“The Battle They Don’t Want to See”

No one has captured a glimpse into the largely invisible world of metastatic breast cancer more compellingly than photographer Angelo Merendino. Angelo began documenting his wife Jen’s illness photographically shortly after her diagnosis in 2008. It was just five months after they had gotten married that Angelo and Jen entered the world of cancer. After a double mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation treatment, and reconstructive surgery the couple celebrated their first anniversary with the news that Jen was cancer free. Two years after that, Jen had a metastasis to her liver and hip. Eventually the cancer went to her brain, and she died.

Angelo illustrated what it was like to endure ongoing treatments, side effects, emotional distress, compromised function, and the difficulties and uplifts of everyday living. He writes on his website: “My photographs show this daily life. They humanize the face of cancer, on the face of my wife.” Ever present behind the camera Angelo also documented the sadness, isolation, and love of a couple that would share a lifetime of experience in barely a few years.

Angelo Merendino’s pictures eventually came together as a photo-documentary called, “The Battle We Didn’t Choose: My Wife’s Fight With Breast Cancer.” He shared the collection on his Website and in select venues while he continued to take new pictures and post them periodically on his Facebook page.

Watching the progression of Jen’s illness through these photographs gave viewers a chance to bear witness to Jen’s suffering, to the authenticity of her experience, to an essence of the human condition. It also filled many of us with deep sadness and a sense of dread. I personally had seen the face of cancer before, up close. Too many times I witnessed its cruelty and the equally dire effects of its treatment. None of this was easy. Neither was learning of Jen’s death in December of 2011. She left a community of people, both virtual and real, in grief.

CNN’s Photo Blog shared Angelo’s collection with the nation a few weeks later, and comments poured in about the power of the images, which shared parts of life that were difficult and intimate. Jen’s life with cancer, captured on film, shared something true, simultaneously beautiful and heart wrenching. Too often these are the aspects of cancer that are hidden behind normalizing gestures or a strong and courageous front. Instead of looking away, people wanted to acknowledge.

In July 2011 “The Gathering Place: A Caring Community for those Touched by Cancer” contacted Angelo Merendino about exhibiting his photo-essay for from July through September 2012. Angelo selected 60 photographs from among his collection of more than 500 to be featured in the show. He edited them, printed them, sent them to The Gathering Place for approval, after which he framed and transported the photographs from New York City to Westlake, Ohio. He also provided food and wine for the opening reception and hired a photographer to document the event. After a successful opening, The Gathering Place pulled the exhibit. According to the announcement,

“Some of our volunteers (many of whom are cancer survivors) and our participants found it very difficult and emotionally upsetting to see the exhibition. Because our mission at The Gathering Place is to provide a peaceful, healing and nurturing environment where our participants feel supported and encouraged, we have chosen to remove the exhibit so as to not add to the emotional challenges a cancer journey creates.”

Angelo Merendino’s photographs are compelling, compassionate, and real. They are a vision of breast cancer that is too often sugar-coated with platitudes, sassy t-shirts, fun-filled fundraising galas. For some, this reality is too much to bear. But until we as a society are willing to see cancer for what it is, our capacity to support the diagnosed will always be limited.

Here is a news story about the exhibit and a Fox 8 video interviewing Angelo Merendino and some of the people who attended one of his exhibits.

I am honored to include some of Angelo Merendino’s images in the forthcoming paperback edition of my book, “Pink Ribbon Blues” to be released in October 2012. They will be included under the heading “Beyond the Culture: Everyday Life With Breast Cancer.”

UPDATE: Merendino’s exhibit of “My Wife’s Fight With Breast Cancer” will be displayed at the Convivium33 Gallery in Cleveland, OH.

