Challenges and Insecurities While Working with PH and Transplant

Challenges and Insecurities While Working with PH and Transplant

Lately, I’ve been so busy with my freelance photography business that I haven’t had time to put thought into a new column. I suppose that means it’s time to write about what I do outside of publishing this column and moderating the Pulmonary Hypertension News Forums.

I’ve been waiting a long time to write about my career because I haven’t felt like I could say I really have one. I started my own business in late 2015 but had to take a break for several months after my transplant in July 2016.

Developing new strategies

When I first learned all the post-transplant precautions, I was convinced I would never be able to do event photography again. My transplant team didn’t even want me shaking hands at the time, so I couldn’t imagine being back in a room full of people.

Gradually, my immunosuppressant regimen lightened as the risk of organ rejection decreased and I became more confident in public environments. It was a very slow process, but now I am perfectly comfortable photographing a crowded party without a filter mask on.

Instagram story highlight with antibacterial hand wipes pictured. Follow Kathleen Sheffer Photography on Instagram!

My camera bag holds antibacterial wipes, protein bars, antifungal solution, and pill cases, along with my camera bodies, lenses, and speedlights. I bring my own food and water so I don’t risk contamination. I am hyper-aware of any coughing, sneezing, or sniffling, and keep my distance from anyone I think could be sick.

Exposing insecurity

Feeling like it was safe for me to do event photography again was only half the battle. Running my own business, especially in a creative field, still feels like an illegitimate career sometimes.

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I imagine my friends who are software engineers aren’t asked if they do it full-time or just as a hobby. My answer to the question, “What do you do?” always requires additional explanation. I often contemplate trading the creative freedom freelance photography gives me for a more widely accepted nine-to-five job.

But I need to be a photographer. I feel happy, confident, and centered behind a camera. It’s therapeutic and fun for me, and I’m pretty good at it! More recently, I’ve enjoyed actually turning a profit. My clients are giving me as much work as I can handle, and paying me for it. This is such an amazing feeling.

Self-portrait of the event photographer. (Photo by Kathleen Sheffer)

Focusing on core values

It’s important that we separate our self-worth from our career. While I’m thrilled that I have the ability to work right now, I make sure to keep in mind what actually matters.

When I was hemorrhaging from my lungs and certain I was going to die, all I wanted was to tell the people I care about how much I love them. My portrait and event photography is an expression of my love for people and wish to preserve memories.

Portrait of Serena Lawrence, one month before she passed away. (Photo by Kathleen Sheffer Photography)

I want my photos to make people feel special, seen, and cared for. Profitable or not, I believe that’s a worthy endeavor, and I’m sticking to it (full-time!). I will try to be better about writing my columns in my “free time” (at 11 p.m. on Sunday).

P.S. Did you notice my photography puns in the subheadings? Puns are the real reason I chose this career.

P.P.S. Seriously, I need more Instagram followers to boost my self-worth. Click here.

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Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.

3 comments

  1. Kaye Norlin says:

    Your photography is terrific! I am so happy that you have something you love and found a way to get paid for it (the meaning of a successful career)

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