Today, Max turns seven! Yesterday (Sunday), was his Indiana Jones Temple of Fun birthday party. :-)

When I arrived (around 11 AM), the kids were still working on their treasure hunt. Here, the kids were working together to put together the pieces of the puzzle to get to the next clue location.


And here, they kids were traversing the alligator filled water, picking up two bombs (water balloons) on their way--bombs that were later used to throw at the masked bad guys (the parents). Max was the first one to make the attack on the bad guys. The kids had such a blast and it was so fun to watch.



Next was putting together airplanes. Most of you probably know that Max is a WWII fanatic, with a huge love for WWII aircraft. Max needed to concentrate putting his together so he moved to the window sill (of course, I followed). After his plane was together, he snuck upstairs (a couple other kids followed) to throw his plane down...until Mom called all the kids back down.




Then came the pinata. First, Mom laid down the rules. You can tell all the kids really enjoyed that part ;-) Of course, Max was first to bat.




After Max's turn with the pinata was done, he went over to stand with his Mom and Dad.


Then I saw Max go off to get this stool to sit on. My guess is that his feet and legs needed a little break (he mentioned that they were bothering him a bit earlier).


The pinata finally broke open.


After the pinata, Max went to the lounge chair for some alone time...a little break.


Time for the cake. Such a special moment--Max had so many wonderful expressions during the entire cake time. It was so wonderful to watch and capture.




And then I think exhaustion hit. Max went off to this chair and was really quiet. He was messing with his stomach a bit and Mom came over and asked if his button was okay (he said it was). And Dad came over to check on him too.




Soon, Max said that he was done with pictures. This is something that I respect, as I don't want him to get frustrated with my presence. I reminded Max that he never has to perform, smile or anything for my camera; he can always just do his own thing. He said he knew. I asked for that one last shot. Sure, he said...and gave me this, a shot I so adore.


After that, I asked Max if I could take one last picture of his presents. He said yes. And I did.


It was an amazing party, one that I'm so thankful that I was able to be at and capture for the Mikulak family. Happy, happy birthday Max!
At the beginning of every week, Melissa emails me Max's schedule so I know what is going on when. This week, she also shared that Max has been very moody, sullen, angry, sleepy and dizzy lately. We're adjusting his pain medications, which are most likely the culprits. Hopefully by the end of the week we'll have our Max back. When I got to the hospital, I was so happy to see that Max was in pretty good spirits...and he looked good too.

Today, I photographed Max at Rady's Children's Hospital getting transfusions. Max is transfusion dependent right now, receiving platelets every 3-5 days and red blood cells every 1-2 weeks. Spending around 4-6 hours per transfusion, this space...and these people are a huge part of their lives.

One of the things that I have discovered in photographing Max is his love for legos. Almost every time I've seen him, he's had some type of legos to play with. Today it was a king and his castle.




Shortly after starting to play with the legos, Max's button (as he refers to his g-tube) started leaking. He did his best to take care of the leaking himself...telling his Mom that he didn't need gauze...but Max quickly decided that the gauze sounded like a better idea than kleenex that was falling apart as he wrapped it around his button. So Mom got some gauze and showed Max how best to put it on, since it's different gauze than what they use at home.



Then it was time for red blood cells.




Max decided that he had enough of legos and wanted to move on to his other love (which might actually be a greater love than legos), computer games. Melissa set him up and he was on his way. I didn't see him smile a lot while I was there, except when he was winning the game. He's very animated while playing. Winning made him happy. Losing made him...not so happy.




I love that when Max concentrates, his tongue moves all over the place. I saw it in school and now here, playing his computer game. I couldn't help but grab a shot of it. Also, I noticed the scabs on Max's face and asked Melissa about them. She said that they are because of his platelets being so low. He gets any little scratch or anything and then it bleeds and it's just hard for Max not to pick them.


As usual, I asked Max for one parting shot...


and then my time was done.


For more in-depth updates about Max's cancer, don't forget to check Max's regular blog here.

ETA: I just realized that today has become yesterday. These shots were actually from yesterday, Monday, June 23rd. :-)

I posted this on my blog before but wanted to post here too, since someone commented in the previous post, inquiring when this angel print is going to be available for purchase. The answer is HOPEFULLY soon.

