As a photojournalist for 15 years, I had covered many aspects of life, from the good to the bad. The good, thankfully outweighed the bad, but there were those stories, that had a permanent effect that stayed with you forever.
While working for my first paper, out in Idaho; a small town roughly 25,000 people with one light that stopped traffic in the 3-4 downtown blocks; I had the opportunity to meet one of the strongest, amazing families in my life. Two years prior to our meeting, they had discovered a very rare disease had affected their family of five. While it was cancer related, this disease, quickly destroyed the functions of their 5 year-old daughter.
Doctors had discovered the disease was genetic, which meant someone else in the family was affected. While they had the knowledge that their little girl, would someday no longer be able to fight this battle, crushing news came when dad developed the same issues but at a much faster rate. He was expected to survive 6 months. He out did the doctors and had survived so far a year.
The first day I met them, was for her 5 year-old birthday party as a small tea house. All of her friends were there, dressed to the nines. Her two brothers dressed in suits and ties. After the party mom and I began talking; we bonded quickly and found we had many thing in common, shared interests and we both loved to laugh.
The following week she called and invited me to dinner. I spent the next year developing a very close friendship with them. They were the brightest, most uplifting family I had ever met. Nothing could keep them down; they loved, laughed and played often. Cancer was not going to stop or limit this family from getting the most out of life. Six months before I was to leave to begin at another newspaper, they asked if I would photograph their 50 year wedding anniversary, the following month. They had been married only 10 years.
Their dad and husband, knowing he would not be around, planned a 50-year renewing of vows during the Relay for Life. A tent on the field had been converted to a Tiki Hut, those walking the track stopped to watch and cheer them on. Everyone in attendance knew this would be his last Relay.
As time goes, people loose touch, things change and everyone grows in different directions. I tried emailing them a couple of months after I moved to Ohio, but the email came back undeliverable. Last I heard his wife was now speaking about Cancer and about her story. I do not know the outcome, as I could not find them anywhere. I would like to believe that everyone had survived the cancer.