Photography by Yusuf Kidwai, Model Karen Geister

In May, I took a sociology course at Conestoga College. On the first day of classes, I walked into the class, scanned the room, and saw a woman with short curls and a blue scarf tied to her forehead. I later learned that her name was Karen.

I think the reason why I remembered her face out of the many in that classroom was because I felt she was different, that she was interesting, that she might have a story to share.

I always sat in the front right corner of this classroom, alone. A part of me wanted to socialize and get to know my fellow students, and another part of me just wasn’t interested in it. I was tired of having the same old meaningless conversations about the weather, the summer, and the schoolwork.

Once I arrived early for class – or maybe it was a break during class, I cannot seem to recall now – while Karen was talking to another classmate. From the snippets of conversation that I could hear, I learned they were talking about her surgeries. Karen then turned to me and apologized, believing her conversation about the surgeries was making me uncomfortable.

I told her that I was a photographer and, having photographed my share of interesting and unique moments, was not feeling uncomfortable at all. Karen later came over to me, flipped out her phone, and showed me a picture of her in a swimsuit. It had been taken a few years prior, when she used to model.

That image caught my attention, particularly her perfect beach body and beautiful long hair.

As our course progressed, she shared a few important details about her life – her fight with breast cancer, her surgeries, her children.

I got Karen’s email address before our class ended for the term. I emailed her my portfolio, which she seemed to like, and she agreed to let me photograph her as she progressed through her recovery.

After exchanging several emails, text messages, phone and in-person conversations, I am really glad that I got to know Karen. Her attitude towards life is very positive. In one of her emails to me, she wrote,

“Life’s not about waiting for the storm clouds to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain. I say, go fly in the rain too. Just imagine the rainbows you could see from up there.”

Karen is a true fighter. She is very inspirational and leads by example.