Exhibit dates: Friday, July 27 –Sunday, August 26, 2012

Opening Reception: Friday, July 27, 2012 from 6 pm –10 pm

Convivium33 Gallery 1433 East 33rd Street, 216.881.7838 or www.josaphatartshall.com

Gallery Hours: Monday and Wednesday: 6pm -9pm, Saturday and Sunday: 10am- 2pm


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25 comments to “The Battle They Don’t Want to See”

  • A Facebook Comment:

    “It is sad, but I understand this. There are certain things that I can’t look at, certain places I can’t go emotionally because I KNOW that could be how my life ends. Only I won’t have a husband to document it. When I choose to allow myself a glimpse into someone else’s pain, it is a complex emotional chain reaction that occurs – usually leaving me depressed and afraid. I believe his exhibit MUST be seen, but not necessarily by those of us that have already seen enough. No more than a war vet would appreciate photos of their scarred and battered comrades in their place of comfort. Take it to the world. I feel Angelo’s pain – what cancer patient wouldn’t? But I sincerely understand the reactions of the people and how it can be emotionally devastating to be faced with someone else’s end of life when you’re in a fragile place and facing your own as it is.”

  • I get that, Gayle–I felt the same way when I was first diagnosed. I had to protect myself from hard realities for a while.

    But…I’m appalled at the actions of this organization. I cannot imagine how lonely it must be for anyone who reaches out to ‘The Gathering Place’ for support, only to be rebuffed because their story is “too sad”. I sincerely hope that they’ve reimbursed Mr. Merendino for all of his hard work and expenditures.

  • Thank you for posting this Gayle. I so relate to those photos. Endless hospital visits, needles, drugs. Emotions of fear and uncertainty. Relatives and friends who care but feel hopeless as they watch us in pain or discomfort. That is the reality of cancer treatment. But so much of cancer culture is about covering up – when we are bald or sick we are given wigs or make-up – is that to make us feel better? Or so that people don’t have to see the devastating reality of what cancer and its treatments are doing to us? If more people saw this reality, rather than think ‘going through treatment’ is something we just endure, then I’d like to think this would enable a dialogue about preventing this ever happening to anyone, ever again.
    Angelo Merendino’s photos are brave and moving, and I am delighted they will be included in the update of your book.

  • Michele Hammer

    I was told that I had breast cancer on March 17th 2011 by a radiologist over the phone. I have always taken a lot of photos, so this topic does hit very close to home for me. I think that the journey of this family should be just like anything else in life. No one knows what life is going to throw at them. All you can do is be grateful for every day, live in the moment and don’t let fear set your path. I have grown in so many ways from my diagnosis. I enjoy more sunsets and sunrises. I’m grateful for the health of my 4 children. And keep the faith that God will keep answering my prayers. Peace & Love, Michele

  • Thank you so much for shedding light on this story, Gayle. I suppose I can see both sides of the issue. There is no question it is hard to look into the eyes of what my future may hold. However, one can’t simply wish it away. It strikes me that “The Gathering Place” couldn’t even find a dark corner in which to secret off the exhibit for the eyes of those who DO wish to bear witness to Jen & Angelo’s story, as well as the universal story of dying from cancer.

    If I want to make a party out of my cancer there is no end to those who will celebrate with me.

    If I want the chance (for myself and others) to acknowledge the reality of this disease, there isn’t a place. (Or certainly not many…)

    The message is clear: The world is more comfortable if I simply lock myself in a closet now so that no one need see me suffer and die. That’s NOT gonna happen….

  • Beth

    @Wendy – Knowing what the support groups offer at the Gathering Place, in terms of working through incredible sadness and heartache, makes the characterization of the Gathering Place as “rebuffing because a story is too sad” very, very unfair and untrue. @Gayle – Amen. It is complex. Blessing to you both.

  • Paula

    I am certain that Angelo had to submit photos to be included or chosen for the exhibit which makes pulling it seem even more lame. I have followed most of Angelo and Jen’s journey on FB all the while undergoing all of the testing for BC which is still going on (6 months now). We can’t keep covering up cancer with pink ribbons. If you are going through it, you may have seen enough, but truly the rest of the world has no idea what the/your/their experience is truly like. That is exactly what makes their photographs so powerful and necessary.

    Nothing heals in the dark.

  • Gayle,
    Thank you for this post. Like you, I’ve seen the ravages of cancer up close. I sat by my mother’s bedside and witnessed it first hand. You and I have lost dear friends and have had glimpses into the horrors of what they experienced. Watching what my mother went through was extremely difficult emotionally. There’s so much about that time I have not shared. Will I someday? Who knows? I do know this. I admire Angelo Merendino’s decision to share his wife’s story so openly and poignantly. Just because it is difficult for some to see or makes some uncomfortable, does not mean it should not be shared. Viewing the exhibit was a choice one did not have to make. Pulling the plug on the exhibit was, in my opinion, a mistake. I completely agree with your statement, “until we as a society are willing to see cancer for what it is, our capacity to support the diagnosed will always be limited.”

  • […] to PinkRibbonBlues.org for the summary of the timing. You can see Gayle’s post on this topic here [↩]for more of my thoughts on the reality of breast cancer, read my post “These things […]

  • I have metastatic breast cancer. On a forum I frequent, BCO, there is an area for Stage IV ladies. Sometimes people with family members who are Stage IV show up in that area, and post graphic details about their loved one’s deaths, even though there is a more appropriate area for caregivers. It’s too much for me, knowing that could be me in 6 months, a year, that my child or husband will be be experiencing that pain. watching me do those things. It’s hard to avoid because people are not always proper with subject lines. I don’t mind the families of Stage IV members asking treatment questions but it seems that posting graphic descriptions with requests for support from those who are also dying is narcissistic and cruel.

    So in a way, I understand why this place did what they did. I am not a “put my head in the sand” cancer patient. I know what I’ve been through and what I’ll go through. But, there are a few places where a person goes for quiet support – and trust me, for a person with mets, they are mighty few – and those places can feel sacrosanct. They are the ONE place where we don’t have to pretend or help somebody else too. As a terminal cancer patient, I am always supporting others, helping them cope, encouraging cancer patients who are early stage, and I have no place that is mine alone except BCO. I am the scary one, the worst case scenario, and there is no real place for me. If I found one, I can’t say I would want to see graphic pictures of what could portend to be my death.

    I can understand the desire, while you are living with terminal disease, maybe not to be forced to see the end in your safe place.

    HOWEVER, and there is a however – this Gathering Place had ample time to go over the photos, talk to their members (whoever gathers there), and discover how people would feel before putting up the display. Once they did, they should have committed to this suffering man to share his wife’s photos. I think their mistake was putting them up at all, not in taking them down.

    It’s not that cancer is too ugly to see. It is that those of us who live with it every single day and who are going to die from it need respite too.

  • LindaKR

    Though I don’t have mets, I agree totally with “butdrIhatepink”‘s take on this. Hopefully they compensated the artist for his expenses.

  • Thank you all for your comments.

    This situation brings up so many important questions about where we can bear witness to the brutality of cancer and share in another’s suffering. The Gathering Place clearly knew what the photographs were about in advance of the exhibit. Why did they reach out to Angelo to show them? Did they provide a context in which to view them? What were the full circumstances behind the pull to remove the exhibit? And even as there are many people who would not want to see the road Jen traveled, there are many others who are heartened by witnessing the love, compassion, and reality that the images also revealed. Whose stories get to be told? Whose are censored? Who makes the call? If nothing else, I hope this situation will invite contemplation.

  • To the best of my knowledge, Angelo Merendino received no compensation for his work.

  • pam

    If this timeline is correct: They commissioned Angelo and his work in July 2011. But Jen died in December 2011. All day I have been asking myself (as Gayle asks above), why did they reach out to him in the first place? Did they not know anything about his work??

    Maybe it’s her death that tipped the balance. Maybe if she were still alive, the photos would be “acceptable” to them?

    A sad and difficult situation. He certainly deserves compensation, as well as our respect and support as an artist, husband, and friend.

