This Photography Class Gives Kids With Cancer A New Lens On Life

The perfect shift in perspective.

Tania Abernovich of Brooklyn still remembers the difficult moment when she had to explain to her then-10-year-old daughter, Lexi DePrima, that she was diagnosed with a brain tumor in June 2014.

 "I'm just a kid," Lexi said at the time. "I didn't do anything wrong."

"Cancer happens to everybody," Abernovich told her daughter. "It doesn't pick anybody. We are going to do what we can do to help you get better."

Lexi and her mom.
Lexi and her mom. Michael Schall / A Plus

Lexi soon had brain surgery to treat her tumor. After the surgery, she underwent six weeks of radiation. The tumor shrank and became stable, but it is not treatable at this time.

For Lexi, Abernovich knew, returning to some level of normalcy in her life would make a big difference. But the treatment slowed her down physically, and she needed to focus her energy on something else besides her medical condition.

While Lexi was in the hospital, a child life specialist informed Abernovich about the Pablove Foundation's Shutterbugs program, which offers pediatric cancer patients a new perspective through the lens of a camera.

Although Abernovich wanted her daughter to get involved with Shutterbugs, Lexi was initially nervous about meeting new people. Once she joined, though, Lexi learned to cherish the experience and found she enjoyed photography.

Steven Hazlett, the local Shutterbugs instructor, mentored Lexi and the other students enrolled in the program. He would often take them to different places, like museums, so that they could enhance their photography skills. Her favorite subjects to photograph included statues and rocks.

Photography instructor Steven Hazlett.
Photography instructor Steven Hazlett. Michael Schall / A Plus

"He showed us new things we can do with the camera. He taught us different settings," Lexi told A Plus. "My favorite thing was to play with the lights."

According to Abernovich, Shutterbugs improved her daughter's confidence and introduced her to the joy of photography — something that Lexi admits she was never interested in before.

"Steve actually cared about us and showed us new things," Lexi said. "I thought it was a fun experience and I liked it a lot."

After having enrolled in the Shutterbugs program twice, Lexi and her mother hope to channel their tough experiences into charity by returning as volunteers. Lexi said that she enjoys helping the other children in the program and assisting the counselors with the lessons.

Lexi DePrima
Lexi DePrima

Lexi — who is now 12 years old — hopes other children try Pablove's Shutterbugs program.

"I met new people and counselors, and it was so nice to meet new kids," Lexi said. "We have to work as a group, and it was really fun working together."

It is sometimes difficult for children with cancer to explain their condition to other kids. But at Shutterbugs, everyone else understood.

"They all had the same problems, and they went through what I went through," she said. "We all knew what everyone was feeling every day."

A Plus is proud to announce that we are partnering with The Pablove Foundation during September and that we'll be releasing stories featuring Pablove and its work throughout the month. Their mission? To fight childhood cancer with love. 

Support Pablove and childhood cancer research by "going steady" and giving monthly. Learn more about the campaign and the cause here.