Courtesy of Nancy Borowick
  • This is a story about an extraordinary couple: Howie and Laurel, two college sweethearts who met in law school, married, had three children and battled stage 4 cancer together. Their daughter, photojournalist Nancy Borowick, documented their last days battling the disease. This is not a story about cancer; it's a story about strength and love and truly living life. Borowick tells ABC News these photos are not meant to be about illness but about "living a more thoughtful life." Pictured, Laurel and Howie in law school in their early 20s.
    Courtesy of Nancy Borowick
  • Nancy Borowick guides ABC News through her images. "Mom liked to leave little notes around the house with sayings that inspired her. After she was gone, we began to pay closer attention to these messages, as though she was still with us, continuing to teach and advise," she said.
    Nancy Borowick
  • "Dad never thought he would live as long as he did. Having lost his parents at a young age, he cherished each milestone birthday with a celebration of life. This birthday, his 58th, was his last, and he was surrounded by friends and family at his favorite restaurant for the occasion," Borowick said.
    Nancy Borowick
  • "He always knew how to make her laugh. Even when he was feeling completely terrible after seven hours of chemotherapy, he could still bust-a-move and get a smile out of mom," Borowick said of her mother and father.
    Nancy Borowick
  • "Important phone numbers and information was always taped to mom's computer. Thoughtful fortune cookie messages and fun stickers also decorated her screen. They were a constant reminder of the reality of our lives, and the joy that we could find even in the times of difficulty," Borowick said.
    Nancy Borowick
  • "There's nothing like having a partner in life to share the good times and the bad times with. There's nothing like having a partner in life to create a direction and a destination, and try to work towards it, and be totally committed to each other. If the project works, or it doesn't work that it's OK. Because we trust each other, and we love each other, and we mold each other. "- Howie
    Nancy Borowick
  • "Everyone has their coping mechanism in situations like this. Mom and dad used comedy- they had to," Borowick said. "In mom's lifetime she had lost her hair...with every breast cancer diagnosis. The concept of this became so ridiculous to us that it was almost funny in that kind of nervous-laughter-mixed-with-exhaustion-and-frustration way. This time, she had waited until her hair was almost one giant dreadlock which turned out to make for perfect bushy eyebrows."
    Nancy Borowick
  • Borowick recalls one very important day for her parents: "When the doctor calls to give you news about your scan results, who takes such an important phone call in the bathroom? My parents did. As I waited for reactions and information, I saw my mom beginning to wipe tears from her eyes. It turned out to be good news for both of them - the tumors were shrinking. But what if one had good news and the other had bad news? Do you celebrate for yourself, and mourn for the other?"
    Nancy Borowick
  • "Mom's to-do lists exemplified the simultaneity of life, " Borowick said. "Order Howie's headstone, decide regarding radiation, join the gym and start going, and what happened to the Girl Scout cookies? She tried to maintain a normal way of life the best she could. One task that drew out for weeks was that of deciding what would go on my father's footstone. I think this was in part because not only was she grieving the loss of father but she was also, in a sense, mourning her own death, which was becoming more and more real."
    Nancy Borowick
  • "She didn't get out of bed. I woke up beside her, kissed her goodbye and ran off to brunch with a friend," Borowick recalled. "When I got home, she was still in bed and my brother was by her side, talking to her in a whisper. We called our sister, and then the relatives. We knew the clock was ticking."
    Nancy Borowick
  • "Mom felt a sense of urgency toward the end of her life," Borowick said. "She had wanted to write letters to us kids but feared she was losing her ability to think intellectually. I comforted her, explaining that we knew how much she loved us and to certainly not feel any kind of stress about these notes. After she died, however, we found notepads around the house full of partially written letters to us."
    Nancy Borowick
  • "She had such a beautiful smile. We knew she was in pain, but even until the very end, she was our mom, so she protected us by hiding this from us, " Borowick said of her mother. "We spent many nights sitting around our dining room table, talking about life as she offered up this rare perspective that one has nearing the end of their lives. It's like she knew it was her time...we didn't know this would be her last week."
    Nancy Borowick
  • "Compassion and kindness were the most important qualities one could have according to mom. She not only exemplified these qualities on a day to day bases, she wanted to make sure we, her children, were always reminded of them so they found a place on our kitchen wall," Borowick said.
    Nancy Borowick
  • "Dad was always the center of attention and here he was surrounded by everyone whom he loved and loved him in his life," Borowick said. "He wrote his own eulogy; he would have loved to be at his own funeral. He wrote, "I have outlived each of my parents by decades and lived well beyond what I had predicted or ever bargained for. Longevity aside, you should know, that I believe that I have been the luckiest man to have ever lived on this planet, so I am comfortable with the time and quality of time I had." Laurel passed away almost a year to the day of the death of her husband, Howie.
    Nancy Borowick
  • Borowick reflects,"People you love live on inside of you; in your memories, in your soul, the little things you do, the way you think. Then I think you add to them and it grows from there. You have your own experiences...we don't need stuff when we have the memories, the feelings, mom's laugh and dad's dance moves." To learn more about "The Cancer Family" book project <a href="https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/978426513/the-cancer-family-book-project" target="external">click here</a>.
    Courtesy of Nancy Borowick
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus