Brianna – UVA Class of 2017 – {Graduation Session – Charlottesville, VA}

You might have seen Brianna’s younger sister, Emily, on the blog earlier this year where Brianna was my awesome assistant keeping Emily’s hair perfect for every shot during her high school senior portraits. Well, now it is Brianna’s turn in the spotlight, as she is almost halfway through her 4th year at UVA! We’ve been planning this session for a while and knew we had to time it perfectly with the changing of the leaves on the iconic Pratt Ginkgo tree on campus. This tree is so beautiful and I had no idea how much history it has. The university even put a lightning rod on it that would save the tree in the event of a lightning strike. Fun fact: It has a wrought iron horse hitch in its side that it has grown around over the years! Thankfully, the colors on the tree were perfect for Brianna’s portraits!

Brianna hasn’t had your typical college experience. After 4 years of chronic pain, surgery, different “treatments”, and many doctor’s appointments to find a diagnosis, last summer she was finally diagnosed with CRMO, a rare immune system disorder that eats away at your bones.  I can’t say it any better than she did, so here is a post that Brianna made on Facebook when she finally had a diagnosis in 2015: “I am glad to say that after 4 years of excruciating pain and uncertainty, I finally have a diagnosis and treatment plan! As many of you may know, in 2011 a bone tumor/lesion was found in my sacrum and was diagnosed as malignant or infectious. However, following an open bone marrow biopsy and removal, these both proved to be misdiagnoses and my doctors were stumped as to what I had. Following surgery, scans continued to show a bone lesion and I continued to have lower back pain, but I was told it was postoperative and to wait for it to heal. It’s been 4 years since then and I have yet to get better, but continued to look for answers. After countless scans and tests, a Rheumatologist at UVa has finally given me what I’ve been waiting for – a diagnosis and treatment plan. I have Chronic Recurrent Multifocal Osteomyelitis (CRMO), a very rare autoimmune disease that causes inflammatory bone lesions that mimic bone cancers and bone infections. I expressed concerns about having this disease back in 2011 after doing my own research, but my doctors dismissed it because of its rarity and how it usually presents with several lesions when I only had one at the time…I now have 3 bone lesions, two in my sacrum along the left and right SI joints and one in my coccyx. Fortunately, I have finally found the right doctor and I hope to be in remission within the next couple years if treatment goes well! It has been a really rough few years, but there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel! Thank you to everyone who’s been there for me during this time or has kept me in their thoughts, it means a lot. Here’s to getting better and living a pain free life in the future!”

As if attending UVA wasn’t challenging enough, Brianna dealt with all of these health issues while maintaining her grades as a pre-med student at one of the hardest schools in the country. I am so proud of her for sticking to her dreams while having all of these extra challenges to deal with. Not everyone has the strength to continue on with what was already going to be a hard journey through 4 years at UVA, but also while dealing with pain, uncertainty and negative side effects from treatments. Brianna still has a long road ahead of her in school and on her journey of finding a cure for her pain, but I know she will persevere and will gain strength, courage, and knowledge because of it.

I really could’ve spent a whole week taking pictures around the beautiful UVA campus! Here are some…ok…A LOT of my favorites from Brianna’s session. We even found a surprise prop at the end! Scroll to the end to find out what it was.

The sun had set and even though I wanted to keep shooting, the light was quickly going away and it was getting chilly, so I packed up my gear and we started walking back to the car. As we were walking and talking we passed a gated entrance among the brick walls and took a peek inside…we both looked at each other with our mouths open and I hurried to get my camera back out! There was a white piano sitting alone and we just had to take a few quick pictures with it. Brianna used to play the piano, so this was the perfect ending to an amazing shoot.

Thank you to whoever left this piano out!

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