  • AliP

    @ butdrihatepink- you have worded my thoughts so eloquently. It is not a shame that this display was taken down, but a shame it was put up. The Gathering Place was not the forum for such an exhibit. If anyone who has cancer and attends The Gathering Place was upset by this display, it is not right to have the exhibit there. To me, it is more important for a cancer patient’s need to be met and feelings to be attended to than for the public to see this display. While they should have thought of the issues concerning the exhibit more thoroughly beforehand, I do applaud The Garhering Place for listening to those who need to be heard.

  • “If I want to make a party out of my cancer there is no end to those who will celebrate with me.

    “If I want the chance (for myself and others) to acknowledge the reality of this disease, there isn’t a place. (Or certainly not many…)”

    Yes. I think it’s this way, too. Everywhere you turn, people want to avoid talking plainly about what is, and want to cover it up with make-happy. Happy talk. Happy images. Hopeful. Inspiring. Frank talk is too often considered cruel or “negative” and censored.

    I have been hoping to start a new website for cancer patients–starting with breast cancer patients, since I had inflammatory breast cancer in 2009 (currently NED) and know it best. I have a website name already reserved. It will be a site for unvarnished information and discussion about cancer. “Cancer. Unvarnished.” The positive pieces can be discussed, too. But there will be equal room and open reception for the not-so-positive pieces. There would be a large, open, welcoming space, on such a site, for Angelo’s work, for instance.

    What The Gathering Place did was disgraceful. If they are really there to be a source of support for people encountering cancer, or who have encountered it, then they need to support all people…not just the ones who do make-happy.

  • Thank you. I decided to blog about it myself, more fully, so you can click to read it.

    As for some of your questions Gayle, there is a slightly better explanation on their facebook page, but not much. They say they didn’t realize how overwhelming it would be for patients until it was hung. The truth is, that exhibit should never have been allowed, and should have been reviewed first. They have decided to try to fix that by implementing a committee that reviews any art before it’s placed. And, as I explained in my blog post, while there may be some cancer patients who don’t mind seeing it, the ones who do in this case are the ones who should count. The Gathering Place’s mission is to nurture and support cancer patients as they traverse the difficulties of their disease, and hanging anguishing photos of a woman who died of cancer can be extremely hard on people trying to remain hopeful – even if there is love and support in the photos. There aren’t a lot of places that are for US and where we don’t have to always face head-on harsh reality. Trust me, we do that anyway, it’d be nice to have a place that is comforting rather than distressing.

    Many of your comments Gayle, in this case, are removed from the suffering those of us experience while dying with cancer. As it should be, of course and I am glad for that, your role is to intellectualize it. But, remember, we bear witness every day, in a way you cannot, even with a loved one who died. Witness should be made but we should also be allowed peace in a place designed for that, as this place was. I know you would want that for your loved one going through it. The real question is why they forgot that.

    All that said, I do feel sad for Angelo’s disappointment. I know his intent was to honor his wife. He has still done that. None of us are turning away from his wife. We are just hoping for a break from seeing our own suffering as evidenced in his wife. This may even help him more as he is sure to get publicity from it and maybe the photos will be placed more appropriately. I would love them to appear in a major magazine or other place. Or, CNN can expand what they have. What I’ve seen, they are beautiful and touching. But, also not hopeful for those of us clinging to hope, in a place designed for that.

    It’s funny, just today I was uploading videos to YouTube, and I saw one I did a year or so ago. I look so different. My hair had grown past my ears, I weighed about 105, I had eyelashes, I looked happy and healthy. I was diagnosed with mets that month. Now my weight is in the low 90s, no eyelashes, halfway bald again, dark circles…..it reminded me that one of the photos he had was three photos of Jen, side-by-side, showing how she changed as she went through illness. It just isn’t what we want to view as we go to a place where we are supposed to get emotional support.

