Jennifer Kaczmarek

Faith & Salvation

Faith & Salvation

Roby Baird’s Journey

“I’m going through the toughest time of my life. My tumor is back, and it is cancer. This time I am going where God is leading me. Therefore, I am going to worry about nothing  and pray about everything. I know God will take care of me. God has a plan for me.” ~ Roby Baird 8/30/18

At home, in the back yard. An emotional moment of words spoken. Saint Augustine, FL, 8/30/18

I know many people that have a strong faith in God, but I must say Mr. Roby Baird is quite unique, someone special; his faith is definitely on a higher level. I think he would make a wonderful minister or youth leader. I know for some people that the talk of religion is uncomfortable. I’m also fully aware whether you are religious or non religious, or of a different belief system, that it doesn’t make you any more or any less of a good person.

As a person of faith myself, the way I see it is that anyone can go to church, or anyone can work in a church, but that doesn’t mean that they have full faith or deep understanding of what it is like to be a believer in Jesus. There are those that after the church doors swing closed,  “followers” go back out into the world picking up where they left off; being hypocritical, judgmental, uncompassionate, and lacking empathy for others. It’s called ‘Talk without action.’ I have seen it. So, please don’t be turned away by the talk of religion.

Religion is important to this story because this is Roby’s story. He wants to share his journey, and in Roby’s heart, his faith is as much a critical component to conquering his cancer, as is his choice in cancer treatment.

Tattoo, ‘By His Grace’, Saint Augustine, FL, 8/30/18

So, for anyone who is not religious, religious, or is of a different belief, I hope you will be inspired by the journey that Roby is about to take. Because this is not just a story about him battling brain cancer, it’s an inspirational story about his faith in a higher being. I believe we are all brothers and sisters, so my hope is you all will take this journey with him. Universal love and support is what he needs, as well as compassion and understanding for his choices in going through a holistic approach to heal himself.

In 2104 Roby had undergone surgery on the left side of his brain for a benign tumor that was the size of a walnut. ( original story here). In March of 2018, Roby began having those similar warnings that he was all too familiar with; he was having recurring headaches, dizzy spells, and feeling completely worn out. Roby went in for an MRI. The MRI showed a “blip” as he calls it, where the last tumor had been. The size of the newest “blip” measured 8 by 9 millimeters in size. The hope was that perhaps it was scar tissue.

But, in June the symptoms became more frequent, and he began having trouble getting out of bed without falling over.

On June 16th, Roby had another MRI, and it revealed the “blip” had grown, showing to be 14 by 15 millimeters in size. Another, more invasive MRI was performed. These results confirmed he now had a grade 3, malignant astrocytoma. Though the new astrocytoma is smaller in size than the one in 2014, (about the size of a piece of corn), it is cancer.

On August 1, 2018, Roby’s tumor was removed.

Roby’s physicians wanted to begin chemo and radiation immediately after, but Roby has opted out of that option. He has been researching the benefits of going the holistic approach for years, since the time his ex-wife had been diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. It was then that Roby saw firsthand the medicinal, healing benefits the cannabis plant could have. With all that Roby has researched, with firm conviction, he feels confident in his decision, and believes strongly that God is with him every step of the way.

Roby arrived in California on September 6th to seek treatment at Green Bridge Medical in Santa Monica. When Roby decided that Green Bridge Medical is where he wanted to go, he began researching for a place to reside during his time there.  He decided that it was worth traveling up the coast to Redding, CA., to be near a church he has long wanted to attend; Bethal Church. The distance between Santa Monica and Redding is a long 10 hour drive, but being that medical marijuana is legal in the state of California, Roby is able to have his medication mailed to him. Being this is the most difficult time of his life, and so far away from his family and friends, he wants to be able to worship and spend his time building his relationship with God at a place he has long desired to be. He went on to say, “Happiness comes from circumstances and when you go through good times in your life you tend to be happy. But, when we go through trials and painful times in our lives, happiness is usually not there.  And, the beautiful aspect of having an intimate relationship with Jesus is that He brings joy.” Roby feels he has been lead to the right place at the right time.

