The Battle We Didn’t Choose On August 29, 2005, I was applying for a job as a bartender when I met Jennifer. Just like my dad knew when he first saw my mom over 50 years earlier, I knew Jen was the one.
Jen and I dated long distance and after six months we couldn't take it anymore, so I moved to New York. On the night I arrived in town Jen and I celebrated by having dinner at one of our favorite Italian restaurants, Frank. After dinner I got down on one knee and proposed to Jennifer.
The following fall Jen and I were married in Central Park. I started to cry the minute I saw Jen walking down the path. I had never been so happy in my life and I couldn't believe that this beautiful, kind, and strong woman loved me the way she did. That night we shared our first dance together as husband and wife, serenaded by my father on his accordion to "I'm in The Mood for Love."
I'll never forget the sound of Jennifer's voice coming through the phone, just 5 months later, as she told me she had breast cancer. Before that moment, the furthest thought from my mind was that I might be a widower before I was 40.
At 8:30PM on December 22nd, 2011, just 16 days after her 40th birthday Jennifer passed.
These were the greatest years of my life.
Despite cancer, Jen and I grew closer with every challenge. The little things that used to upset us no longer carried any weight. What was important was making each other happy, picking each other up when we fell, and letting the people in our life know how much we loved them.
After Jen's cancer metastasized in April of 2010 we found that many people did not understand how serious our life had become. Our life was a maze filled with Dr. appointments, medications, side-effects and thoughts of mortality. We were adapting to changes, often daily, that offered no road map, no rules, and no sympathy. Jen's cancer was spreading and we needed people to understand what we were dealing with and that cancer is not something that should be faced alone.
Words were failing so I turned to the only other way of communication I know - my camera. I began to photograph our day to day life. We thought, "If people see what we are facing every day then maybe they will have a better understanding of how badly we need their support."
With Jen's permission I posted a selection of these photographs online. The response was incredible. We began to receive emails from other women with breast cancer. They were inspired by Jennifer and determined to not give up after seeing the grace with which Jen faced cancer. Because of these photographs one woman confronted her fear and scheduled a mammogram.
The most important thing that happened was that our family and friends rallied together to be by our side.