    Like I said in my blog post, it’s the place, not the pictures. Good luck to Angelo, I wish him nothing but the best.

  • With respect to the recent decision made by The Gathering Place to discontinue my photo exhibition, I’d like to issue the following statement:

    Throughout Jen’s devastating diagnosis, we were fortunate to find organizations that embraced and supported us, much like The Gathering Place serves such needs in the greater Cleveland community. To say that I was thrilled when the organization reached out to me and extended an invitation to exhibit my work would be an understatement. I was ecstatic to take this important work to the next level and I eagerly submitted images for approval, which I received. As such, the nature and content of the exhibit should not have taken anyone off guard.

    While I can appreciate there are people who may find some of the images overwhelming and difficult to look at, I only wish that the feelings of the clientele served by The Gathering Place had been taken into consideration before I was given approval to install the exhibition. Based on the stated mission of the organization, perhaps this was not an appropriate venue to properly showcase my work.

    That said, it would be disappointing if the fallout from this decision resulted in negatively impacting the support of present and future donors of The Gathering Place.

    To everyone who has reached out to me privately and publicly to express their dismay with the decision of The Gathering Place to remove my exhibition, I see an opportunity to channel your collective enthusiasm and energy into something positive and I ask for your help in finding a new home for these photographs that have touched so many. I strongly believe this is the best way to honor Jen’s legacy and provide a voice for those affected by metastatic breast cancer. I am grateful for your help and humbled by your continued love and support.

    ~ Angelo Merendino, creator, “The Battle We Didn’t Choose: My Wife’s Fight With Breast Cancer”

  • Angelo, Thank you so much for including your statement here. Given the fact that the images were approved in advance of the exhibit, there should have been no surprises. It is also difficult to imagine that The Gathering Place did not take its specific audience into account more concretely when planning for the exhibit. It still concerns me that people living with terminal illness and their families who found value and validation in the images and the story they conveyed would not have an opportunity to view them. I know from talking to several women with metastatic breast cancer that your photos not only gave them a chance to deal with the sobering realities of their disease in a cathartic way, it gave them ‘material’ to discuss important issues with family members who were not fully aware of the path they were on. Certainly there are those who prefer respite from what the images represent as some commented here, and they deserve the sanctuary they desire. It would seem to me, however, that a cancer support center could provide both types of environments. –Gayle Sulik

  • 3Like · · Unfollow Post · Share
    Darlene Cunnup, Meagan Renee Pace, Monica Casalinova Kurko and 79 others like this.

    Kathy Jo You have my support! ♥
    2 hours ago · Like · 2

    Bob Kamp Beautifully said, Ange.
    2 hours ago · Like · 4

    Al Wasco A thoughtful and generous response to a difficult situation
    2 hours ago via mobile · Like · 4

    D.m. Williams Perhaps it would be appropriate if The Gathering Place helped you to do that
    2 hours ago · Like · 5

    Danielle Marie Bumpers As I previously stated, if you want, I can call the organization I volunteer for, 4th Angel Network/Cleveland Clinic, they would certainly be more than thrilled to have these displayed. Let me know!
    2 hours ago · Like · 5

    Michael Papatonis You’re a class act Angelo. Impressed with your writing skills as well.
    2 hours ago via mobile · Like · 7

    Tracy Rossi Wow….You never stop amazing me Angelo. Yes making negative into a positive is the answer! The next venue will be even better xo
    2 hours ago via mobile · Like · 5

    Shel G’brg You are one classy man Angelo.
    2 hours ago via mobile · Like · 7

    Betsy Werbel you’re a class act…truly.
    2 hours ago · Like · 2

    Michael Lue Very well stated. Angelo, you handled with grace and class.
    2 hours ago via mobile · Like · 5

    Aimee St George Merendino Again, you amaze me. Well said, Angelo. ♥
    2 hours ago via mobile · Like · 4

