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‘My mother is suffering from breast cancer’: Deep insight into a family who deals with this ‘incomprehensible illness’ their very own way
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“Everything began with a WhatsApp message on June 29, 2017, in which ‘C’ posted a photo of her very long hair and commented: ‘I am sorry to add bad to all the good news. You can look at this photo whenever you want to wean yourselves off my long hair. In about three weeks there won’t be any hair left. Breast cancer. Chemo, then surgery and radiotherapy. If everything goes according to plan, there will be stubbles around Christmas. Luckily I have you and know that I can count on every single one of you when the going gets rough.’


Patrizia Iaconisi

We are a group of parents who got to know each other and became friends in 2012 after the birth of our children. Not only we, but also our children, got very close and have been sharing a common bond ever since.


No one wants to receive a message like that. It is just too horrible and brings so much fear and clarity with it on the one hand, and so much confusion on the other. It smashes everything, and in the end, there is only a deep pain inside and the question of ‘why?’


One or two days later, ‘C’ called me and asked if I would be willing to document her cutting her hair with her husband and her 5-year-old daughter before losing control over it.


Patrizia Iaconisi

Patrizia Iaconisi

‘Yes, of course, I’d love to,’ I answered and thought by myself, ‘I am a professional, I will manage. Somehow.’


‘C’s’ intention was to document everything in order to help her daughter get a better understanding later in her life of what was going on at that moment in time. What life was like with cancer. This incomprehensible illness. And for the worst case, she wanted to make sure there would be memories of their last time together for her daughter to keep.


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Patrizia Iaconisi

Patrizia Iaconisi

Patrizia Iaconisi

This is how the idea of the long-term documentary photo project was born.


When I arrived at ‘C’s’ house for the very first photo session, I was scared and happy to be greeted by my friend, who still seemed to be the old one from before her diagnosis. I felt absolutely ignorant because I had no idea what destiny had planned, or what life had in store for ‘C’ and her family.


All ‘C’s’ daughter cared about was her mom, her dad, ice-cream, and fooling around. She brought us back down to earth, like children always do. She made everything more bearable for all of us.


Taking pictures of ‘C’s’ family cutting her hair, I struggled with my professional skills like I have never done before in my entire life. I had to listen to my inner voice which repeatedly said, ‘Concentrate on yourself. Stay within yourself.’


Patrizia Iaconisi

Patrizia Iaconisi

Patrizia Iaconisi

Afterward, I couldn’t handle it for a while. But I was taught that life is not only about being alive. I learned so much about being human, about being a family, about courage and solidarity.


About the will to live.


Patrizia Iaconisi

Patrizia Iaconisi

Patrizia Iaconisi

In the end it became a project that offers deep insight into a family who deals with cancer their very own way. The photos show how they accept it in their life and how they develop an overwhelming strength and lust for living.


Their everyday life doesn’t consist so much of struggle and fear, but much more of strong mutual support and courage. Of hope.


The pictures show that cancer is not only about horror and suffering, but also about loving, being extraordinarily close and living life to its fullest. And above all, we have been avoiding tears. Always. Because of her 5-year-old daughter, because of hope, and friendship too.”


Patrizia Iaconisi

Patrizia Iaconisi

This story was submitted to by documentary photographer Patrizia Iaconisi in Germany. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.


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