A photographer documented his wife’s breast cancer battle in a series of moving images that show the heartbreaking reality of what it’s like for a family to live through the disease.
In 2016, Jordan and Anna Rathkopf’s lives changed forever when she was diagnosed with stage one triple-positive breast cancer — an aggressive form of the disease — two weeks after she discovered a lump on her 37th birthday.
‘I felt the earth open, and I’m just in free fall,’ Anna, who is now in remission, told Good Morning America of learning she had cancer.
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Sharing their story: Photographer Jordan Rathkopf documented his wife Anna’s breast cancer battle after she was diagnosed with the disease in 2016
Life-changing moment: Anna found a lump on her 37th birthday, and two weeks later, she was diagnosed with stage one triple-positive breast cancer, an aggressive form of the disease
Heartbreaking: The New York-based couple’s son, Jesse, was just two years old at the time, and Jordan had to become his wife’s caregiver as she fought for her life
The New York-based couple’s son, Jesse, was just two years old at the time, and Jordan had to become his wife’s caregiver as she fought for her life.
He was tasked with not only caring for Anna, but also providing stability for their young son as she underwent chemo treatments, radiation, and surgeries.
‘I had severe anxiety,’ he told GMA. ‘We went to ask the social worker if there was a support group and they thought we meant for her and I was like, “No, no, for me.”‘
Jordan’s feelings of powerlessness inspired him to start photographing their journey, including images of Anna sick in bed, shaving her head, and tender moments of her with their son.
‘We couldn’t find anything quite like it of a young family living through cancer,’ he said of the powerful photo series.
Looking back: Jordan started photographing his family’s journey, including images of Anna sick in bed, shaving her head, and tender moments of her with their son
Helping others: Jordan turned the images he took of his family into a photo essay that is featured on both his website and The Komen Blog
Candid: Anna also took self-portraits while she battled the disease, admitting she felt betrayed by her body
Jordan admitted that there were times he was close to his breaking point, and he realized that he needed help coping.
‘I was literally hanging on by a thread. I would just go into my heart and cry for hours because I didn’t want anyone else to see me,’ he recalled.
‘Once I started going to therapy and medication, I felt like I was actually in a better place to help take care of my family, because I’m able to take better care of myself.’
‘It was just hard. I was scared. I didn’t want to be a single father,’ he told the blog last year. ‘The photos I took of my wife and son together, wasn’t so intentional, it was just me holding on to dear life. Worrying if she dies, is this what I’ll have left, a photo of her and Jesse.’
Living in fear: Jordan recalled how terrified he was that he would lose his wife and become a single father
Moving forward: Anna finished her treatments in January 2018, and she is now in complete remission
Prevention: Anna has to take Tamoxifen daily until 2028 to lower her risk of recurrence, a fear that is always in the back of their minds
During their joint interview with The Komen Blog, Anna opened up about her experience in front of the camera as she struggled with the disease.
‘We went from talking about having a second kid, to suddenly thrown into no more kids, breast cancer and … your whole life is just upside down,’ she said.
‘I was taking a lot of selfies and was looking at myself, trying to understand how a body that two years before gave life … it really did feel like a deep betrayal because I went from something so amazing, to possibly dying.’
Anna finished her treatments in January 2018, and she is now in complete remission. She has to take Tamoxifen daily until 2028 to lower her risk of recurrence, a fear that is always in the back of their minds.
Following her recovery, they have started taking photographs of others who are fighting breast cancer. They’re focused on choosing subjects who tend to be underrepresented in breast cancer brochures and literature.
‘It changed the direction of our lives,’ Jordan told GMA. ‘It’s brought us together. It just cemented everything that we knew was there.’