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Asheville photographer gives people fighting cancer a chance to feel special

Our Person of the Week uses photography to make people in the fight of their lives feel beautiful. Six years ago, Wendy Newman began providing free pictures to clients she calls Wendy's Cancer Warriors. (Photo credit: Wendy Newman)

Our Person of the Week uses photography to make people in the fight of their lives feel beautiful.

Six years ago, Wendy Newman began providing free pictures to clients she calls Wendy's Cancer Warriors.

"Time flies, pictures are forever," she explained.

It would be great if every day could be picture perfect, but even in an imperfect world, Newman sees the light in every subject.

"We are celebrating life," she declared.

Recently, Newman captured the image of friendship that never gets old. In the past year, Donna Mooneyhan, who has terminal cancer, has leaned on four college friends more than ever.

Six years ago, she was diagnosed with Stage 4 ovarian cancer, so every moment is precious. Mooneyhan's former Gardner Webb roommate Betsy Russell Beason admires her through the lens of life experience.

"She is my hero, and she is an inspiration to me," Russell Beason said.

"It's like we were never for apart for 30 years," Mooneyhan said, wiping tears from her eyes. "In a way, I don't like it being said that I'm a hero because I think everyone would be able to do the same thing."

"Oh, is this lovely," Newman said, snapping photos of the girlfriends huddled together.

"Oh, this is precious, I like the feel of this," Russell Beason said.

Because of the project, Newman feels like one of the most highly compensated photographers in the mountains.

"I think to be able to do this is a gift to me, if you would," she said. "Truly, a gift to me. I love this. I wouldn't trade these moments for anything."

In 2011, Newman photographed a friend with breast cancer and discovered the healing power of photographs. There are now 64 "cancer warriors" in her portfolio.

"It's nice when someone takes the time to do something out of the ordinary," Newman said.

Two weeks ago, she treated Catie King like a queen. King was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in June.

"Start swinging," Newman directed her on the playground in Biltmore Forest. "Yes, good!"

"To make you feel like a kid again, to make you feel like you don't have any worries in the world," King said of the shoot.

"Wendy has chosen to reach out in that way when she doesn't have to," she said, on the verge of tears. "It is really special to know I have support from family members and friends like Wendy."

Newman has seen firsthand what the disease does to people and their families.

"I've lost seven members of my family. My husband has leukemia. I know what this journey is like," she said.

"Be that little girl and you're just gonna spin, OK?" Newman said to King, shooting more photos they'll look back on fondly.

"My MRI results came back with no spread of disease, which is absolutely wonderful to shoot with Wendy in celebration of that," King revealed.

Meanwhile, Mooneyhan and her college mates cherish the bonding experience in search of a great shot.

"We were apart so many years, and we got back together, and it was like part of my heart had been missing and now it's reconnected," Russell Beason said, welling up with emotion.

Often, perspective comes with time. Together, the friends realize any day can be picture perfect in its own way.

"To have that on film and captured professionally is fabulous, because it's forever now," Newman told them. "This moment is forever."

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