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Our Last Year Together: What My Camera Captured As My Parents Died Of Cancer

Dad called these “his and hers chairs.” He would lay beside Mom, his partner and mom of 34 years, as they got their weekly chemotherapy treatments. Howie Borowick had usually been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and mom Laurel was in diagnosis for breast cancer for a third time. For him, it was new and unknown. For her, it was business as usual, another appointment on her calendar.

Nancy Borowick


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Nancy Borowick

Dad called these “his and hers chairs.” He would lay beside Mom, his partner and mom of 34 years, as they got their weekly chemotherapy treatments. Howie Borowick had usually been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and mom Laurel was in diagnosis for breast cancer for a third time. For him, it was new and unknown. For her, it was business as usual, another appointment on her calendar.

Nancy Borowick

There is a whole operation of feelings that occur with a smoothness of bad news. In my case, like many others, knees lock, a heart speeds adult and a hairs on my arms get a humorous tiny tingle. My circumstances, however, were a tiny reduction expected.

When my father told my father and me that he and my mom wanted to come into Manhattan for dinner, we was vehement to see them and fast done a devise for an 8 p.m. cooking during Café Orlin — my favorite for Middle Eastern food. As shortly as we sat down, we knew something was really wrong.

No matter how many times her cancer returned, Mom found a approach to live her life and not take it too seriously.

Nancy Borowick


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Nancy Borowick

No matter how many times her cancer returned, Mom found a approach to live her life and not take it too seriously.

Nancy Borowick

My mom had been in and out of breast cancer diagnosis for 15 years and had been handling and treating a illness like it was no large deal, even yet she was usually in her 50s. Were they about to tell us that a other shoe had forsaken and she was dying? No, this time it was about my dad. He had theatre 4 pancreatic cancer. My 28-year-old star shook. We all knew what this meant.

In a kitchen, Dad breaks into a bouncing dance to try to get a grin out of Mom. They mostly incited to amusement to abate a formidable mood in a home.

Nancy Borowick


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Nancy Borowick

In a kitchen, Dad breaks into a bouncing dance to try to get a grin out of Mom. They mostly incited to amusement to abate a formidable mood in a home.

Nancy Borowick

As a photojournalist, we did a usually thing we knew: we picked adult my camera and documented my parents’ twin cancer treatments for a subsequent 24 months and a lives as they unfolded. From a seven-hour chemotherapy infusions to regulating errands with Mom according to her to-do lists, we was there with my camera slung opposite my shoulder.

Late one evening, Dad cut Mom’s hair, meaningful that it would start descending out on a possess in a entrance weeks as a side outcome from a chemotherapy. Mom incited a shorn thatch into eyebrows.

Nancy Borowick


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Nancy Borowick

Late one evening, Dad cut Mom’s hair, meaningful that it would start descending out on a possess in a entrance weeks as a side outcome from a chemotherapy. Mom incited a shorn thatch into eyebrows.

Nancy Borowick

When we demeanour behind on a time we spent documenting these formidable months, we don’t immediately remember feeling scared. we remember a pee-your-pants laughter, high-calorie dinners (as per a doctor’s request, of course), a late-night dance parties in my parents’ kitchen and a everlasting conversations over a crater of Chappaqua fry from Susan Lawrence Gourmet Foods and Bea’s Bakery blueberry pie.

Dad and Mom welcome in a bedroom of their home. They never could have illusory both being in diagnosis for cancer during a same time. Together, they faced a daily struggles of illness in their possess lives while also caring for any other.

Nancy Borowick


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Nancy Borowick

Dad and Mom welcome in a bedroom of their home. They never could have illusory both being in diagnosis for cancer during a same time. Together, they faced a daily struggles of illness in their possess lives while also caring for any other.

Nancy Borowick

Everyone deals with their fears, generally death, in their possess way. My family leaned on amusement to lift us by this formidable time. we remember one night sitting on my parents’ lavatory building as my father began to cut off my mother’s hair, that had turn prosaic dreadlocks firmly curled opposite her scalp. The chemo had stopped a growth, though she hadn’t been prepared to partial with her hair for a third time — once with any cancer diagnosis. we remember impiety a universe, seeking it to give my mom a mangle usually this once. The subsequent thing we knew, my mom jumped in front of me and my lens, rejected hair reason to her face like eyebrows. A conform uncover followed suit, as we all wore her hair as costume, including a dog! That she found a levity and ability to find fun in this impulse speaks to a extensive lady she was.