Roby met with Dr. Allan Frankel on September, 7th for his consultation, and on Monday, September 9th, Roby began his first dose of treatment on Tuesday, September 18th at 6pm. He is on what is called the “Quad Regimen”, 5 mg of Delta 9 THC, 5mg of CBD, 5 mg THC - A, and 5mg of CBD -A.

Note: Roby is in California to receive full plant extract because it is not legal in the state of Florida.

I spoke to Roby today,  Roby feels the reason he has been having painful episodes such as headaches, gastrointestinal issues, muscle spasms that occur first in individual parts of the body, then spread out through his body creating whole body spasms. Roby believes this is because the cannabis is doing its work, and healing his body.

So, our story will continue, as Roby will  update us from time to time. I personally feel blessed to have Roby as a dear friend, and humbled that he is allowing me to share with you all this most important time in his life.

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Psalms 30:5, Roby recited.

I could feel those words. I could feel them for him, and I feel they are good, reassuring words for anyone going through trials and tribulations.

The sun will shine in the morning.

~ Jennifer Kaczmarek

Roby Baird, Saint Augustine, FL., 8/30/18

Helpers of Roby started a Go Fund me page to help him with his living expenses and treatment expenses until he is able to work again. If you would like to donate, you may do so here






Roby Baird- "Charlotte's Tangled Web"

{All images on this post are the exclusive property of Jennifer Kaczmarek and are protected under the United States and International Copyright laws. The images may not be reproduced, copied, transmitted or manipulated without the written permission of Jennifer Kaczmarek. Use of any image as the basis for another photographic concept or illustration (digital, artist rendering or alike) is a violation of the United States and International Copyright laws. All images are copyrighted @2016 Jennifer Kaczmarek}

Roby Baird at home. Image shows the scar from Roby's brain surgery where he had 17 staples.  Saint Augustine, FL.

Roby Baird at home. Image shows the scar from Roby's brain surgery where he had 17 staples. Saint Augustine, FL.

"On March 7, I woke up that day planning to go surfing with some friends, but our plans fell through.  So, I'd decided to head over to Wal-Mart to pick up a few things I needed, and on my way there I swung by my kids' place just to say hi to them."

Roby pulled into the Wal-Mart parking lot, finding a space for his car. He said within seconds alarming events started to spiral. Roby describes a flood of memories began rapidly escaping his mind, as a horrible pounding pain in his head followed.

"The last moments I remember were my fingers and toes going numb, and the numbness going up my legs as if going into paralysis, and continuing up my body through my arms."

He opened the door wanting to get out and stand up, but he started to black out as a seizure ensued. He fell out of the car onto his face, hitting the pavement.

He is unsure how long he was there until he was found.  Coincidentally, it was a couple who attended Roby's cousin's church in Palatka, FL. who had found him.

Paramedics rushed him to Flagler Hospital in Saint Augustine, FL. A CAT scan discovered that he had an abnormality in his brain. An MRI showed a tumor.

Doctors immediately started him on several seizure medications.

On April 16th, Roby had a biopsy done at Flagler Hospital in Saint Augustine. Seven pieces were removed from his brain. Five of those pieces were sent to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and the other two were sent to Shands Hospital in Gainesville, FL.

April 22, Roby went to Shands Hospital in Gainesville and was told of the seriousness of the location of the tumor. Roby's tumor was sitting in a delicate place. Doctors needed to figure out how best to remove the tumor without permanently effecting his memory and speech. Roby's doctors ordered another MRI on May 7th, in order to decide how best to remove the tumor without doing permanent damage.

Deanna Baird, Kylee Baird, and Roby Baird singing at River Oaks Community Church at R.B. Hunt Elementary School. Saint Augustine, FL.

Deanna Baird, Kylee Baird, and Roby Baird singing at River Oaks Community Church at R.B. Hunt Elementary School. Saint Augustine, FL.

On the night of May 8th, Roby was restless lying in bed unable to sleep, partially due to the medication and partially due to his uneasiness and worry of what this new MRI was going to reveal. Emotionally Roby goes on to say that as he lay in bed, it was the first time he had ever heard God's voice. God told him not to worry and that everything would be ok. He was told the tumor had moved, and that He would be there for him.

Roby considers himself a born again Christian. He says his "faith in the Lord" is very strong and is what wills him each day.

