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Pulitzer-winning photojournalist who documented his battle with cancer to visit MU

Sunday, February 10, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CST
Using a remote hidden in his hand, John Kaplan photographs what he calls the worst pain he has ever endured, a bone marrow biopsy. He endured two separate, simultaneous Non Hodgkin lymphoma cancer diagnoses, one found in his bone marrow and a second in his lower abdomen.

COLUMBIA — When John Kaplan learned he had cancer at 48, he did what was natural for him — he took pictures.

Kaplan has won multiple awards for his work as a photojournalist, including a Pulitzer Prize for feature photography. As a photographer, he has worked in Africa and countries all over the world to capture the emotional and intimate aspects of social issues.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: "Not as I Pictured," an autobiographical film that follows John Kaplan as he battles lymphoma.

WHEN: 5 p.m. Monday. A reception will be held from 5 to 6 p.m., followed by the film. A question-and-answer session will follow.

WHERE: Lee Hills Hall, Missouri School of Journalism, Eighth and Elm streets.

 


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“In my career I’ve almost taken for granted that people will be willing to open up their lives to me and thus for readers and viewers of my work,” he said. “That was a question I had to face myself — would I be able to open up my own life and that of my family, as we faced the largest crisis we could have ever foreseen?”

He did. The result is the autobiographical film, "Not As I Pictured," which follows Kaplan as he battles lymphoma, beginning with the diagnosis in 2008.

He will visit the Missouri School of Journalism on Monday for a reception at 5 p.m. and a showing of the documentary at 6 p.m. An exhibit of his work on the project will be on display until March 4 in the McDougall Center Gallery in Lee Hills Hall at Eighth and Elm streets.

The film began as a coping mechanism for Kaplan, but he said he wanted to share it with families facing cancer to lend hope and support. 

In 2011, there were an estimated 662,789 people living with lymphoma or in remission, according to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. 

Through grant money, Kaplan is giving the film away for free on his website. He has already given away almost 7,000 copies.

The film has also helped people in the medical field see a patient’s perspective, he said. It reminds the medical community to treat cancer patients like people and not like another chart.

“I don’t think the film teaches those in the health care field necessarily how they should treat patients, but it does help motivate them to know they can truly make a difference in the world through empathetic care for patients,” Kaplan said. 

His cancer is in remission, and he said the disease has brought a great clarity to his life about what’s truly important.

“If you or a loved one has ever had to hear that seemingly horrible word, cancer, my hope is that in the future it won’t have the same bite, because cancer no longer typically means death,” he said.

“You can make it back to health and the joy of every day. Today, most people do.”


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