pon entering the banquet room at the Hampton Inn Vancouver, I was immediately greeted with open arms and a huge hug by a wonderful woman. A woman who looked so familiar to me, but I could not for the life of me place her. I would later find out that fate has a funny way of making things happen perfectly.
The room was full of "ka pow!" and "WHAM!" comic book texts, balloons, and cute little teddy bears with masks. Beyond all of the adorably decorated exterior, there was the reason for the super hero theme. Janelle (the woman who first greeted me) has two wonderful little girls. Rilyn and Gwenyth (9 and 5) are both the sweetest little girls you will ever meet. Both of their smiles will light up a room. They're silly, outgoing, just everything you would expect out of a child.
In January of this year, Gwenyth was diagnosed with cancer. Something that would break so many people, Gwenyth's diagnosis has not stopped this family, not even close. Janelle is strong, courageous, and so obviously will laugh directly in the face of anything that you put in front of her. Gwenyth, well, she's taking this thing head on and kicking its butt. But today, she wasn't a sick little girl. Today, she laughed and played with friends and was a child. They played games, she wrestled with a Spiderman balloon three times her size. She was 5 years old.
About half way into the party, I realized that I knew Janelle from a styled wedding shoot about 7 years ago. Seven years had gone by, and I wound up being at a birthday party celebrating her beautiful daughters. Funny how things work out, isn't it? Fate is a pretty amazing thing.
Happy Birthday, Rilyn and Gwenyth. It was an honor to meet you both today. Stay strong. And Janelle, keep being the amazing mother that you are!
Photos by Halsey