Jen Garza and Britton Thomas lost their loved ones to cancer, but their tragedies brought them together—and created a movement.
—Photo courtesy of Jen Garza and Britton Thomas
When Jen Garza and Britton Thomas were first introduced, they bonded, like most strangers do, over their similarities. The thing they had in common, though, was unusual: Both had lost their spouses to cancer.
Garza and Thomas had connected through Marcia Donziger, the founder of a Denver-based organization called MyLifeLine.org, a website that allows cancer patients or their families to create free, private websites to keep friends and loved ones informed of their diagnosis, treatments, and progress. Each had used the resource while Ruben, Garza’s late husband, and Jacqueline “Jax” Arcaris, Thomas’ late wife, were struggling with the disease, and Donziger thought the widows might be able to support each other once Ruben and Jax had passed away.
“A lot of people right afterwards would tend not to ask if I didn’t bring it up,” Thomas says. “As a caregiver who lost somebody, I always felt selfish for bringing it up, but Jen and I were both thinking about it pretty much nonstop.”
Nearly three years after a memorable “first date” (they had just met after corresponding back and forth as penpals and neither expected the outing to be romantic) where they went skydiving in Longmont and saw My Morning Jacket perform at Red Rocks, Garza and Thomas are getting married. Although they initially tied the knot during an intimate ceremony in Pennsylvania in May, the couple is holding a special reception at Larkspur’s Spruce Mountain Ranch today, July 16.
In honor of Garza and Thomas—and in loving memory of Jax and Ruben—Donziger came up with the idea to dub July 16 International Ribboning Day, during which those who have been touched by cancer will form the shape of the ubiquitous cancer ribbon with their bodies and post photos of the action on social media, using the hashtag #Ribboning. As of this morning, more than 300 people on all seven continents had already submitted photos.
“I appreciate the goal of MyLifeLine to humanize the ribbon,” Garza says. “We can all get a little pink ribboned out or any color ribboned out. Having people take the form of a ribbon to represent what they’re going through puts the human element back into it.”
Follow @ribboning on Instagram to see examples of the pose and post your own shot by tagging #ribboning.
Follow editorial assistant Mary Clare Fischer on Twitter at @mc_fischer.