Perfect Imperfections | Childhood Cancer Awareness Month | Ker-Fox Photography | Columbus, GA | Carly

I first had the privilege of photographing Carly and part of her journey back in 2009. She was about to face another tough round of treatment and a double lung surgery to remove where her cancer had spread. This young lady is a walking, talking, dancing, fireball of a MIRACLE. I am SO grateful to know her, to know her story, to witness her strength, her testimony, her love of life and impeccable sense of humor. I asked her mom to write about Carly’s journey. It has been a long one, and one that still isn’t over. But, honestly all of our journeys are ongoing aren’t they? We are all on a path of constant changes, ups and downs, trials and triumphs. Carly’s tests keep coming back stable and we will keep rejoicing with her.
From her mom and dad:
Carly was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive form of sarcoma when she was 7 ½ years old. The name of this cancer diagnosis is a mouth-full…mesenchymal chondrosarcoma. There is no known cure, so she will live with it like a chronic disease, and there is no “roadmap” (or a structured plan) to treat this cancer. In Carly’s case, her tumor was resistant to traditional chemotherapy treatments so we had to think outside the box for her treatments. She now takes biological agents, which is a new alternative to traditional chemotherapy, to keep her cancer from growing or returning. Because she has microscopic disease, she will never be in standard remission; but we like to say she is a fighter even though she will never “beat” this cancer. The biological agents are working and I am happy to say she has been stable now for 2 years and 4 months, which is a HUGE blessing!

Carly has had a rough road, to put it lightly. She has had over 16 surgeries, 5 relapses, and 3 radiation treatments and has spent more time in hospitals than can be imagined. With every treatment and relapse, we had to come to the realization that the odds could be building against her. Some occasions we had to think about the inevitable and thought “was this it, are we were going to lose her?” But, of course, God had different plans! It does not matter what we thought. Through it all, Carly has handled every situation with strength, grace, dignity, and an amazing smile that lights up the room! We truly believe her spirit through this is God’s light. He lives in her and carried her through some of the hardest days anyone can experience.

The day she was diagnosed will always be etched in our being. To this day, I still remember hearing the words “Carly has a fairly large tumor in her sinus cavity”, and how these words knocked the breath out of me. Carly’s dad says he still remembers the blood curdling scream I let out when my worst fears had been realized by these words. Carly would tell you the worst surgery ever was the gruesome lung surgeries called thoracotomies. According to Carly, the pain is absolutely unbearable. After one of her procedures, a double thoracotomy (both lungs at once), she was lying in her bed in the ICU in pain. Our tough 9 year old child was standing strong, but I could see a tear rolling down her cheek. The pain from the procedure was so bad, and the chest tube took up so much of her lung capacity that she couldn’t even get a deep breath to scream. All she could do is lie there and let tears roll down her cheeks. So I held her hand and I told her how I wished I could take her place and that she didn’t deserve this. I told her I would do it for her in a heartbeat if I could. She looked me right in the eye and whispered, “No, Mommy, you aren’t strong enough. I can do this”.

Carly has always had an optimistic outlook of her illness and treatment. In the beginning of our journey, the song “Stand” by Rascal Flatts was the song that inspired her to fight every day! Carly’s journey has taught us how to appreciate every single day we have together. She lives her life like any normal teenager (15) and expects to live her life to the fullest for a very long time. Because of her positive spirit and her faith in God, she has taught us to be the same way. We are thankful for every single day we have with her, and we are even thankful for the emotional, teenage outbursts that occur more frequently these days! It’s all worth it because God has chosen to allow us to keep her here with us! And for that we are blessed and thankful!

All the procedures have given Carly many scars on her body. She never complains about them, seeing them as her battle scars. She maintains a positive outlook and is quite light-hearted about them. There is a large scar on her leg from a surgery where they used muscle in her leg to create reconstruction in her head. She tells people she was bitten by a shark. She will also be glad to show you the hole in the soft palette in her mouth that causes her speaks differently, but if someone comments on the way she talks she will just say that she speaks differently because she was born in Australia. Carly tries to find humor in many difficult situations, and is very open and honest with anyone that wants to know her story. To us, she is perfectly formed in the eyes of the Lord with surgical imperfections that only tell her amazing story. She is and always will be our Hero! She is proud to be a part of such a wonderful blog, Perfect Imperfections.


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  1. keri bryant says:

    So glad I found this, Neely. This idea is brilliant, and CARLY is simply mind-blowingly brave. HUGS TO HER MOMMA and her if they are reading. WOW. just…there are no words. keep doing what you are doing and showing us the fighters in the world.thank you – going to leave Carly FB love!!!
    xxx keri

  2. Caroline says:

    Well isn’t she just adorable and awesome and fierce. The best kind of combo. Keep on being a rockstar, Carly!

  3. Siobhan says:

    wow! Stunning photos that highlight the exceptional bravery and spirit of this young lady. A beautiful snapshot in to an incredible life.Thanks for sharing this x

  4. Cinzia Mastrorilli says:

    Wow, just wow, these pictures are just wonderful! This young lady has all my support and admiration, so brave, so strong and so positive… and that smile is just contagious! And Carly, you are so pretty, elegant, classy and those scars are just so sexy! Be proud of your scars, they are beautiful and they show your incredible journey! You sure inherited some awesomeness from you mom!

  5. tracy gissendaner says:

    you are precious. you are besutiful. you are amazing! i love you and i dont know you but I am praying for you!

  6. Chelsea says:

    Gorgeous images! You are absolutely beautiful and inspiring Carly!! Your free spirit and spunk shines through these photos and brings a smile to my face. Thank you for being brave and sharing your story with us.

  7. Joy says:

    Carly, you are unbelievably beautiful and amazing! I love that you have given us a glimpse into your incredible spirit through these photographs. Prayers for healing and strength, and for physician wisdom in your treatment.

  8. Martha says:

    Carly, you are God’s gift sent to inspire all who know you! I pray for your continued healing!

  9. Dianne Henry says:

    Carly, I have followed your progress for years. I love seeing these beautiful photos of you. You have become a beautiful young lady.I will continue to pray for you and your family as you continue to grow to be the lovely perfect person that you were intended to be.
    You are such a blessings to all of us.
    Rock on, Rock Star!!

  10. Jill says:

    Carly, I’ve followed your trials and triumphs through your Aunt Alison. I hope you know how dearly loved you are . . . that you are a chief source of pride and joy among your family. And they have made you likewise among friends. Miss Neely captured your strength of spirit perfectly. It is an inspiration to us all. GOD SPEED in your life’s journey!

  11. Pauline says:

    Excellent post! We are linking to this great post on our website.
    Keep up the great writing.

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Specializing in Birth, Underwater, & Family Documentary