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Scott and Jennifer Matsuda: supporting one another

Scott and Jennifer Matsuda have spent their entire relationship—including 22 years of marriage—taking turns supporting each other.

When they first met in the 90s, Jennifer was working as a photographer. Though she felt restless taking children’s portraits and knew she had a good eye, she didn’t know if she was ready to take the leap to start her own business.

Scott knew.

“Quit your job and I’ll support you for a year,” he said to her at the time.

At his encouragement, she launched her own photography business, which was so successful that she was able to support Scott through photography school as well.

Today, their company, Red Fish Blue Fish, is nationally known for corporate and political photography. In 2022 alone they photographed the president of the United States, the first lady, the vice president, the speaker of the House of Representatives, and more.

However, business wasn’t always this thriving. When Scott was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia in 2012, it was difficult for him to keep working.

“Photography is a rigorous business–each camera is nine pounds,” he said.

As small business owners, every job counts. When Scott had to cut back on his work, their income took a hit, but Jennifer did everything in her power to support him.

I felt very alone and very responsible for our finances, and sorry for dragging Jennifer into this.

Scott Matsuda

“Every year we would go after the best insurance we could afford. As a small business, it costs around $20,000 every year to maintain our insurance before we even got hit with the $82 a pill,” he said.

The expensive drug was originally covered as part of a clinical trial, but when the trial period ended the Matsudas could not afford to pick up the cost of the only treatment that seemed to work for him. Scott was prepared to stop taking it until his oncologist connected them with the PAN Foundation.

“It happened so quickly. We got the letter and were standing in our kitchen, and it said PAN was going to carry the cost for the rest of the year,” Jennifer said.

They were able to renew Scott’s grant with PAN the next year, which allowed him to continue with his treatment. The new medication was a miracle for Scott. It allowed him to continue his photography business with Jennifer and to take part in all of the things he wanted to do.

PAN’s assistance allowed me to fully participate in life.

Scott Matsuda

With Scott now in remission, the Matsudas are reevaluating what is important to them. They are now being more selective in their photography gigs to reprioritize time with one another and with their family. They love spending time with their grandchildren: reading Beverly Cleary books together, climbing the plum tree in their garden, playing card games, and more.

Scott and Jennifer Matsuda with their grandchildren

“I didn’t know how the next stage of my life was going to turn out. Going forward, I have a goal of wanting to remain relevant in people’s lives,” Scott said. “We love our grandkids…We want to continue to be present in their lives, not just time together, but to continue to be connected. I didn’t know if I was going to be capable of any of that.”

The Matsudas are hopeful to begin travelling again soon and look forward to planning a trip to Europe. They also want to make time to get in front of the camera together.

“We don’t have many photos of us together,” Jennifer said with a laugh.

They have also found ways to share the support they’ve given each other with the greater leukemia community. Both serve on PAN’s Patient and Family Advisory Council as key ambassadors and advisors to PAN.

Jennifer teaches caregiving classes, sharing her years of experience helping Scott through his cancer journey. Scott mentors others with leukemia to help them not to feel so alone. So far, he has mentored more than 30 people.

Scott explained that most of his mentees are just looking for someone to talk to who understand what they are going through. They have lots of questions, but through their conversations they are able to remind each other that they aren’t alone and that they’re all surviving.

“We have this choice of how we want to live the rest of our lives,” Scott said. “Many of us, our lives are going to be shortened. It makes me much more cognizant of the fact that I need to be much more focused on living the good life now.”

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