It’s a simple thing, a tutu. A collection of materials that, depending on their length and composition, allow the wearer to tell any number of stories.
Usually when we think “tutu,” we think “ballerina.” We think of the prowess of “Swan Lake” or of a 5-year-old’s twirls. We don’t think “cancer” or beating it.
Bob Carey does, though, because beating cancer is the most important thing in his life. It’s not himself he has to worry about — it’s his wife, Linda, who was diagnosed with breast cancer 10 years ago.
She beat it, but it came back. This time, it spread to her liver and was deemed incurable.
For Linda, laughter is salvation. So Bob, a photographer, turned to his art to help himself and his wife. He grabbed his camera and, feeling inspired, a tutu.
He travels around the country, getting beautifully composed photos of himself in a bubble-gum-pink tutu and little else.
“It just makes me laugh, to see my husband dancing around in a tutu,” Linda Carey said in a YouTube video about the Tutu Project, as it’s come to be known. “It helps me be positive. The more I laugh, the better I feel.”
Linda shares them with other women facing the same battle.
“Women really like the fact that he’s standing out, that he’s standing by me,” she said.
The Tutu Project started out as a story of a man and a tutu, but the positive reaction to it led the Careys to establish a nonprofit, the Carey Foundation, to help other families pay for cancer treatment.
“I knew it had to go further and I knew I had to keep taking the photographs,” Bob said. “And they really started to mean something to me.”
They started to mean something to a lot of people. T-Mobile announced the company would be the sponsor of the Tutu Project, and a video produced by the company has been viewed more than a million times since it was posted on YouTube Dec. 3.
For the Careys, an impossible situation has been made a little easier from helping others experience a moment of joy during a time of trial.
“Her cancer has taught us that life is good, dealing with it can be hard, and sometimes the very best thing — no, the only thing — we can do to face another day is to laugh at ourselves, and share a laugh with others,” Bob wrote on the Tutu Project’s website.
He’s not alone in his thinking. A video created recently by the Mimi Foundation showed what happened when a group of cancer patients were given ridiculous makeovers by the foundation.
The group had to promise to keep their eyes closed until the reveal, at which point a photographer captured the looks on their faces when the shock allowed them to forget their illness for just a moment.