“For many people, a story that includes the word cancer in it starts with a bad feeling, a sad story that punches you in the gut. It is a terrible and scary disease that you never think will happen to you or your loved ones, until it does.” — Philipp. (Ana Maria Arevalo Gosen)
Venezuelan photographer Ana Maria Arevalo Gosen met her husband, Philipp, in 2009 when he was spending a year as a German exchange student in Venezuela. Shortly after that, she moved to France. But they kept up their relationship over long distance for the next four years until she moved to Hamburg to live with him. One year later, in 2015, they were married.
As with so many things in life, happiness is sometimes coupled with pain.
One year after Ana and Philipp were married, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. But he was able to have the tumor causing it removed through surgery, and life seemed to return to normal for a while. Then in 2017, Philipp was diagnosed with a metastasis and had to go through strong chemotherapy treatments. This time, Ana decided to pick up her camera and document her husband’s fight against cancer.
The good news is that Philipp is healthy again. As Gosen told In Sight, “This series is called ‘The Meaning of Life’ and it is an intimate story about love, strength and how to live through hard times and cancer.”
Ana and Philipp hope that telling their story helps raise awareness of testicular cancer in order, as Philipp says, “to make it more understandable and less taboo, to open a dialogue, to help other men understand that a regular check has many benefits. Also to express that people, and especially young people, go through this, need and accept as much help and love as they can.”
This is their story.
THE BEARD REMAINS: “The night the chemotherapy started, my wife shaved my hair. It was a ritual, a symbol of change and transition. It was scary, but we stayed stronger together. We knew we were too young to face this.” — Philipp (Ana Maria Arevalo Gosen) X-RAY — HEALTHY LUNGS, AT LEAST: “The first time we went to the doctor, all that got stuck in my mind was the healing chances were high. A complete recovery. It was striking that [it] is one of the rarest type of cancer, however the most prominent for young men between 18 and 35 years old.” — Philipp (Ana Maria Arevalo Gosen) NEW LOOK: “After the first treatment, the diagnosis of metastasis came right before Christmas. The blood values went up slightly, but within limits. The doctor said it could be for another reason, stress perhaps. We made another checkup after one month, the results dropped down on me like a bomb. The dormant cancer had woken up. Something was growing back again. I could not believe that after fighting so hard, I had to it all over again, this time with an aggressive treatment, chemotherapy.” — Philipp (Ana Maria Arevalo Gosen) MOTHER-IN-LAW WITH “SPECIAL POWERS”: “Before starting the first session of chemotherapy, my mother-in-law practiced reiki to transfer strength to my body and to help fight the cancer by all means. It was a comforting and relaxing experience. Being supported by your wife, family, friends and colleagues, helps so much. We all tried to stay positive.” — Philipp (Ana Maria Arevalo Gosen) SECOND HOME: “Usually I had to stay at the hospital, then two weeks of at-home weekly injections of chemotherapy.” — Philipp (Ana Maria Arevalo Gosen) HOME ALONE: “Those days at the hospital were the hardest; I still remember the feeling when I had to go home, leaving him alone at night. I woke up on an empty bed just to run back to him. We spent weeks at the hospital watching movies and sleeping. We always tried to smile and count the days until he could go back home.” — Ana (Ana Maria Arevalo Gosen) BETWEEN WORLDS: “During the last weeks of chemotherapy, I started to see a psychologist. I asked her, 'Why did it hit me? Did I do something wrong? Was this my entire fault? Should I completely change something about my life?' These thoughts passed through my mind often. But I always concluded that I was happy and that I enjoy my life and the decisions I have made so far, independently of the result.” — Philipp (Ana Maria Arevalo Gosen) MOST HATED PLACE IN THE WORLD: “You meet so many other patients in the hospital and notice that it could have hit you much harder. Other patients with worse cancers and stages had such a positive attitude. I still talk to other patients regularly.” — Philipp (Ana Maria Arevalo Gosen) WATER HEALS: “Then one day … the treatment was done, the results were positive, [I] had fought the fight and [I] had won. We sure had to put our lives together again; nothing feels the same, especially our love that grew stronger.” — Philipp (Ana Maria Arevalo Gosen) FIRST COMPLETE SHAVE: “I always wanted to be a father. I had to freeze my sperm to be prepared for the worst case. It was very strange to drive to the appointment and find myself in a room with a red sofa and porn magazines; it felt like being in a brothel without prostitutes — but I did it. Shortly after, the doctor called and said it was sufficient to make many children.” — Phillip (Ana Maria Arevalo Gosen) FIRST COMPLETE SHAVE: Hair on the floor after Phillip's first complete shave. (Ana Maria Arevalo Gosen) WHERE AM I?: “Everything started to change for the better … and the endless loops of doctor appointments was reduced significantly, the smell of the hospital ran out of our clothes and finally we could say that the treatment worked. We had to start over with our lives; nothing feels the same, and we are surely stronger. We are alive. We made it.” — Philipp (Ana Maria Arevalo Gosen) BODY PART?: “This is the port I carried inside my chest for almost a year, the gate to my heart, the source of all my pain and suffering, but ultimately all my healing.” — Philipp (Ana Maria Arevalo Gosen) LIGHT KEEPS YOU GOING: “This story hopes to bring about awareness of testicular cancer, to make it more understandable and less taboo.” — Philipp (Ana Maria Arevalo Gosen)
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