spoke with the Rockers and we found a way. Bringing together pictures of her from friends and family, I asked those who knew her well to share with us their favorite memories, and so as you find her alcove, you’ll see a woman who was so loved and will not be forgotten.
There is one more thing I want to say and then we’ll get to the unveiling, and you are all being ever so patient with my rambling. *smiles*
The pictures were a thank you to those who shared their stories and memories. And people have been asking me “Cat, how long’s the exhibit gonna stay up?”. And when we first started dreaming this up in January, we weren’t sure where it would be or how long it could be up. A week maybe? And then the Rockers told me that they would support not just a week, but that this exhibition will be up for the remainder of the season. This was so very important to me for one reason.
While we come together, family and friends, new and old…while we laugh and cry together, take part in fun events and silly events and wonderful events, there are some who are too shy to come out. Some who won’t join a team this year. Or visit ACS island. Who struggle to start that dialogue of saying they have cancer and what was it like for a survivor? Can they share their story?
This exhibition had two purposes. One to honor those who would step forward and take on this difficult task. But two, I wanted a place that one could come at two in the afternoon surrounded by family and friends, or at three in the morning alone, without the pressure of anyone else coming up and asking how they can help. A place were stories can be shared without that painful dialogue having to be started.
And we’ve made that magical dream into a reality, not just for a day or a week, but for this Relay for Life season. And who knows what the future may hold.
So in honor of all of those who rise up and fight back, not allowing this darkness to win, I hope you’ll join with me as we stand together.
At this point I was crying after she gave her speech, and when the button was pushed to unveil the images she worked so hard and with love, they were revealed. With the stream going tuned in to T1Radio we all began to walk around and I found my little alcove, not only were my pictures there so was a kiosk set to my team Friends fighting Cancer RFL Team, I literally broke down and cried even more as I viewed the images not just of me, but ALL of the others, and watched the totals of team kiosks skyrocket.
I went around and took a few screenshots so that way you can see what the end result looked like, I am very honored to be able to share these with you;
I spent pretty much the rest of the day and evening here that I didn’t wanna leave but by the time I had gone to bed I was totally exhausted from all the excitement. Catalina and I talked at length at how what she did gave me even more inspirations. How, in a moment that for me to be honored as a survivor I have got back on top of my life. Other people also talked to me to congratulate me as well, and letting me know they are there for me. The support I had gotten from day one of my fight to now has never let up, and I don’t think it’s going to for a very long time yet to be..
During the course of the evening there was lots of conversations going on, dancing and just having a wonderful time, it was during the time that Trader made a statement saying he didn’t know what the outcome would be, I think everybody in the room nearly had a laughing fit when he admitted that he was just so surprised and that he was so honored as well, and that the kiosks reflected the results.
As Catalina said and Trader also said the exhibit will be up for all to go to and to honor those that won and even tho one did lose, it’s a way of remembering who we are fighting for thru relay weekend. I am sure that even after that a place will be found so it can remain for a very long time in the yet to be.
Visit in Second Life;http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Relay%20dAlliez/191/197/1001
Images by Catalina Stalheli