The value of sharing the not-so-good on social media

Before photography was my profession, back in 1996, I was an IT contractor in London. Upon arrival at a new job, I was shown to a small, empty two-desk office and was left to settle in.

A short while later, a beautiful young woman literally bounced into the room.

"Oooooh, they've put you in here! I'm so glad they've put you here, I get so bored and have nobody to talk to. My name's Carrie. What's your name? How long have you been here? Do you know anybody?"

She was a whirlwind of energy, conversation and, I soon discovered, terrific humour, able to do uncanny impersonations.

As the days went on, I worried I wasn't getting enough work done as she was chattier than anyone I'd ever met, but I loved our conversations. She had an admirer from overseas and he would leave her voice messages. She would play and replay them, analysing every single syllable, asking me what I thought - and then she would completely ignore what I thought.

We had some terrific times over the next ten years, seeing each other through heartbreaks and new relationships.

Then, after more than ten years of friendship, we had a falling out. It was silly and dramatic and we were both deeply hurt.

We didn't speak for eight years.

Despite this, neither of us "unfriended" the other on #Facebook. And I am so bloody glad we didn't.

In November 2014, I was diagnosed with #breastcancer. In true "keep everything positive" style, I hadn't mentioned anything about it on social media. Then in January 2015 I posted to say I was relieved my results had come back clear.

That was when Carrie got in touch. She told me she had #sarcoma, a soft tissue cancer, and she wanted me to know she understood what I was going through.

It was so good to have my friend back in my life. I realised how much I had missed her. We met up every few months; it was one of those friendships that pick up and carry on no matter how long it's been.

Carrie was now a #vegan, so I started digging out vegan recipes and cooking for her when she came over. She had lost a lot of weight, so I set about looking for fattening vegan recipes. Have you ever tried to find a fattening vegan recipe??? They don't exist. Seriously. Chips are as close as it gets.

Carrie had had some pretty radical surgery to remove the sarcoma, but she wanted to have a boudoir shoot with me as soon as she felt well enough.

But then the sarcoma returned. The doctors eventually told her there was no more they could do.

So instead of a boudoir shoot, she asked me to take photos of her and her mum and foster sisters... so we would all have something nice to remember.

We arranged a shoot for the day before her 47th birthday. Her good friend, Tracy, would bring her over and have some photos taken as well.

My husband organised tractor rides for everyone who wanted one.

On the day, I prepared a vegan lunch for everyone and my husband, an arable farmer, organised tractor rides.

Then we went out to the studio. Carrie's foster sisters played dress up with my props and my eldest son, Mike, who is pretty handy with a camera himself, came to help with the shoot so that I could be in some of the photos as well.

After a while, Carrie's mum took the children home so that Tracy, Carrie and I could have some time together. We spent another 20 minutes having photos taken, laughing, crying, and laughing again.

Carrie then declared "okay, I've had enough photos. I want to take the dog for a walk now".

So we walked slowly around the fields with the dog chasing ahead of us. It was a beautifully sunny, cold Sunday in February 2018. The walk left Carrie exhausted, but she smiled and waved as they drove off.

We walked slowly across the fields with the dog chasing ahead.

Three days later, Carrie collapsed. She passed away the following weekend. She never got to see our photos.

Appreciate those around you - and take lots of photos.

Some time later I decided to make a photo book from the shoot. Now, 19 months later, it's #bittersweet looking at those photos but I'm so glad I have them.

So despite having many drawbacks, on this occasion social media was a wonderful medium which brought a friend back into my life for a time, and I have some photos of one of the most beautiful souls I've ever known.

My advice is therefore: appreciate those you love, take lots of photos, and remember that, ironically, sharing the not-so-good news on social media can bring greater rewards than keeping everything bright and breezy.

That is all.

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