    Jason At Doorway-Photography A true class act…
    2 hours ago · Like · 2

    Renee Cline ‎100% support here. Xoxo.
    2 hours ago via mobile · Like

    Tanyel Thomas you rock
    2 hours ago · Like · 2

    Christine Duvert Angelo, you are a wonderful man! Xoxoxo
    2 hours ago via mobile · Like · 2

    Sarah Baughman Sanford If peeps would pay to come to my home, I’d love to house the photos!-;). You deserve all the love, support & energy in the world. And if a few large benefactors of The Gathering Place(total assumption) have a queasy feeling seeing Jen’s beautiful face in the face of ugly cancer, tell ’em to kick rocks.
    2 hours ago via mobile · Like

    Tanyel Thomas would you bring the show to ann arbor mi?
    2 hours ago · Like · 1

    Michelle Sellers You and Jen are truley amazing ….. you will always have my support:)
    about an hour ago via mobile · Like

    Daniel Levin Words of Wisdom Ang! Thank you for tamping down the fire. Your documentary series and The Gathering Place are two wonderful places of goodness in, at times, a challenging world of bad news. Clearly The Gathering Place made at least two mist…
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    about an hour ago via mobile · Like · 5

    Margaret Roy Herring Well said, Angelo. I just know there will be many places for these beautiful photographs to be displayed.
    about an hour ago via mobile · Like

    Jenny Roll You are a “class act” through and through.
    about an hour ago · Like · 1

    Angelo Merendino Please share. Thanks.
    about an hour ago · Like · 1

    Antonio Amendola Angelo, we at Shoot4Change admire your work and have been inspired by your story. After the current exhibition in new York we are ready to exhibit your entire project somewhere else (Rome or elsewhere). You know you can count on us. Keep it up!
    about an hour ago via mobile · Like · 8

    Michelle McNamee Wonderful response full of class & dignity. It is also the same way you & Jen faced every step of the journey. I’m proud of you. xoxoxo
    about an hour ago via mobile · Like · 4

    Gladys Hanna You are a beautiful man, through and through!
    about an hour ago via mobile · Like · 1

    Kaye Breckenridge You are a gracious man.
    about an hour ago · Like · 1

    Claudia LopZ. You are unique, I admire you and the love you have for Jen, as a breast cancer survivor I totally support your work, what you show in your pictures is the reality that many women around the world faces every single day. Do NOT let anyone or anything bring you down, keep doing what you are doing. Wish you the best.
    about an hour ago via mobile · Like · 1

    Lisa Kurtz-Myers Very well stated.
    about an hour ago · Like · 1

    Kristin Villanova Beautifully and eloquently said. Well done Ange. You have my continuing love and support. You set such a great example. I hope others follow this example. Xo cuz
    about an hour ago via mobile · Like · 1

    Ron Oestreicher Angelo, you continue to amaze me with your grace and class. Most people would be furious with what happened, but instead, you chose to stay positive, and that speaks volumes about your character. With all the good karma you’ve been putting out lately, you should have lots of great things happening to you very soon. Stay strong!
    about an hour ago via mobile · Like · 4

    John Melgun Perfect response Ange. Just what we’ve all come to expect from a class individual.
    54 minutes ago · Like · 2

    Rita Coury Inspiring approach to a disappointing situation. Very big of you ♥
    29 minutes ago via mobile · Like · 1

    Diana Greenberg You are phenomenal, Angelo. I am humbled to know you.
    20 minutes ago via mobile · Like · 2

    Bobby Baughman You are for sure a class act my friend! Simply Class!
    6 minutes ago via mobile · Like

    Bill Edmiston I hate that that happened, but I believe everything’s happens for a reason and a larger purpose. Your photographs are an incredible vehicle to put a face on and bring awareness to breast cancer. Keep your head up and keep moving forward. Y’alls story will touch and inspire many to take action in research prevention. I’m grateful I got to see you and your work!
    a few seconds ago via mobile · Like

