A Grim New Reality

April 19, 2017

For the moment at least, life as we know it is over.


I was drained of energy, leaden and listless. Without going into the gory details, after many tests a tumour was discovered in my stomach. No easy way to say it, I have cancer. The doctors were not optimistic and told me I may have less than a year. The effect on us all has been profound – hopes and plans all evaporated in one great gust. Tears, many many tears.

My career as a wedding photographer has come to a crashing halt, Amanda has stopped all her garden design projects, and plans that the girls had for the year ahead are now all on hold. I find myself abruptly retired.

So – how does one cope with all that? Barely. The support from our friends and families has been immense, and also from friends of friends, and old friends and acquaintances we’d lost touch with. Letters, emails and messages arrive every day, many from folks who have either been through this or know someone close who has – it’s staggeringly common. Our close friends are concerned about my weight loss – I have more cake in the kitchen than a bakers!

And I’m angry. I’m a reasonable fit guy, I walk and cycle all the time and always have. My weight has been 64 kilos all my adult life. I have a glass of red wine most evenings. I’ve never smoked, never taken drugs and have always eaten good food with fresh, often organic, ingredients. Cancer is indiscriminate for sure.

I have started my chemotherapy course, six cycles of three weeks each, with two weeks of taking the tablets and one week off everything before the next cycle starts again. Yes, side effects are making themselves known in odd ways – instant pins and needles when I touch something cold, Factor 30 for any outing in sunshine, and the need to rest a great deal.  My hair hasn’t fallen out yet, that’s to come. Or go.

We have settled into an acceptance of sorts. We try and stay cheery, and enjoy the days as they come, living in the moment. As I get stronger again after each chemo session, we are having days out and visits to friends around the country. I’m going to try and keep this personal blog going for as long as I can – hopefully not all doom and gloom. And I’d like to get a self-published book of my personal images together. Thoughts turn to posterity…


Here are some images from a short walk in London with my good old friend Chris – this north London area is his old stamping ground.


Martin Black
18:13 May 3, 2018

OMG ....I've just found out about this Steve .... My son is getting married & I directed the bride to be to your site , explaining that you are 'top of the tree' when it comes to wedding photography , only to be shocked by this news , I wish you all the best , my thoughts are with you, best to Amanda, if you want to chat, please ring .... a very special person you are... Martin x

15:35 May 4, 2017

You are an inspiration in so many ways - thank you Steve and Amanda - warm wishes to you xxx

15:03 April 29, 2017

So hard to know what to write. We've loved the opportunity to get to know 'The Dude' and your talent as a photographer is inspiring. Great love to you and your family, as far as is possible between the tears, make the most of every. single. day. May they be filled with everything you dream of. Yasmin & Paul xx

Guy Collier
11:37 April 29, 2017

Oh Steve. I am so so sorry. Words fail me. Just know that you have inspired many throughout your life. You're in my thoughts. Guy

10:45 April 29, 2017

Stay Strong fella, be an inspiration and occasionally have two glasses instead of one! Rooting for you

Chris Mann
09:24 April 29, 2017

Steve it's hard to think of the right words in such a situation - having had the pleasure of working with you on several occasions and knowing you through the MV forum, I know you are a person who always has a positive outlook no matter what. And I know Amanda and the girls will be giving you tons of support... Stay strong my friend, and prove the doctors wrong!

Keith Hammond/Appleby
23:28 April 28, 2017

Hi Steve, so very sorry to hear about the cancer. It's not fair and you have the right to be angry. Like you said, you've tried to do everything right and look after yourself. And look what happens? It's so indiscriminate. I wish you the very best of luck and my thoughts are with you. Keith

Caroline Greatley
18:16 April 28, 2017

I am so pleased you have decided to write a blog. You were the photographer at my daughter's wedding about 6 years ago so we can only be described as being acquainted. But I was saddened to hear your news and have often wondered how you were getting on.

Susie Deane
17:24 April 28, 2017

Truthful, sad and also beautifully written. I wish you all the courage in the world.

