Jan 11, 2021

A CREATIVE, A MOTHER AND A BRAIN CANCER CARER. MEET HAYLEY WERNICKE.

Is this title ok? I asked myself over and over again.. Words, simple words can so easily come across as insensitive. Or too sensitive. Dramatic. Or not descriptive and respectful enough when it comes to cancer.

On the 12th of February 2020 I drove out to a little country town. The rain was miserable that day. There was a white picket fence around an old character home with flowers filling the gardens. Inside lived Hayley and her partner Diego and their 3 girls Luna, Mili and Inca, all three girls were donned in vintage dresses. The idea was to photograph Hayley as a parent, for my project interviewing creative mothers on how the heck they juggle staying inspired and creative while being a mum. But the truth was right in front of me. Diego has brain cancer and their battle as a family has been consistently rife. You couldn’t unsee the beauty and the energy that was held in the walls of their home… A family so close. So bound together. With so much hope. A mother, pulling at every bit of resilience to keep it together for the sake of everyone, all while pregnant. Diego needed to be included in the shoot. I couldn’t not.

We did the shoot. But I couldn’t bring myself to send the questions. I didn’t want to take any more energy from them to focus on anything but what they needed to. Time ticketed by and Hayley and I kept in touch. Organically, it unfolded….. “Just send me a brain dump”. I said. Something about what it’s like holding space for creativity while simultaneously going through being the carer of a partner with brain cancer”

Hayley delivered……

’I sit here in my first bath in almost two yrs except folks Birth . It hits me , ~ “     the           … “ that’s my motherhood, as my tears form, baby is crying and joins me. 

His softness against my softness I crumble into what feels like many pieces .. I fall more and more in love with him with each and every roll and dimple yet I always shatter inside with each of mine .. our bodies resemble new life and birth. That in itself has got to be beautiful..  folk is now 5 months old and number 4 , why these feels if not enough in and out . 

So tonight as he kicks with me  amongst the water while I try so hard to pause myself from burning out as  I feel the signs coming I’m wearing thin. 

He joins me in this loneliness of motherhood his softness wrapped me up in a bubble of it’s ok , it’s ok to be soft right now I’m putting all my energy into supporting my whole family one handed through our families journey of cancer . It’s ok .. I’m not lonely I have them, all of them , immediate family ~ now that’s my motherhood ❤️  the lessons of our babies.

So when asked what motherhood is like during this journey of cancer and carer…. we as a family are walking, I feel the load . Watching the one you loves mind fade and memory leave , fall asleep at a drop many times in one day. Your 3  daughters are forever growing with their storm of emotions coming tidal. I’m swimming through it all, for the most I push through with moments of sinking … I want to hold our children and tell them it’s all going to be ok but that I can’t, I won’t lie . Instead the truth we don’t know, we never know . So motherhood now shifts it’s seasons for me it throws curve ball after curve ball at me but beauty too . I  now see life in a even more simple way , I find the beauty in all the joy . I hold onto all the good,  my focus is stronger . I’m gentler even though I break . I’m mothering and learning , grieving and growing . It’s taking its toll I feel myself breaking at the seems. I’m pushed, to then stop right before the edge and take that bath just to breathe, cry . Then smile and the images that I store in my heart of their love and smiles warm me again . To then do it all over again . That’s motherhood right we give our all . We push, we are strong, fierce, protective. But we love and love with all our heart. I may have no me tim , I may feel loneliness. I internally crave that feminine nurturing energy around me but my journey in motherhood is now woven into a carer for my husband, their father it’s weaved into what it is to be my new stage of motherhood, for me . My creativity lives through them right now I capture every bit of joy that passes me through , I still chase that light and live for the light but it’s through our family right now .. time will come again when I can capture and give the joy , love and memories for other glowing and growing mothers and mothers to be. My wisdom I learn in my new motherhood will help shine light into another when the time comes . For now I pick up the camera for me.’


Hayley and Diego have been hit hard with the financial pressure of treatment. Diego undertakes brain surgery in the next couple of days and that alone is costing 75k. If you would like to donate to help support them the Go Fund me link is here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/Diegos-family-needHELP


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  1. Chanelle says:

    If I could go through and “heart” every single one of these photos I would. You have such a talent for creating nostalgia in your work, I feel like I’m looking at images from decades ago and I love it. It’s so sad to read all of this mother’s struggle and pain – I pray that their path have light at the end of the tunnel – however that may show itself ♥️

  2. Neil Phillips says:

    That is beautiful.
    You women are an inspiration.

  3. Laetitia Cross says:

    Filled my heart- incredible family. Incredible mother. Beautiful images worth everything.