  • Mary

    Angelo, I know in a very small way what you have been through with having done all that work, with love and caring and then having it pulled. I was asked to do what was originally “A Breast Cancer Primer” for a local Breast Cancer publication. After much back and forth finally agreement was made on the editing, and it was due to be published. While I was on vacation I received a call that it had been pulled at the last minute. The editors decided that the “reality”, my word, of the work, regarding various treatment models, would be too distressing for those newly diagnosed. Believe me it is all information I would have greatly appreciated when I was a newbie. The whole treatment experience would have been less traumatic, if I had known all the aspects of what to expect. To be informed is to be empowered. We need to get real about breast cancer and the toll it and the treatments take on our lives. Until that day comes we are destined to live in “a pretty and pink” breast cancer landscape and ignore what is before our very eyes. I do appreciate those who need a respite and that is certainly their right. We realists need our special place as well. I humbly thank you for the loving and caring work you have done in portraying your wife’s “fight”.

  • Sarah

    I don’t know if you will be back to to read this but I wanted to let you know that as a 26 year old living with metastatic breast cancer I would never be offended by these photos if I were to find them in my cancer center. Too often those of us living with mets are swept under the rug, we are the people that don’t have a happy ending and because of that we should not be seen or heard. I understand some women saying they want a safe place to go to that doesn’t remind them they have cancer but at the end of the day I want images and voices that speak to the masses that cry out that we are dying, we are real and we need something done about it.I also think these images speak so much more then just advocacy and activism, these photos are about love and acceptance. This woman was strong, she was brave and she was loved. For those reasons I find these pictures both tragically beautiful and even some what hopeful.
    Furthermore I don’t understand the idea that people that aren’t living with mets can’t understand the fears of people living with cancer or the real effects of the disease. Having been on both ends of the spectrum, caring for my mom who died and now being the dying one, I think this is a cruel and selfish statement. You don’t have to be the one physically dying to understand the heartache and devastation of the disease. I’ve often said I’m so thankful my mom is not here to watch me suffer as I remember how heart breaking it was to watch her. During my time with cancer I’ve come to learn it’s much easier to leave then be left behind.

    I think that while these images may be scary they are powerful and if people with cancer want to brush them aside and hide them then we are saying that it’s ok for people without cancer to ignore them too. These photos serve as a great testament for the metastatic community and I am so sorry for the response you’ve received. Thank you for sharing your lives with us in such a raw and powerful way. I sincerely hope that these find a home where they are accepted for what they are. The document of love, grace, strength and death.

  • I love this tribute to Jen, but I hate the fact that they pulled the exhibit. It’s like Komen not wanting metatstatic patients to walk with their walkers in their Race for a Cure. The photos are absolutely compelling. I hope your book becomes a best-seller. Its message is so needed in our mixed-up world of pinkness. xoxo

  • BlondeAmbition


    It was great speaking with you last week and I’m certain your blog post made a huge difference in Angelo being offered new space to show his exhibit. Thanks for all you’ve done.

    That a cancer support organization could be so grossly out of touch with the community it serves is absolutely unconscionable and although a new home has been secured for Angelo’s exhibit, I’m not so comfortable with this being swept under the pink carpet. Perhaps the Board of Directors needs to reconsider the qualifications of the people who were involved in the flawed decision making process that led to this fiasco.

    Not unlike the recent Komen/Planned Parenthood debacle, senior executives of The Gathering Place independently made a very public decision that touched a nerve with survivors and non-survivors alike. They were so short-sighted that they posted a statement to their website and simultaneously released it into cyberspace to 6000+ followers via Facebook and Twitter – and then became defensive when they began to receive negative press and some of their supporters went so far as to suggest that Angelo had mobilized the backlash. Seriously?! : /

    The fact that they did not consider the effect such powerful images would have on the cancer community they serve is simply mind-boggling. That they also never considered the potential public backlash of their decision and/or have a crisis communication plan in place to address what quickly became a viral controversy speaks for itself — and not ironically, is consistent with their flawed decision making process — and equally as baffling.

