Over the last 48 hours I have looked at these photos time and time again. I have shared them with my wife and daughter. I have been touched tremendously and my water-filled eyes have been opened to the daily struggles and emotions those face who are fighting cancer. I have been incredibly grateful to the photographer Angelo Merendino, who took the time to document his wife's journey through photos and share them with all of us to help "humanize the face of cancer." In Merendino's words, "these photographs do not define us, but they are us."
Just five months after Angelo and Jennifer Merendino were married she was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. After getting the news the two (looking into each other's eyes) swore to continue the fight together. "Throughout our battle we were fortunate to have a strong support group but we still struggled to get people to understand our day-to-day life and the difficulties we faced," said Merendino. In an effort to help others understand, Merendino began documenting his wife's fight through photographs.
The photos are a poignant reminder of just how difficult daily life is for those fighting cancer. The sadness, the frustration, loneliness and fear that is experienced. The photos are also a demonstration of the love that Angelo and Jennifer had for one another.
One particular set of pictures that is very powerful is when Angelo begins documenting the stares at his wife as she walks in public, often with her walker as she was too weak to do it on her own.
While it was hard to document the experience in photos Angelo said that Jen really wanted the photos to be an honest representation of those fighting cancer. "I don't want to hide anything, I want to help others - not just women, but anyone with cancer," he recalled her saying.
"Cancer is in the news daily, and maybe, through these photographs, the next time a cancer patient is asked how he or she is doing, along with listening, the answer will be met with more knowledge, empathy, deeper understanding, sincere caring and heartfelt concern." excerpt from their photo blog The Battle We Didn't Choose.
One particular thing that stood out in this next photo is the bed on the couch made up right next to Jen's bed. The rail on that side of her bed lowered so the two could be close, holding hands, loving one another.
Before passing, Jen would always say, "Love every morsel of the people in your life." What a great reminder for all of us. Help Jen share her story and legacy by following their Facebook page and visiting their blog. Angelo is also working with Whitney Johnson, director of photography at the New Yorker, to put together a book sharing more of Jen's fight with cancer. I am so grateful for the friend that shared this story with me as it has opened my eyes to a world I have never experienced. Let's continue sharing Jen's story with others. My heart goes out to Jennifer and her family and friends for their loss. I also want to thank Angelo Merendino for allowing me the permission to share this story and his photos with our readers here on Fstoppers.