“This disease does not discriminate between men and women”

Every breast cancer diagnosis is the start of a journey that requires incredible inner strength and courage.  For many survivors, this personal battle inspires a compelling need to give back, to “do something,” to make a difference.  In 1988, my older sister Karen died from Breast Cancer.  She was 34 years old.   In 2000, I felt compelled to get involved and give back in some way and set aside an entire week to research a breast cancer foundation to work with in honor of my sister.  At the time, I was finishing production of my first brochure for Images by Berit, and the various pieces of my brochure were laid out on a desk at the printing company.  Simultaneously, Komen North Jersey was working with the same printer and saw my work.  On the very same week I had set aside to find a foundation, I received a phone call from Komen regarding their idea of a photo essay and so Journeys of Courage  was born as was my own personal journey with this amazing and generous organization.  I do not believe in coincidences.  I know that this connection was guided by my sister and for this I’m very grateful.

My sister Karen

My sister, Karen, with her daughter Meghan.

As the photographer for the Journeys of Courage, I have had the honor of photographing breast cancer survivors who generously agree to share their stories to heighten awareness of the disease that touched their lives. Little did this original group of Journeys realize the impact that this project would have.  This photo essay has traveled the country and for people local to New Jersey you may remember seeing this essay in The Mall at Short Hills every October.

In the sixteen years since the photo essay debuted, 47 women and men have been portrayed in Komen North Jersey’s photo essay, “Journeys of Courage”.  These individuals have been selected for this honor because they demonstrate a passion for the mission—they are advocates for breast cancer awareness and passionate about “paying it forward.” Mothers, daughters, sisters, husbands, grandmothers and friends have been a symbol of strength, love, resilience and transformation and have touched thousands of lives through their beautiful images and inspirational words.

Their power and resolve in the face of this disease encourages me, and serves as a reminder that the work is not yet complete. I honor them every day, holding them in my heart, as they carry out the work that is so deeply important to them. To their family and friends, I want you to know that their faces and words help guide and inspire me; thank you for sharing them with me.

Each year, Komen North Jersey selects a survivor who has demonstrated an extraordinary boldness and braveness in taking their breast cancer journey public so that others could gain hope and courage from his or her experience. One of this years Journeys of Courage recipients is Marc Futterweit. Marc is a husband, father, eight-year breast cancer survivor and breast cancer advocate.  I want to thank Komen North Jersey for instilling such an awesome responsibility in me for documenting each Journey recipient.  It truly is an honor and I admire Marc’s commitment and bravery.


This year I was part of the video documentation filmed by Jeff Ashe of Ashe Productions and coordinated by Public Relations Expert Kathi Edelson Wolder at the Futterweit home.  I want to thank Jeff for his time and commitment to this cause.  To Kathi Wolder, thank you for allowing me to participate in part of the creative process which resulted in an honest and authentic documentation of Marc and his personal journey.  The following is the short video documentation.

 

Video produced by Jeff Ashe of Ashe Productions.

komen north jersey | journey of courage | Images by Berit