    Just my two cents, but something doesn’t seem quite right here.

  • Gayle, so glad you wrote this. Angelo, I’m a woman who’s had breast cancer as well as an artist & photographer. I have to wonder whether the Gathering Place hasn’t missed a golden opportunity here to learn some home truths about the profound healing of catharsis, and to provide an atmosphere where some of these truths could be faced in a supportive way. It seems to me that they still need to sort out some conflicting ideas about what their volunteers and visitors might need and what their mission is or ought to be. They had ample time to understand the impact of your images and to provide the appropriate context for them, or to change their minds before you went to the trouble and expense of preparing this exhibit.

    The best art often provokes a strong emotional response. That isn’t someone to fear or avoid. I’m glad you found another venue. Kathi’

"women urged to get screened because it might save their lives. But that’s only 1 possible outcome, and it’s the least likely one" @cragcrest cutt.ly/jei8WJr

“Pink Ribbon Blues”

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"Seeing clearly through the pink haze" Toronto Sun

*Sad face*: Being happy does not help you live longer" New Scientist

How should we address breast cancer when norms continually change? The Guardian

Your Fun 'No Bra Day' Photos Are Overshadowing Terminal Breast Cancer Patients Broadly

Backlash against “pinkwashing” of breast cancer awareness campaigns BMJ

Breast Cancer to Rise 50 Percent by 2030? Hey, Not So Fast! Health News Review

Breast Cancer: The Flaws in the Cause iafrica.com

How to Make the Biggest Impact With Your Breast Cancer Donations Money

The Very Pink, Very Controversial Business of Breast Cancer Awareness Racked

NFL, Pink Ribbons Not Enough to Win over Women CNN

3 Questions We Need to Answer for Breast Cancer Awareness Month Chronicle of Philanthropy

The problem with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month Women's Health Magazine

Pink Ribbon Envy: Living with an Uncool Cancer The Nib

A Year After Bombings, Some Say 'Boston Strong' Has Gone Overboard NPR, All Things Considered

Canadian Mammogram Study KCRW, NPR Affiliate

Time to Debunk the Mammography Myth CNN

Breast Cancer: Awareness, Activism & Pinkwashing NPR Charlotte

Buying Pink Al Jazeera's The Stream Watch »

The Pink Backlash Orlando Sentinel

Why Jolie's Test Costs So Much CNN

Preventative Mastectomies: Disease and Deception BlogTalkRadio

Angelina Jolie and the 'Breast Cancer Gene' KCRW

Our Feel-Good War on Breast Cancer The New York Times Magazine.

The Story Behind the Pink Ribbon Campaign Sisters Talk Radio

WISH Interview Women's International Summit for Health

Making Cancer About The Patient, Not The Body Part CBS Pittsburgh

Sexy breast cancer campaigns anger many patients USA Today

The perils of pink The Daily

Komen pink campaign creates breast-cancer blues for some Dallas Morning News

A yellow flag for the NFL's pink New York Daily

Gayle Sulik named #7 in SharecareNow’s Top 10 Online Influencers in Breast Cancer

Breast cancer cancer causes so easily derailed Philly Inquirer

Komen Charity Under Microscope for Funding, Science Reuters

The Fight Against Cancer - And Abortion? Salon.com

Susan G. Komen For the Cure defunds Planned Parenthood. In Deep with Angie Coiro

Amid Breast Cancer Month, Is there Pink Fatigue? NPR's All Things Considered

How is Breast Cancer Culture Undermining Women's Health? America’s Radio News Network

Pink Ribbon Culture and Breast Cancer The Kojo Nnamdi Show

The Big Business of Breast Cancer
Marie Claire

Does Breast Cancer Awareness Month Crowd Out Other Diseases? Slate

Pink Inc. Has Many Starting to See Red The Sacramento Bee

Get Your Pink Off Ottawa Citizen

Komen Pink Ribbons Raise Green and Questions USA Today