On February 1, 2018 Kaylee Marshfield turned 6 years old. That same day her parents received a call that explained why their oldest daughter, Kaylee, had been sick for the past month. Todd and Kristina were told that Kaylee had a Wilm’s Tumor, a rare form of childhood cancer, growing in her chest.  

 

I met Kaylee and her family in August 2018 at the New York State Fair; it was six months after she had been diagnosed and at the time Kaylee was in the midst of chemotherapy treatment, having lost her hair and a significant amount of weight. I spent the remaining five days of the New York State Fair with Kaylee and her family, slowly earning their trust and learning more about Kaylee’s condition and the family’s struggle to endure the financial and emotional strain of having a very sick child.

 

For weeks and then months following the fair, The Marshfield’s allowed me to continue spending time, making photographs of what I originally believed was a story of a little girl’s battle with childhood cancer. As time passed and we became close it became clear hers was not “just” the story of a child with cancer but rather one of the nuanced dynamics of a family as they together navigated her diagnosis, treatment and life once found cancer-free.

 

Spending time with Kaylee and her family quickly evolved into being invited on family vacations, visiting on holidays and attending karate practice and school recitals. Through it all, Kaylee has done her best to balance life as a first-grader, daughter, sister and cancer patient with the grace and maturity of someone many times her age.  

 

Kaylee and her mother, Kristina, embrace at the end of a long day as Abigail, Kaylee's younger sister, reaches out for attention. Abigail, age 5, does not understand why Kaylee is suddenly the recipient of gifts and extra attention; her confusion and misplaced  jealousy has caused friction between sisters who just months before were inseparable. (Photo by Maranie Staab/GroundTruth)

Kaylee and her mother, Kristina, embrace at the end of a long day as Abigail, Kaylee’s younger sister, reaches out for attention. Abigail, age 5, does not understand why Kaylee is suddenly the recipient of gifts and extra attention; her confusion and misplaced jealousy has caused friction between sisters who just months before were inseparable. (Photo by Maranie Staab/GroundTruth)


 

Photographer’s notes: 

If someone would have told me that one of the most significant relationships I’d form while in Syracuse would be to a young girl of 7 I’d have found that difficult to imagine. And yet, nearly a year after moving from Pittsburgh to Central New York I look at having met Kaylee and the Marshfield family as a rare and treasured gift.

 

After nine months of chemotherapy and several surgeries Kaylee was officially declared cancer-free on October 22, 2018. The date marks the end of one chapter in Kaylee’s life and the beginning of the next—one where I have the privilege of being a small part of as I continue to photograph her story. (Photo by Maranie Staab/GroundTruth)

After nine months of chemotherapy and several surgeries Kaylee was officially declared cancer-free on October 22, 2018. The date marks the end of one chapter in Kaylee’s life and the beginning of the next—one where I have the privilege of being a small part of as I continue to photograph her story. (Photo by Maranie Staab/GroundTruth)

 

As a photographer, working with Kaylee has been the most organic and naturally evolving story I’ve ever been part of. She has taught me the value of long-term work and has made clear that time and establishing trust are perhaps the most important elements in creating intimate images.

I’ve much gratitude for this 7-year-old; without knowing it, she has kept me grounded and in touch with my own inner child, providing balance and an element of life I hadn’t known was missing. This is ongoing work, without parameters or specific expectations. I have told the Marshfields that I will be a part of their lives for as long as they’ll have me, well beyond my graduation in December 2019. We’ve joked that someday Kaylee will need someone to photograph her graduation … I have not so secret hopes I will get to be that person.

 

More from this Project
More from this Project

PHOTO ESSAY

New Addiction

October 13, 2015
PHOTO ESSAY

The Life and Times of an Afghan police officer

November 5, 2015
PHOTO ESSAY

One man’s story of life in a Ghanaian slum

December 3, 2015
PHOTO ESSAY

Syrian Exodus

December 22, 2015
EMERGING PHOTOGRAPHERS

Iubiri Urbane: Eastern Europe’s Urban Love Stories

March 28, 2016
Emerging Photographers

The accomplished dream of a Dreamer

June 1, 2016
EMERGING PHOTOGRAPHERS

Raising East New York: Portraits of black fatherhood

August 16, 2016
Emerging Photographers

Portraits of working class New York

November 1, 2016
EMERGING PHOTOGRAPHERS

Documenting my family as a first-generation American

November 23, 2016
EMERGING PHOTOGRAPHERS

Documenting conflict, solidarity and snow at Standing Rock

December 22, 2016
EMERGING PHOTOGRAPHERS

The 75-year-old arm wrestling champion who still keeps winning

February 8, 2017
Emerging Photographers

Venezuela torn apart

June 26, 2017
Emerging Photographers

Bonding and belonging in the Bronx’s 40th Precinct

July 18, 2017
EMERGING PHOTOGRAPHERS

An emboldened right wing, a strengthened resistance

August 24, 2017
Emerging Photographers

Deported

September 25, 2017
EMERGING PHOTOGRAPHERS

La Carrera Séptima

November 29, 2017
EMERGING PHOTOGRAPHERS

Father Florian, the Benedictine monk who was a prince

January 4, 2018
EMERGING PHOTOGRAPHERS

The Sacred Valley of the Inca

March 7, 2018
EMERGING PHOTOGRAPHERS

What these 100-year-old women teach us about beauty

May 2, 2018
EMERGING PHOTOGRAPHERS

An endless fight for home

May 25, 2018
EMERGING PHOTOGRAPHERS

Inside the pop-up theater welcoming refugees in Paris

July 2, 2018
EMERGING PHOTOGRAPHERS

In brutal presence

November 9, 2018
EMERGING PHOTOGRAPHERS

The Great Marsh

November 28, 2018
EMERGING PHOTOGRAPHERS

Discharged and deported

January 2, 2019
EMERGING PHOTOGRAPHERS

What it means

February 1, 2019
EMERGING PHOTOGRAPHERS

“Silka”

March 5, 2019
NEW LIGHT

Mothers And Daughters

April 5, 2019
A NEW LIGHT

#Kayleestrong

May 10, 2019