Missy Koch Billingsley: 25 Years Later / by Laura Heald

I met Missy through mutual friends in 1983. She played soccer and volleyball and was a student at the University of Miami. He was a young newspaper photographer at the Miami Herald.

A year later Missy was diagnosed with cancer in her right foot. Desmoid fibersarcoma, an extremely rare tumor that flares in the limbs of physically active people, possibly due to repeated bruises to a section of the body. To beat the cancer she would have to have her right leg amputated.

I called her as soon as I found out the news.  I thought she might want to take some pictures before the surgery. We talked and decided that I would follow her through the entire ordeal.  I spent a year following Missy in addition to my daily assignments at the Herald. The story was published on Christmas Day in 1984 in the Miami Herald Tropic Magazine. The entire issue was dedicated to the photographs of her and the story that Steve Sternberg wrote.   

After a second amputation and subsequent radiation, Missy has been cancer free now for 20 years. She has been married for 19 of those years to Todd Billingsley who she met at her church in Miami. They are now living in Rome, Italy, with their three adopted children, Joey, Abbey and Lukas.

With the advent of the new technology I can now show Missy's story on multiple platforms to millions of viewers. The piece was shot with the Nikon D3s and put together in Aperture and Final Cut. From my Macbook Pro I could then ship the video to multiple clients via ftp and other means. From this blog to Sports Illustrated. There is no limit to what is possible now.

Sports Illustrated posted the Missy story on Monday. Manfrotto was with us in Rome for the shoot and posted a piece about me working on the story along with the video.  Her husband, Todd Billingsley, is writing a book about her life that is due to hit the shelves this fall.

I was also Scott Kelby's guest blogger today discussing the Missy story.

The power of the internet coupled with the new cameras now allows me and other photographers to get stories seen. You can be your own publisher with a web site, send your work to possible clients and network without leaving your office. Don't let that lead you to believe that this work is easy. Quite the contrary. Creating multi media productions is a time consuming process, but if you love it is also rewarding.

For this story I have to give a special thanks to Manfrotto for making this follow-up project possible and especially our dear friend Marco Tortato.