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An Angel Among Us

I have started this post so many times but never could I find the sentence that could begin this story correctly. Each time I began, I would get only so far and than press delete and watch the letters once again disappear. I wish my abilities as a writer were strong enough to convey the emotions that are felt but after too may attempts I must come to reality and admit that they are not – and so – with imperfections and all I will tell her story.

But first I have to tell you about the kind of person she is. Simply put, she is an angel. She is one of the very few on this earth who truly has an angelic nature. I met Megan at BYU-Hawaii. Our husbands were both science majors, we went to church together, we were neighbors and we are friends. As soon as you meet Megan you’re drawn to her, she has a magnetism about her that just makes you want to be near by because she seems to see the very best in everyone around her. I have never heard one word of guile ever leave her lips. Instead, Megan is the one who is always smiling, always encouraging and always listening and looking for how she can help and serve another.

As I began my career as a photographer, she was one of my favorite cheerleaders. Always complimenting me far more than I deserved and believing in me far past what my skill should permit. After hearing from Megan I couldn’t help but feel a little taller than I actually stood.

Megan and Ryan are good. As in the type of people who possess inherent goodness within them. They are the best kind of people that this world has to offer. After Taylor and Ryan graduated, Ryan & Megan headed to New York for Ryan to start Dental School while we headed to Portland for Taylor to go to Chiropractic School. When Megan found out that I would be in Portland, she immediately put me in touch with her mother-in-law because Ryan’s little sister would need Senior pictures. And so I got to know the Smith family. When I found out that Megan was expecting through Ryan’s little sister, I was so excited for them. They had tried for years so this was a very exciting time in their lives. As the months passed beautiful Megan prepared for her due date. Life was happy, the world was good. As Megan’s mom shared with me, ‘Megan said her biggest concern for herself had been how she would loose the baby weight’

Finally the day came, Megan woke up to tell Ryan that her water had broke. It was time. They headed to the hospital expecting life to never be the same. As the doctors prepared for Megan’s epidural they took a CBC (blood count) and found some significant abnormalities. Megan’s white count was over 40, 000, the normal is between 5-10. Which is exactly where it had been 2 weeks prior. As Megan continued to progress in her labor the results were being passed from doctor to doctor, specialist to specialist. It was Ryan that realized something was very wrong. After a good long labor and three hours of pushing on July 12th, Megan delivered a perfect baby girl. Ryan pleaded with the doctors to let Megan sleep but they wouldn’t.  Instead, she was transported by ambulance to the cancer research center in New York.

Megan was diagnosed with AML, a very aggressive form of Leukemia, and immediate steps would need to be taken to give her the fighting chance she was going to need to get home to Ryan and Rylee. I cannot comprehend what those days must have been like. Delivering a baby deserves rest and recovery but instead Megan was immediately admitted into the Leukemia ward to begin an aggressive treatment plan to fight the cancer that was ravishing this angel mother’s body. Instead of getting to learn and memorize the rhythm of her daughters breathing, Megan was being updated on Rylee’s first hiccups via video to her cell phone. And yet, despite it all, Megan continues to smile.

It has been 11 weeks. Megan continues to fight this cancer with everything she is. She has undergone chemo, radiation, endured a month long medically-induced coma and just days ago went through a bone marrow transplant. It was through a video she put out on her blog to friends and family to thank everyone for their love, prayers and support that I learned that baby Rylee was in Portland with Ryan’s parents (remember they are my clients, thanks to Megan). I immediately contacted Lori (Ryan’s mom) to ask if I could photograph Rylee for Ryan and Megan. Lori and Pamela (Megan’s mom who had flown in from CA to see Rylee the night before) brought Rylee to my home studio the following day.

Watching and listening to these two Grandmas, who are both so full of love, hope and faith was incredible. The experience is one I will never forget. I can tell you unequivocally that this is the most important opportunity that I have ever been permitted to photograph. I am blessed to have had the opportunity.

Ryan and Megan, your little one is an angel just like her parents. I have never in all the babies I’ve photographed had a baby not do their business on something of mine (or on me). But little Rylee, she smiled and cooed and kept her business in her diaper only. She is with out doubt God’s definition of perfection and you can see in those little eyes which appear to comprehend far more than she should that she is patiently waiting to be back in the arms of her mommy and daddy! Until than she is in the loving and tender arms of your family. Ryan, continue to do what you do best … adoring and loving your sweet wife. Megan, I hope you take courage in knowing that God never gives us more than we can handle. 99% of this planet could never handle what you are enduring… You are one of his choicest daughters. You are incredible, you are teaching so many more than you will ever know about faith, hope and love. I am better because I know you.

How you can help: I am currently working to create a calendar of little Rylee. I will give further details on this blog when we finish design and go to print. The calendar will be of beautiful baby Rylee and all of the proceeds with go to help ease the financial burdens for Ryan and Megan.

Please continue to follow Megan’s story on her facebook page: Prayers for Megan as well as on her website Creating Your Happiness.

I will write an additional post tomorrow with some thoughts relative to Go{4}Pro on this story. If you would like to leave some encouragement for Ryan and Megan go to my photography blog so that they will see them.



  1. Alison says:

    Oh my… My thoughts and prayers are with this young family and they take on a huge fight. It sounds like they are surrounded by tons of love and support and it is wonderful you are able to give them these beautiful photos!

  2. tamsen says:

    goosebumps- I wish them all the best and God’s gracious mercies.

  3. Morgan says:

    Thanks for sharing Leah. What an amazing story. I can’t really find the words to describe how you have touched me. What an amazing family. I find that the strongest people go through the hardest trials.

  4. Christina says:

    Having lost my grandmother to this form of leukemia seven years ago, my thoughts and prayers are going out to this family. Sometimes our talents come in handy to help others in ways we don’t realize until presented with the opportunity to do so 🙂

  5. Hannah says:

    This post brought tears to my eyes. Almost one year ago, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with AML. It has been such a long and difficult year for our family. She has been home from the cancer hospital for a couple months now after receiving her bone marrow transplant, and she is getting stronger all the time. I believe in miracles.

  6. Dana Stemig says:

    Thank you for the beautiful pictures of Rylee. Megan is the same age as my daughter and they grew up together. You did a beautiful job of telling the journey that this family is going through. Every chance we have to spread the news is another person praying. I would love to buy the calendar of Rylee. Please post on the Prayers for Megan Facebook page when it is available so that we can purchase some copies of the calendar. Will it be ready by Christmas? It could be a great Christmas present.

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