By opposed what we feared most, regulating my camera as my shield, we was means to pierce past a mishap that we expected and truly suffer a time we had left together. Had we dark divided from a reality, we wouldn’t have a pleasing print of my relatives holding hands opposite a chemo chairs as they perceived their particular treatments. They were a clarification of strength and courage, and saying these images reinforces to me a significance of not vouchsafing fear reason me back. It also reminds me to conclude any day and not remove perspective. As Mom once told me, “There’s also life going on here. we am carrying marshmallows, we know!”

Although illness struck a Borowicks’ home twice, they managed to find strength and bravery by humor.

Nancy Borowick


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Nancy Borowick

Although illness struck a Borowicks’ home twice, they managed to find strength and bravery by humor.

Nancy Borowick

Dad always dealt with employing and articulate with a gardeners any spring. After he upheld away, that shortcoming fell to Mom. Upon conference of his death, a owners of a association sent over flowers, honestly sad during a news. Mom found a ideal place to hang them on a behind patio.

Nancy Borowick


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Nancy Borowick

Dad always dealt with employing and articulate with a gardeners any spring. After he upheld away, that shortcoming fell to Mom. Upon conference of his death, a owners of a association sent over flowers, honestly sad during a news. Mom found a ideal place to hang them on a behind patio.

Nancy Borowick

Mom’s to-do lists represented a simultaneity of life: Order Howie’s headstone, confirm either to start radiation, join a gym and indeed start going, and many importantly: “What happened to a Girl Scout Cookies?”

Nancy Borowick


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Nancy Borowick

Mom’s to-do lists represented a simultaneity of life: Order Howie’s headstone, confirm either to start radiation, join a gym and indeed start going, and many importantly: “What happened to a Girl Scout Cookies?”

Nancy Borowick

Mom cooking cooking with us kids, featuring her famous eggplant parmigiana recipe prepared by her son Matthew. This would be a final dish she would eat.

Nancy Borowick


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Nancy Borowick

Mom cooking cooking with us kids, featuring her famous eggplant parmigiana recipe prepared by her son Matthew. This would be a final dish she would eat.

Nancy Borowick

Managing her pain, Laurel Borowick mostly did not have energy; her tired and depletion were caused by medication.

Nancy Borowick


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Nancy Borowick

Managing her pain, Laurel Borowick mostly did not have energy; her tired and depletion were caused by medication.

Nancy Borowick

Was it scary? Of course. When he died in 2013, my dad, Howie, was 58. My mom, Laurel, was 59 when she died one day bashful of a anniversary of my dad’s death. But what was many important was how those final months were filled with adore and life.

Howie and Laurel Borowick attend photographer Nancy Borowick’s marriage in 2013. Howie called it a family’s final hurrah.

Courtesy of Matthew Borowick


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Courtesy of Matthew Borowick

Howie and Laurel Borowick attend photographer Nancy Borowick’s marriage in 2013. Howie called it a family’s final hurrah.

Courtesy of Matthew Borowick

Although my relatives are gone, my siblings and we continue to feel their adore and guidance, as we differentiate by decades of found letters and notes, including one tiny smoke-stack of Post-it records from a mother, exemplifying a significance of disposition into fear and holding chances: Courage isn’t a deficiency of fear — it’s meaningful that we are aroused and doing it anyway. Don’t spend your days avoiding risk, being fearful. Act. Live your life on your possess terms. Life is precious; spend it but regrets in your possess changed voice. For my 3 angels: If we wish to speak or feel my love, demeanour adult during a night sky — we am always examination over you.

Nancy Borowick is a photojournalist formed on a island of Guam. She has lonesome charitable stories for many organizations including The New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN. Her book documenting her parents’ life with cancer, The Family Imprint: A Daughter’s Portrait of Love and Loss, is now available, and a work will be on vaunt commencement Friday in Brooklyn, N.Y.