On May 9th, his doctor personally called to tell him amazing news which they discovered from his latest MRI. His doctor called to say, "You are not going to believe this, but the tumor has moved."

Roby said that the news was the confirmation he needed; a reassurance to what he had been told the night before. "What happened did happen. I did hear God's voice!"

The MRI showed that the tumor had shifted a bit, making it easier for doctors to remove it.

May 14th was the day of Roby's brain surgery. It was very successful although the tentacles that were attached still remained. This news meant that Roby's memory and speech would not be affected.

 

Kylee Baird and Roby Baird during worship at River Oaks Community Church in R.B> Hunt Elementary Church. Saint Augustine, FL.

Kylee Baird and Roby Baird during worship at River Oaks Community Church in R.B> Hunt Elementary Church. Saint Augustine, FL.

Seeing the Benefits of Cannabis First Hand

Roby disclosed to me how he has seen the benefits of cannabis first hand. The events began in 2002 when they discovered that his former wife had a lump on her neck while pregnant with their son Garrison. It was tested, and no form of cancer was found. After Garrison was born, it went away.

In 2004 his wife became pregnant with their 5th child; the lumps suddenly started popping up all over her neck. She was sent to Shands in Gainesville and was diagnosed with stage IV Hopkins Lymphoma.

She began chemo and radiation right away. The pain was so sever that doctor's prescribed her Oxycodone, but Roby said that when she would take the medication, it would knock her out for 6 or 7 hours. "She couldn't eat a thing; she was just wasting away. She couldn't even swallow her own spit." Roby said.

A friend then suggested marijuana. "At first I was so against the idea. I just thought like many, that it was just a drug that people abused, but my friend suggested I speak to a girl with whom we had gone to high school that was living and working for a doctor in California. I gave her a call, and we spoke for a couple of hours."

"Next thing I did was purchase a vaporizer and illegally bought marijuana. At that point, I didn't care. I was just trying to save my wife's life."

"Within 20 minutes of in-taking, she asked for a glass of water and drank the whole thing. Right then I was amazed."

Doctors had previously told them if she wasn't able to consume food soon, they would have to feed her through a tube because she was losing weight so fast and unable to eat.

"Thanks to the marijuana, she was able to eat and gain weight."  Roby says that he never mentioned the marijuana to the doctors because he didn't know how they would react. But, he knew what was saving his wife.

Roby went on to say that when her life got back to normal she stopped using the drug. She only used it during that most difficult time, and used it only for what it was intended to be used for.

Roby wishes, that he too, had done the same after his surgery. His surgery left him with horrible head pain. He felt his mind was void for weeks after.

With the Astrocytoma that is left in his brain doctors are just going to continue to keep watch. If those tentacles were to be removed it would affect his memory and speech for life.

"I think that marijuana is one of the most amazing tools against cancer on the planet. With the right CBD and THC combination, it will cause the apoptosis, the cellular death."

"If all they allow in Florida is the oil, then I am cool with that because that is all I want to use. It kills cancer better; it's more effective. I've done so much research and reading on this subject that I know what I need."

"It's a plant. The medical industry hates it- the pharmaceuticals companies despise it, because it's all about the money. They've done just the pill form of THC, but you need the CBD. The two have to work together in symmetry.  You have to let it work together the way God created it."

Roby says that he does not look at this experience in a negative way, but that it has only drawn him closer to his faith and people. He believes God has a purpose for him."It's been a great tool", he goes on to say, "I've been able share my experiences with all the people that I have met since this has happened to me. I've been able to meet people who have been through the same thing or going through it now. It has been a gift from God. "

Roby Baird seen here photographed outside with four of his five children: Garrison Baird, Deanna Baird, Kylee Baird, and Jasmine Baird. River Oaks Community Church at R.B. Hunt Elementary School, Saint Augustine, FL.

Roby Baird seen here photographed outside with four of his five children: Garrison Baird, Deanna Baird, Kylee Baird, and Jasmine Baird. River Oaks Community Church at R.B. Hunt Elementary School, Saint Augustine, FL.




