Three weeks before her wedding, Lainie Schultz, 28, shaves off her beautiful thick brown hair with the help of her fiancé Joseph Jones, 27, her father Jeffrey Schultz, and her brother Joey Schultz.
Before taking the clippers to her hair, Lainie easily pulls out a handful of hair from her scalp to show me. She laughs, “Isn’t this disgusting?”
Over the past four years, Lainie has had breast cancer, thyroid cancer, melanoma, and she is now fighting metastatic breast and thyroid cancer. Lainie’s first encounter with cancer occurred when she was only 18 months old; at that time being diagnosed with adrenal cancer. She was in remission until 2008 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was at that time her doctors diagnosed her with a P-53 gene mutation, an extremely rare genetic disorder called Li-fraumeni Syndrome. Only 1,000 known people in the entire world have this genetic disorder.
This is not another cancer story. This is a story about devotion, love and marriage for a generation that has completely commercialized the wedding process. From television shows like Say Yes to the Dress to Platinum Weddings, to the hundreds of magazines, web sites and blogs – devoted to the wedding industry – it is no small business. It is true, brides-to-be have become obsessive with the idea of a perfect wedding. As a former newspaper photojournalist who has spent the past five years photographing weddings, I have seen it all. From brides throwing tantrums to crying over their flower arrangements. A wedding is like any other day, sometimes things don’t go as planned. What makes me sad is when couples forget why they are throwing a big wedding in the first place. Love. Commitment. Friendship.
Lainie Schultz and her fiancé Joseph Jones’ relationship inspired me. I felt compelled as a journalist to document their story leading up to their wedding on March 3rd, 2012. Lainie and Joseph met in 2004 when they worked together at Abercrombie and Fitch. Lainie had not been sick since she was an infant, she did not give much thought to the idea of having cancer again. However, four years into Lainie and Joseph’s relationship, Lainie was diagnosed with stage-two breast cancer. Joseph was there to support her throughout her treatment. In 2010 when Lainie had a hysterectomy because doctors were concerned about a mass that had grown on her ovary, Joseph consoled his future wife telling her that he’d rather have her in his life than have biological children. Their honeymoon will be anything but cliché, being spent at the Northwest Oncology Center in Coral Springs, FL where Lainie will receive her third chemotherapy treatment since her last diagnosis. My hope is that Lainie and Joseph’s compelling love story inspires a new generation of brides and grooms, to keep sight of what is really important when planning your big day…the two of you.
It is a marriage, not just a wedding.