Jared Lazarus, Photographer
Duke University, Many Faces of Cancer
I began a journey in 2014 to show the varied faces of Duke Cancer Institute’s patients and survivors. I wanted to give hope and inspiration to those newly diagnosed. Over the next three years, I would travel the state and beyond to photograph and interview 14 determined men, women, and children doing what they love, and in many cases, enjoying a new lease on life.
I soon realized, however, that those I had been documenting were inspiring me. They have given me hope, courage, and dare I even say, a new outlook on life.
When a large tumor—that mercifully turned out to be benign—was found in my daughter’s abdomen in 2015, my world was turned upside down. I have never felt more helpless as our family navigated the diagnosis and surgery process, but I trusted my daughter would rally the same warrior spirit as the patients I had met.
The brave individuals in these photographs have powerful perspectives on life. They remind me to seek adventure, to always view the glass as half full, and to live in the present. They also made me realize my daughter had courage I had never seen before.
In 2022, I was yearning to pick up where I left off five years before and share more stories of positivity in the face of overwhelming negativity. The words of Ovester Grays, lymphoma survivor, and longtime Hillside High girls basketball coach, stay with me: “You’ve got a choice every day: stay in the dark space or stay in the light.”
This project has made me even more proud to be part of Duke and has given my life and work more meaning and purpose. It has been a great privilege to witness the survivors’ journeys and share their stories.