I was recently introduced to an incredible woman with a heart of gold, a spirit full of joy, and with the most genuine smile. I’m so excited to share this session at Indian Rocks Beach with Jess Hanna & share some of her story with you all! She is currently battling breast cancer and her life has been flipped upside down. My hope is that having these photos will bring some unexpected joy to the journey and give us all a great reminder of how good things can come from bad places. When I’m fighting my own battles I want to know that it wasn’t all for nothing.. that the struggles I’ve gotten through has been a guide map for someone else walking through the same. And Jess has certainly been doing her best to document the hurt & incredibly hard stuff, but giving perspective with hope.
Here is JESS for you!!
Hi everybody! My name is Jess and I just hit a big milestone…40 years old! My husband and I are coming up on 17 years of marriage, I am a mom to four pretty great kids; three boys, 16, 14, and 12, and our sweet adopted daughter who joined our family when she was 3 years old. She is now 7. For five years, I have worked and grown a home-based skincare business, I coach boxing, I homeschool my children, and I hold a leadership position with our local homeschooling community.
My most recent job has been cancer patient. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2020 and many of my other tasks have had to take a backseat while I fight this disease. The day I was diagnosed was hard. There is no other way to say it. It was an out of body experience. I can honestly say it is just like the movies. I was sitting in the doctor’s office with my husband by my side and my doctor rolled his little stool over to me, placed his hand on my knee, and said the words, “You have cancer.”
I felt like I was drifting away from my body. I could hear him as he continued to speak but I was not actually hearing anything he was saying. His voice was faint and far away. I was so thankful my husband, Erik was with me because he was able to repeat what was said and help me begin processing. I knew right away that I had to decide on how I was going to walk this out. I didn’t have a choice in my diagnosis, but I did get to decide how I was going to handle it. I chose positivity, leaning into my faith, working on a strong mental game, and a good dose of humor. Making this very important choice (because we all have a choice) I had a sense of unexplained peace wash over me. I was bathed in a protective covering that may waver, because human emotion will do that, but it would not break.
Cancer changes your life. Whether you are the one walking it or you know someone who is. There are obviously some big downs like the physical pain and the effects of treatment, but the mental battle is by far the hardest to overcome. I will say there have been positives. I have had a greater sense of purpose. I have been able to connect with my children at a deeper level because we have having more conversations about life in general. All the things I used to think, “Oh, we’ve got time!” I don’t wait anymore.
My marriage is the best it has ever been because when you or a loved one is facing a disease that wants to rip you out of your beautiful life, you let the petty things go and enjoy one another more. One of my favorite places to go is the beach. After spending 30 years in Michigan it was a treat to move near the Gulf beaches of Florida.
Indian Rocks Beach is my most favorite beach! Our family lived here for 3 years and would take our golf cart and cross Gulf Blvd so we could enjoy a day at the beach or even just a quick sunset, whenever we wanted. It’s my happy place! Being as busy as I am it can be hard to carve out time for fun but there are a few things I really enjoy. Boxing is a BIG #1 for me! I can’t wait to get back in the gym. Hand lettering and faux calligraphy is another pastime I love. I’ve already mentioned the beach, but I’ll say it again because it is a place that brings calmness into my crazy life. The water, the waves, the wind. The sounds that drift into your ear. The sights that bring you to a point of awe. Take me there now!
I’m a discount shopper and I enjoy finding great pieces without spending a lot of money. My top and skirt were both purchased at Marshall’s. The skirt is made by Cupio. My earrings (which are my favs right now) are from Banana Republic. A couple years ago I started a Facebook show called “The Mess in the Middle with Jess” This show was a way for me to bring my experience, the ups and downs of this ‘middle’ part called life and hopefully encourage others, help them to know they aren’t alone in the mess, and share tips I have learned along the way. I ended each episode with the line. “The middle is messy, it’s all in how you handle it.”
We are not in this world alone. We were made for relationships. Our job is to connect authentically with others so we can lift one another up and become better than we were yesterday.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the beautiful photos from Indian Rocks Beach with Jess. For those of you who know her, you know that her journey has progressed since this photo and she has started chemo. With chemo comes hair loss. She knew this was coming & asked if we could get these photos in before that hit. I wanted to give you guys an updated photo of her and share her vulnerability on doing a Facebook live when they shaved her head.. she is an incredibly open & giving person for sharing this intimate part of her life. Here are a couple of photos from her Facebook that I’m sharing (with permission of course) and if you want to keep up with her and support her – you can follow her on Facebook. She is constantly sharing great nuggets of information on cancer, life, parenting, etc.
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