Cyndie French holds her son Derek Madsen, 11, on May 8, 2006. He is on medication that hinders his speech and keeps him awake all night. Cyndie spends nearly 24 hours a day at his side, except for a few minutes while hospice nurses are with him. “I was exhausted beyond belief but I had to do this. He would call my name and always expected me to be there,” Cyndie said. One of the twenty images from “A Mother’s Journey,” that was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography 2007. The series profiled the heartbreaking love of a mother and her son as they struggled emotionally and financially with childhood cancer. © Renée C. Byer/The Sacramento Bee

Renée C. Byer: I think my collection of images that earned the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for feature photography A Mother’s Journey are the most defining work of my career. They are important because the images go beyond illness to the struggle that families share balancing the emotional and financial toll of catastrophic illness. I’m also very proud of my most recent book project Living on a Dollar a Day: The Lives And Faces Of The World’s Poor, and hope those images will be a catalyst to improve the face of extreme poverty. The book was published in advance of the United Nation’s Millennium development goals that are up for review this year. It’s hard to judge the most important image because the issues I photograph shine a light on a broad spectrum of world concern including our environment, economy, healthcare, domestic violence, poverty, prostitution, as it relates to women and children’s rights. I like to think the most important photo I have yet to make.

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