Coming Into Our Own

Testing Project 1

It's been a while since we have last posted, but our TF Team is in full force. We have been working on things to come; fiscal sponsorships, interviews, website makeover (still in process), while quietly assisting our current projects (families). On the horizon for us is the basis of what Taking Focus was created to do, and that is to assist other important social issue projects out into the world. Our main mission remains, creating change by impacting the human spirit.

By all means, spread the word to other photographers that are looking for a way to manifest their projects into reality. If you are a photographer who is trying to make a difference through your work, then let's start the conversation. (contact page)

I am currently in the beginning stages of two projects. I am not sure when I will discuss them, but just announcing it out into the "internet world" that I've got them, pushes me.

Shown here is an image taken in the studio on Thursday. I have to give great thanks to two special little people who let me test on them all day.

 

Check back with you all soon,

 

Jennifer Kaczmarek

News Journal Article

{All images on this post are the exclusive property of Jennifer Kaczmarek and are protected under the United States and International Copyright laws. The images may not be reproduced, copied, transmitted or manipulated without the written permission of Jennifer Kaczmarek. Use of any image as the basis for another photographic concept or illustration (digital, artist rendering or alike) is a violation of the United States and International Copyright laws. All images are copyrighted @2016 Jennifer Kaczmarek}

Recapping this week. If you missed the great feature in the News Journal please check it out! Thanks again to journalist Lacey McLaughlin for doing such a FANTASTIC job!

Click Here to see the full article online.

Click Here to see the full article online.

Keep The Lights On

{All images on this post are the exclusive property of Jennifer Kaczmarek and are protected under the United States and International Copyright laws. The images may not be reproduced, copied, transmitted or manipulated without the written permission of Jennifer Kaczmarek. Use of any image as the basis for another photographic concept or illustration (digital, artist rendering or alike) is a violation of the United States and International Copyright laws. All images are copyrighted @2016 Jennifer Kaczmarek}

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Their story began like so many; life was good and living the quintessential American dream of a middle class family, but life took a sudden turn… 

I want you to know that this could easily be my family or your family. “Over the course of the past couple of years, it has been one misfortune after the next,” they say. They have no idea how they have reached this point or why they are enduring layer after layer of such intolerable hardships. It is difficult to see and hear their deep felt thoughts and feelings. Even more so, it is hard to hear them say that there are days they just want to throw in the towel.

At age 39 the mother, Alison, discovered that there were several tumors growing on her spine, a tumor on her ovaries, and white matter change on her brain.

The father, Kendall, tries to keep it all together, but over a year ago he lost his job after having to care for his ailing wife. The effects of no income have resulted in the loss of their home and only car.

Alison is facing the risk of death or paralyzation in order to biopsy her tumors as the nerve roots are wrapped around these tumors to her spine, thus leaving her at this moment feeling very helpless and scared as the number of tumors continue to increase.

Alison and Kendall have three children; Tyler age 15, Cody who is 13, and Samantha who is 11.

Tyler was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis at age 10, a condition that was genetically passed down from Alison. When Kendall lost his job and lost his insurance, Tyler could no longer continue being seen at Arnold Palmer Children’s hospital in Orlando, FL.

Now that the family is receiving Medicaid, the closest hospital to assist Tyler is Shands Hospital in Gainesville, FL. Tyler has not yet been able get to Shands because of the loss of transportation. It has now been over a year since Tyler has not been able to receive the 5 shots a week that he needs.

Before Alison became ill, she was someone who devoted so much of her time helping others. I told her, “This is a full circle moment.”

I am hoping this story connects with you, would you please be able to make even a small difference, their needs are immediate. They are in need of financial support and prayers.

Over the past couple of months I have been trying to connect the dots, and just last week an extraordinarily generous couple donated one of their vehicles. More to that story later.

The most pressing expenses that the family are presently facing include rent, car insurance, setting up Kendal with a home based job, and daily necessities for the children.

There is much to this story that will unveil through time. Please help us as we are Taking Focus with this extraordinary family.

All donations are tax deductible. Please consider a donation.

Share this with others. Thank you so much!

