“Love every morsel of the people in your life.” – Jennifer Merendino
Over the course of learning about this woman’s amazing story, I found myself swiping at my eyes and just being all the more thankful for another day. We have all heard about the devastating disease that is cancer, but not many are aware of the struggles and emotions involved in the day-to-day activities of the people involved. Photographer Angelo Merendino painstakingly documented his wife’s battle with cancer and has shared their story with us in an effort to “humanize the face of cancer.”
The first time I saw Jennifer I knew. I knew she was the one. I knew, just like my dad when he sang to his sisters in the winter of 1951 after meeting my mom for the first time, “I found her.”
Angelo and Jennifer were married in Central Park surrounded by their family and friends. You would think that the couple would have at least a few years of marital bliss to look forward to, but just five months later, Jen was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Initially, the purpose of documenting his wife’s battle was to show their friends and family what they were going through in the hopes of receiving more help and support. The decision to post these powerful images online was made after a close friend suggested posting them and once he did, the positive response poured in. Emails from women also plagued with breast cancer spoke of how Jen’s story, with the help of Angelo’s images, inspired others to keep fighting despite the pain and struggle.
Angelo also documented people’s reactions to Jen as she began to use a walker to help her get around. Almost 4 years of treatment took its toll on Jen and the chronic pain was simply becoming too much for her to bear and the added support became a necessity.
Jen’s battle with cancer was tough, but to be on the other side of the camera was no easy feat either. It is a testament of Angelo’s dedication and support for his wife. It speaks of a profound love, one that was tested by life’s realities but remained steadfast in a trying time. “These photographs do not define us, but they are us,” he writes on his blog.
To this day, people continue to respond to their story. It is a reminder that cancer survivors, even when declared cancer-free, will forever be looking over their shoulders for signs of relapse. As Angelo puts it, you “have to define a new sense of normal, often daily.”