Charlie Johnson, a registered nurse in Arkansas, is battling breast cancer on her own terms.
When she discovered a lump, she ordered it removed, even though she was told it was likely benign. It turned out she was right to have it excised — it was cancerous. A month ago, she underwent her first round of chemo.
She expect to lose some hair, but nowhere near the amount that fell out. Well, she decided, we might as well take care of this, too.
"After she was diagnosed, we talked about it a few times," said her friend, photographer Mandy Parks. "We talked about her losing her hair." Charlie talked about shaving her head, and how she wanted her husband, Kelsey, to do it.
"We talked about doing a photo shoot of it," Parks said. The photographer envisioned her friend in a pretty dress, sitting at a vanity out in the wild, with Kelsey standing behind his wife, holding a hair trimmer.
And that's just what happened.
They hauled an antique vanity that belonged to Charlie's great-grandmother "and set it up in a field," Parks said. Charlie wore a flowing pink gown, with what remained of her hair falling in gentle curls. A pair of pink boxing gloves sat on the dresser, a symbol of Charlie's vow to "fight like a girl," against the beast that is breast cancer.
The series of photos are both beautiful and brave, with Charlie, fists planted firmly in the sparring gloves, holding them in front of her bare chest. The shoot, on Parks' professional Facebook page, has drawn hundreds of likes and comments, with survivors posting photos of their scarred chests and images of their heads being shaved, as well as photographs of mothers shaving the scalps of children undergoing chemotherapy.
Three days ago, Charlie completed her second round of chemo. "She's very tired," Parks said. But her will is not weak.
The two friends were floored by reactions that poured in. Their reaction? "Just pure amazement," Parks said. "It's overwhelming, but in a good way. It's so emotional reading everyone's posts. It's been really beautiful."