TODAY   |  May 24, 2012

Wife’s strength gives man courage to wear pink tutu

Photographer Bob Carey has photographed himself all over the world in nothing but a pink tutu. He speaks with TODAY’s Matt Lauer about how his wife’s cancer diagnosis inspired him.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> back at 8:19. most people wear a pink ribbon to help raise money for breast cancer . but bob isn't like most people. he's found a creative way to show his support. we'll talk to him and his wife in a moment. first natalie has their story.

>> and a great story it is. picture this, a grown man posing for self-portraits in little more than a pink tutu. bob kerry has been doing that for more than nine years. it's all for a great cause and to help his loving wife, linda .

>> reporter: for the last nine years, photographer bob kerry has traveled across the country, taking hundreds of self-portraits. his ritual was always the same. he finds his spot, sets up his tripod, focuses his camera, and then does something, well, a bit out of the ordinary. he strips down to nothing more than a pink tutu.

>> i feel like i'm giving everything i have for these images.

>> reporter: his pictures have been described as magical, from subway platforms to public beaches, parking lots to amusement parks . bob lets his imagination soar. his inspiration, his wife, linda . they've been happily married for 24 years.

>> i started using this project to just get away from things and to start expressing myself. and it's turned into this journey.

>> reporter: bob's unlikely journey began in 2003 when linda was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer . as she faced grueling rounds of radiation and chemotherapy, the tutu project became an outlet for them both, a way to laugh through the tears.

>> it made her happy to see that i was doing something. she loves seeing me work.

>> he just forgets about things and becomes this guy in a pink tutu. which is very funny.

>> reporter: but just three years after linda 's initial diagnosis, her cancer came back. this time it had spread to her liver. her doctors say it isn't curable. each day is a battle.

>> i have a very strong reality of what can happen. i mean, i can go and get my blood test tomorrow, and it can be not good.

>> reporter: with bobby her side, linda undergoes cancer treatments every three weeks. it's become a routine part of their lives.

>> hi. how are you? this is new, actually.

>> reporter: he often brings his pictures along to show other patients in hopes of raising a smile and inspiring them to find their inner ballerina.

>> this is the fastest my treatment ever went by.

>> i immediately felt like, okay. i can do this.

>> reporter: an unlikely inspiration, bob's tutu has taken on incredible meaning in the fight against breast cancer . he's created a nonprofit organization to help raise awareness and money for patients in need. just recently, his ballerina website, the tutu project, has gone viral. his pictures now touching countless people across the globe, many writing him simply to say thank you.

>> your images made me smile, laugh and cry all at the same time. your pictures reminded me of my mom. life is good. maybe even better after cancer. you just want more of it.

>> reporter: with each camera click, bob's heartwarming mission continues from the grand canyon to times square in new york city . he says his wife's strength gives him the courage he needs to place dress-up and give back, just a man in his pink tutu. it truly is a love stare. as you heard, every three weeks bob goes with linda for her treatments, and the two of them have become a huge inspiration to so many women at the center and beyond, matt.

>> natalie, thank you very much. bob and linda kerry, good morning.

>> morning.

>> can i just start by saying, this is fantastic. i love this story.

>> thank you.

>> linda , most wives, their husband comes to them and says, i'm going to start taking pictures of myself in a pink tutu all across the country, they say, my god, i've been living a lie. but you should, should we go out and buy fabric? why did you react to it that way?

>> i'm used to bob. we worked together. we worked on a lot of creative projects. and it didn't surprise me a bit. okay, where do we get the fabric and who do we know that sews?

>> there's a smile in every one of these photographs. but there's also vulnerability in these photographs. what are you trying to convey?

>> well, i'm trying to just let people know that you can express yourself and that i'm doing it for other people, i think. you know? they come to me and they say, i wish i could do that because that's how i feel, you know? and it really makes me feel good that i can spread that, you know, self-expression throughout people.

>> and to know that these people in these very difficult times, like linda , can stop for a moment even while they're undergoing treatment and smile and laugh and get their mind off that.

>> right.

>> it's a terrific gift you give them.

>> right.

>> linda , you've heard from people, as bob has. you got some e-mails with you. just read me a sampling of what you hear from people.

>> "my dad passed away from years ago from cancer. on valentine's day, my mother passed away fighting breast cancer . i just wanted to say thanks. i haven't even smiled since, but you made me laugh. good luck and thanks again."

>> bob, you have another example?

>> yes, i do. "thanks, bob, for making me laugh today. through the pink tutu photos. i had my first breast cancer surgery on february 22nd , and my second last friday, the 16th. my support and hugs to your wife, linda , as i know what a frightening road this is. i hopefully am cancer free now and will face radiation treatments in the near future. laughter is an important part."

>> these pictures have created a community here. that community was there but has drawn these people together. what's the goal? i know you've raised money already. what do you want to do?

>> well, we would love to -- after we publish the book, the net proceeds will go to the foundation that we started. and we would just really -- i would like to raise $150,000, at least, and to help women. we have two organizations that we'll donate to, but also really help women, women who don't have health insurance .

>> linda and bob, good luck to you.

>> thank you so much.

>> bob, thanks for sharing this with us. we really appreciate it.

>> thanks so much.

>> we're back right after your local news and weather.