UPDATED IN THE BEST WAY POSSIBLE!
Keith Howe had his follow-up PET scan last week, and it's the first image in his whole career to score a 0. That's right; they got the "all clear"! The Howes could not be happier.
Says Keith: "I've been lucky enough to score a perfect 100 in print competition and that felt awesome, but this zero feels even better!"
You can read their story in full below.
If you don't remember longtime members Keith and Holly Howe's story from a post we published around Christmas, it's worth the read. At the time, Keith was entering an aggressive treatment program for his cancer. But thanks in no small part to their positive attitudes and familial support system made through PPA, the Howe's are positively moving forward.
Their story picks up generally right where we left it--with Keith heading back to the hospital for more treatment. Although this time, it's for the final week of his final cycle. That's because the Howe's are on the verge of the ultimate good news: all clear.
Naturally, Keith is the star patient of the Nebraska Medical Center.
"They keep throwing stuff at him and he keeps bouncing back," said Holly. "No matter what they do to him, he takes it in stride."
Keith had a repeat PET scan after the fourth round of chemo and the cancer is almost all gone. Since then he has undergone another round and a half. On April 8, Keith spent his final week in the hospital. He is finally done with chemo. His medical team all made very positive comments about his prognosis and the oncologists are optimistic the Howes will receive the "all clear" when Keith gets his final PET scan May 12.
From here on it's just re-checking the scans every three months and getting his feet back under him--quite literally. Keith will soon begin physical therapy to regain some lost balance and mobility. He can walk and drive, but some of his nerve endings just don't fire the muscles like they used to.
"It's kind of like stringing new telephone lines," said Keith. "I'm feeling pretty good overall, but I still can't do those quick movements I need to be able to do, especially during a family portrait session."
Keith does some computer work. He's even back behind the camera a little bit helping out with a session a day.
"It's great to see clients still coming and the phone ringing," he said, with a laugh. "It's looking like I still have a photography business here."
A big part of Keith's recovery has been played by fellow photographers and PPA members.
As a PPA-approved juror for the International Photographic Competition, Keith has been actively involved in mentoring photographers who enter competition images for years. And despite cancer and chemo, this year was no different. In fact, Keith was even more active than usual.
Competitors sent their files and Keith would take a look from his hospital bed and talk them through things over the phone. He'd browse print competition pages on Facebook and give his advice. He was still out there lending a helping hand.
One of those he's helped is Michelle Parsley, M.Photog.M.Artist., CPP, of Woodbury, Tenn. Michelle was one of the women (referenced in the December story) who asked Keith to be her sponsor at the Award & Degree ceremony at Imaging USA. Michelle shared in Keith's regret that he wasn't able to be there to walk her across the stage, but she made sure his presence was felt nonetheless.
"I know without his input I would not have walked for those degrees this year," said Parsley, who received her master of photography and master artist degrees this year in Phoenix. "So I had them announce his name as my sponsor even though he couldn't be there."
Keith and Michelle first "met" in 2011 when Michelle posted her images in a PPA forum looking for answers as to why they did not merit. Keith responded with his advice and offered his advice anytime she needed it.
"There's no telling how many times he's helped me," she said. "He's so good at identifying where you are in your artistic journey and talking to you in a way that makes you want to do better. He's encouraging on one hand, but on the other he's not blowing sunshine. He's been really good at telling me, 'This is what you've got to do to accomplish your goal.'"
"Even this year I could send him prints and he could still give a heck of a print critique. He always had time to critique, no matter how he was feeling. And it's not just me; he does it for so many people. His advice was just what I needed. The funny thing is, I've never ever even met Keith in person."
It's one of many such connections Keith and Holly have made through PPA.
"What other industry could I possibly have that kind of connection in? It's crazy when I stop to think about it. I live in the middle of nowhere Tennessee. To have someone as talented and willing to give their time from Nebraska, I've never even been to Nebraska, it blows my mind."
Keith also received daily support and encouragement from good friend and PPAedu instructor, Jeff Dachowski, M.Photog.Cr., CPP,--yet another friend made through PPA.
"It's amazing how people can rally around and help you," said Keith.
Photographers in Nebraska have come and stepped in for recent sessions. A couple women from Wyoming came out to photograph their annual big dance school earlier this month. A photographer from Virginia helped with a recent shoot. Photographers in Florida have raised their cameras and offered support if needed. It all started through PPA.
"We know without a doubt that his amazing reaction (or should I say lack of reaction) to the extremely intensive chemo is because of his continuing positive attitude," said Holly. "And we also know we could never have sustained that positive outlook without the amazing outpouring of support we have received from our photography family.
"We still don't know what the future will hold as far as our business--whether Keith will bounce back enough to handle the physical demands of photographing a diva high school senior or a hyperactive two year old, but we are in a good place emotionally and financially because of our friends. We know we will be okay no matter what."
So... What's next?
Physical therapy! Lots of it.
Keith will get to work on bringing up his energy and regaining his balance.
"I want to be photographing high school seniors again," he said. "We also have a wedding to shoot in July for a woman who's been a client forever. She said she couldn't go elsewhere, it'd be like cheating on her spouse."
Keith and Holly also have a pretty big wedding to attend coming up.
"Our oldest son is getting married in California in May," said Holly. "From the moment he got engaged he has wanted his future in-laws' dog as his ring bearer, but wasn't sure what to do with the dog during the reception.
"Well, Keith was talking with a friend of ours and fellow PPA member who lives out in the area about possible venues and asked on a whim if she knew anyone that could watch a dog. It just so happened that she fosters dogs and would be happy to.
"They were amazed that we knew someone, who fosters shelter dogs, no less, that lives so close by. We weren't because we have friends EVERYWHERE. That's how PPA works."
Keith's original recovery goal was to be well enough to attend the wedding, but now he's thinking more. He's on target to be there in a California meadow under lofty redwoods for the ceremony, then dance at the reception in an apple orchard as the sun dips into the Pacific.
It might make for some good pictures.