The story behind this image can be found here

Yes, the plan is that we want to sell prints of this angel in the sky photograph, with all proceeds going to The Magic Water Project. However, there are some logistic challenges we need to overcome and we're now looking for a printer that would be willing to donate the printing of these photographs. If, by some chance, you know of a printer that would be willing, please contact me. Until then, I will keep looking.

Thanks for asking about the image.
Let me start by saying today was tough for me. Well, today was tough for Max too. I cried during recess. I cried my entire way home. I cried while I was editing. It's just not $^*&(%# fair!

I called Melissa this morning to see what was going on today. No matter what, I knew I had to shoot Max today because the rest of my week is so swamped. Melissa said that Max was in school all day so...shooting at school it was.

I arrived shortly before lunch and when I walked in the door, Max was flushing his g-tube. I'm assuming he does this daily at school, a certain amount of time before lunch. I also saw Max's wheelchair. I knew he was in his wheelchair today because Melis had told me but still...I was saddened when I saw it there. I also noted that Max was holding his leg. And then Lisa, Max's teacher, told me that he was having quite a bit of pain today.



While all the other kids go to the school lunchroom, Max goes to the nurse's office for lunch. Why? Because Max gets his nutrition via his g-tube. I think usually Max and a chosen buddy walk to the nurse's office together but due to Max being in the wheelchair, the nurse comes and picks him up. A buddy still tags along and it's so cute to see how many kids raise their hand, hoping they're the one that Max picks.

It was hard for me to watch Max get out of the wheelchair because his left leg was hurting him so much. But he didn't want help...from anyone. Once on the bed, Max said, "my leg really hurts". One thing that was so nice to see is that everyone at the school has Max's care so well taken care of. They all know exactly what to do. After Max mentioning that his leg was really hurting, the nurse immediately got on the phone and called Mom, asking if she could give Max more pain medication.


And yes, she was able to. And she did. She clamped the tube feeding, injected the pain medicine into the g-tube and then reconnected Max's nutrition. He also complained of nausea and got some anti-nausea medicine.


Max LOVES to draw. I think he has drawn every time I've seen him. And I so loved seeing an envelope of his drawings pasted up above the head of the bed in the nurse's office.


I also wanted to share this shot of Max's braces, which help strengthen his ankles.


After a bit, Max said, I need to lay down. I'm not really sure what prompted this...his pain medication? the nausea? the pain? I really don't know.


But it didn't take long and Max was telling stories and smiling. We talked a lot today about bugs. He seems to like them. This shot was when he was talking to his classmate. I just loved seeing the sparkle in his eye as he talked to her.

I also noticed how much more color Max had today versus the day I had photographed him getting platelets and blood.


And Max's g-tube. He was so proud to tell me about how this button doesn't leak and isn't messy. He said that his old one was but this was a new one. And Max turns off his nutrition himself. If he feels like he's getting too full or is nauseous, even after getting anti-nausea medication, he will clamp the tube to turn off the feeding. Here, he was helping the nurse disconnect everything.



After lunch, if Max is feeling well enough, he goes and plays with the other kids at recess. The nurse wheels Max out of the office and then Max's teacher (who is with him in the office much of the time during his feeding), wheels him out to the playground. I wanted to share this photo of the nurse wheeling Max out because you can really the bald area on Max's head, where the radiation was done.


Once we got out on the playground, Lisa asked someone to get the shuffleboard out for Max to play with. It was so great to see all the kids come and play with Max. Most of the time, he was surrounded by girls. ;-)

It was all bittersweet for me. It was so wonderful to see Max having such a great time with his friends, in spite of the wheelchair. But I was also so saddened by the day...watching Max in pain, hearing him express that he's hurting, and seeing him in the wheelchair. It was just really hard to see and hear!




I try so hard not to cry in front of Max but I couldn't help it today. I turned away and did the best I could to recompose. Today, I knew my time was done with Max, without him even telling me. I did recompose (if only for a moment) and asked Max for my one last shot. He sat there so proud...and smiled. And it didn't take long for my tears to start falling again.


What an amazing little boy!

ETA: I always email the Mikulak's the day's photos and today, I had mentioned that I cried and cried and cried about Max. Melis shared that while the pictures are true to life, it's important to keep in mind that the pain that Max is experiencing right now is presumably due to one of his chemo-meds and not caused by the disease. While this information doesn't make the pain any less real, it does make it a bit easier to swallow.

Sharing some words from Melissa--
Wipe those tears away and be happy with today. Live life to the Max.
There is little time for tears when there is so much to be thankful for.