John Pavitt
16:23 April 28, 2017

Steve, what can one say? sorry seems so inadequate. I am a close friend of your brother Ian and Angie, and although we have never met, I have some insight as to what type of man you are. Ian speaks very fondly of you, and I know how proud he is of all his family. The effect of this terrible disease, on not only you but anyone involved with your life is devastating. Our thoughts are with you and your family, and I for one would take great pleasure if at some time you come to Broadstairs for a visit.

Andy P
15:26 April 28, 2017

Lost for words. Your measured words under such circumstances are inspirational. Make sure to get that book published and god willing many more editions in the future.

10:38 April 28, 2017

Fight Fight Fight. Followed by lots of sweary words

Rob Purbrick
09:15 April 28, 2017


08:04 April 28, 2017

.....took my breath away. So brave. Please keep doing this I'll keep reading.

Nigel Crump
06:44 April 28, 2017

Im so sorry to hear of your situation. It is good to be positive when all around seems very dark. I look forward to reading your blogs. It is sad that cancer takes so many good people, I hope you stay strong and realise your photography can help lift your inner feelings. If you ever need someone to share some time with happy to be there. Although we have met only briefly at Luton hoo I hope that your journey is as long as possible and you find solice in the good things.

22:36 April 27, 2017

You summed that all up so well. Keep writing, keep the pictures coming. Xxx

Deb Leary
22:30 April 27, 2017

You are quite wonderful Steve Shipman. Having had to face these realities when my mother died of a stroke in 2013 my dad of cancer in 2014 and my husband of cancer in 2015 I appreciate the effort it takes both physically and psychologically to be motivated at times when all you want to do is to rage. It's right at times to rage. You deserve to rage. Life is not fair. This is a journey of tears, laughter, frustration. In writing this blog and continuing to share your work it emphasises how blessed we are to have you as part of our family history and how fortunate you and your family are to have each other. I will watch out for your blog and will be honoured to be allowed to laugh, cry and be inspired by your bravery and your generosity Love Deb and all the Leary's xxx Ps if I haven't said it previously, we talk about you often and how you made liz and Jason's wedding such a fantastic day at St Paul's in 2012. I still am breathless when I look at the headshot you took of liz. Thanks

Derek Clark
21:40 April 27, 2017

It was fantastic to meet you and Amanda last week at PhotoTalks Steve. Thanks for this very personal blog. Hard to write I'm sure, but worth it in many ways. As you know, my sister is going through her own fight right now and just started her second session of chemotherapy. So I know what you and your family are going through. It's a horrible decease and indiscriminate like you say. I hope the chemotherapy gives you the best outcome possible, bit do look into the oil I mentioned. Anything is worth a try!! Sign me up for a copy of that book for sure! All the very best Steve. Derek.

21:13 April 27, 2017

I am bowled over by the strength you and Amanda have displayed in the face of this devastating news. I love the way you continue to do what you have always done - squeeze every drop pleasure out of life .

Carol Belson
20:57 April 27, 2017

A very poignant and honest piece Steve, thank you for sharing. Love the images and the book is a fabulous idea - take it from one who has self published - not photography, but to have that achievement and know that others are sharing it is a good feeling. Love and light to you and your family. xx

Martin Family
20:45 April 27, 2017

Thanks Steve for this blog post. I remember the feeling of being told I had cancer. It's quite a surreal feeling to say the least. I know you will fight all the way and I think you are fantastic to write your emotions and feelings in the reality you find yourself in. You are a lovely man and a true gentleman. I hold a very fond memory of working along side you on what was a very challenging Sikh wedding a couple of years ago. Your energy is something which has really inspired me. I look forward to own a copy of your amazing photography too so let me know when it's ready please. Stay strong and know you are in mine and my family's thoughts. Martin (Special Occasion Videos)

20:41 April 27, 2017

A powerful blog Steve - thank you for sharing - helpful to write it all down and helpful for friends around you to know what's what without having to put you through 20 questions. And - as always - beautiful images xx

06:25 April 25, 2017

and yet in the midst of a "grim new reality" you place some more amazing images and the promise of a book, there have been tears of joy at your work and many who just admire a single image of yours.....please keep going with this as long as possible it is magnificent - thank you


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