Sincerely,

Jennifer Kaczmarek

CNN covers Love for Alyssa

Today is very exciting for us, CNN is featuring Love for Alyssa.  Much thanks and appreciation goes to CNN's   Brett Roegiers. CNN PHOTOS  has 12 images and an interview-   http://cnnphotos.blogs.cnn.com/category/jennifer-kaczmarek/

IN AMERICA - http://inamerica.blogs.cnn.com/2012/07/02/photos-love-for-alyssa-still-grows/

CNN HEALTHhttp://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2012/07/02/love-for-alyssa-examining-arthrogryposis/

Water Park

Alyssa & Alexxis
Alyssa & Alexxis
Alyssa, Alexxis, & London
Alyssa, Alexxis, & London
Alyssa & Alexxis
Alyssa & Alexxis
Alyssa
Alyssa
Alyssa loving the water
Alyssa loving the water

A quick update to let everyone know that things are moving along swimmingly.  We are very pleased at where we are at this point.  Everyday there has been something new, and exciting occurring.  We are grateful to everyone who has reached out with their support, ideas, and connections.  Please continue to spread the word!

In the Pool

Alyssa-silly face
Alyssa-silly face
Alyssa- warming hearts easily
Alyssa- warming hearts easily
Alexxis & Duane- Alexxis's Birthday
Alexxis & Duane- Alexxis's Birthday

Here is Alyssa warming hearts, and making friends so easily.  I remember we decided to go into the hot tub, and I don't even think I had gotten all the way in yet, and she had already made an instant connection with these girls.  These images show her playfulness and sweetness.

I also love this picture of Duane holding Alexxis, we were at a hotel in Daytona Beach celebrating Alexxis's birthday.  I admire this look that I see from Duane all the time.  His love for these girls shows through so much.  This is a look you will so often see, as I do.

Introduction To Alyssa

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Thought I should share with you the first time my camera clicked this beautiful face.  I had stopped by her classroom the day before just to meet her without my camera.  All the children were napping when I came in, though Alyssa was wide awake.  I went over and whispered, "How nice it is to meet you!" I immediately got what others had said, because she certainly 'had me' from the first hello.

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The following morning I came in and there she was laying on the floor about to play with a container of "my little ponies."  This was my 2nd frame.

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Alyssa Jadyn Hagstrom was born February 14th, 2004, at Ormond Beach Memorial Hospital, in Ormond Beach, FL.  At birth she was diagnosed with a condition called  Arthrogryposis.  When she was delivered her legs, arms, and wrists were in a stiff, bent, inward position that would not allow for movement. 

At two days old, all her limbs and wrists were stretched as far as possible to aim towards a more normal position; including cutting the right hamstring, for casts to set into place. 

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Within her first year of life, she had two major surgeries.  Alyssa's feet were  extremely clubbed. They were stuck in a position like a ballerina dancing in her toe shoes.  In order to gain a chance of normalcy, her Achilles tendons were cut on both feet.  Her left foot sustained even more extreme measures because of the crooked position it was in.  Surgeons had to remove her foot at the ankle bone by conducting what they call a "bone rotation,"  by cutting the bone in two places to twist and reattach into place.  Visibly seen metal rods held her foot together for six months.

This act of stretching her limbs into position to be placed in casts had to be repeated.  Her condition causes all of her joints to be contracted, causing her never to be able to have the muscle to control them. 

Today Alyssa has no use of her legs, arms, and limited use of her fingers.  This summer she may be  undergoing surgery for an elbow release.  This possibility would give her a bit of much-needed independence. Her arm would then be able to rest on the table, and she could bend down to reach towards her fork or spoon to eat.

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This is an earlier photo as well, taken back when she was receiving therapy, but at this time she is not. 

 I am very thankful to Duane for letting me into their life in such an intimate way.  I've been able to capture some beautiful images along this journey.   I am very proud of this work.  The possibilities the impact of this project could have on her life is a very overwhelming thought.

I've gone to the extent of creating this corporation to follow through with what I believe is possible.  Alyssa has no idea what she has done for me.  In her short life she has been through many disappointments and her spirit has never darkened.  She is worth fighting for. 

 I believe in the good of people.  The idea of Love For Alyssa is to create a 'movement'; for people to be inspired by the process of what coming together can create.  The art of photography is the center piece in which allows us to connect.  

This change will have a significant impact on her future.  Please come be a part of something so wonderful.

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