There’s no way around it: Cancer is scary.
Sometimes it can be beaten. Other times, it’s a nearly lifelong challenge. All too often, it is a taker of life. But, it is always frightening. Cancer has the ability to be debilitating, emotionally and physically painful, financially devastating, and certainly humbling. However, it never has to be dehumanizing.
This is the lesson that three families facing cancer have taught others through beautiful, heartwarming, and heartbreaking photo essays, which includes a look at the brave and tragic journey of a terminal cancer patient. It’s a reminder that cancer doesn’t just effect the patient, but also those left behind by the one who has succumbed to the disease. It also leaves us with the encouraging belief that the soul and spirit can always remain strong, as long as there are those around to fill one’s life with laughter and love.
The Battle We Didn’t Choose. Photographer Angelo Meredino’s wife Jennifer was diagnosed with breast cancer just five months after they were married. Despite the hard and fatal journey ahead, Angelo and Jennifer’s love for each other never subsided.
Meredino needed a way to share this devastation and struggle, and to let others know the challenges faced by cancer patients and their loved ones. He began photographing their day-to-day life, a project that continued until Jen passed away in 2011, days after her 40th birthday. When a friend suggested Meredino share these photos on the internet, the response was overwhelming from people worldwide.
He has since established a non-profit organization in Jen’s honor, The Love You Share, which provides financial assistance to women in need facing breast cancer. Fifty percent of the sales of his book, The Battle We Didn’t Choose: My Wife’s Fight with Breast Cancer, also go to the cause. “By sharing our story, our love story, something beautiful has begun to grow out of something so horrible and unfair,” Meredino says on his blog, “If we don’t share our experiences, how can we learn, grow, and survive?”
An Unfurnished House. As a celebration of a new life together, Cincinnati couple Ben and Ali Nunery took wedding day photos of themselves in their newly purchased, unfurnished home in 2009 . The couple later welcomed a daughter, Olivia, but Ali lost her life to lung cancer in 2011.
When Ben and three-year-old Olivia moved out of the home, his sister-in-law and her husband, professional photographers Melanie and Adam Pace, took photos of them in the similar poses to Ben and Ali’s wedding photos, once more in an unfurnished home, as a way to remember the home and their love for Ali.
As touching as these photos are, Ben told a reporter with Yahoo Shine where many of these photos can be viewed, he doesn’t want people to see them in terms of sadness and grief, but rather “see the love I have for Ali and Olivia. The love is always there and that’s what goes on.”
The Tutu Project. Photographer Bob Carey began taking pictures of himself shirtless and wearing a pink tutu in 2003. The idea was to make his wife, Linda, who was facing breast cancer, laugh. What started as merely a sweet gesture has blossomed into a way for the Careys to help others with cancer via The Tutu Project, and Carey and his ever-present tutu have been photographed in front of everything from The Grand Canyon to a Bloomingdale’s escalator.
Ten years later, this photo series has inspired both a non-profit organization and self-published book, Ballerina. Postcards, art prints, calendars, and books of Bob Carey’s humorous and touching photos are available for purchase, with proceeds benefiting the non-profit Carey Foundation for women with breast cancer. The Tutu Project also invites others to join in by submitting their own thoughts or “tutu” pictures. Although the cancer battle continues, the Careys have stated that cancer has taught them not only that “life is good,” but also that sometimes the best way to face another day is “to laugh at ourselves, and share a laugh with others.”
This post is dedicated to the memory of R.J. Seeburg and in honor of Stella Frattarelli, a pair of angels who have shown me even the smallest person can fight cancer with a smile as big as their heart. Stella’s family has set up her own cancer fund, Prayers for Stella.