When Angelo Merendino met Jennifer, he knew she was the love of his life. Less than two years later, the couple were married in Central Park surrounded by family and friends.
But five months after their wedding in 2008, everything changed. Jennifer was diagnosed with breast cancer, and the newlyweds were plunged into the most challenging period of their lives.
“After the diagnosis, our support group was incredible,” Angelo told Business Insider. “Family and friends were sending cards, messages, and meals when we would be in the hospital all day. They even offered to help us pay medical bills. I don’t know how we would have survived that time without that support.”
But after Jen’s treatment ended, their friends and family didn’t understand that the couple were still in a constant state of worry that the cancer would come back — as Angelo puts it, “there is no normal in cancer-land.”
In 2010, their worst fears were realised when they found out Jen’s cancer had metastasized and spread to her liver and bones. Their support group — Jen and Angelo lived in Manhattan while most of their family lived in Ohio — couldn’t see their day-to-day battle and understand how serious Jen’s cancer had become.
So Angelo began to take photographs for their family and friends to show the couple’s daily struggle, documenting Jen’s chronic pain and treatment. “There were no thoughts about releasing a book or starting a nonprofit,” Angelo says. “It was really just about our survival and communication.”
Three years after her diagnosis, Jen passed away in 2011.
“I went back to Manhattan after Jen’s funeral and spent the next few months wandering around the city and staying in the apartment and looking at these photographs,” Angelo said. “When I began receiving messages from people who were moved by our story, I realised that these photographs were going to help me face what I was feeling, and it just turned into almost an obsession of compiling these photographs and turning it into a love letter to Jen.”
The final result was The Battle We Didn’t Choose — an ebook documenting Jen’s cancer through photographs, audio, video, and text that Angelo hopes will help humanize cancer.
“I hope these photographs spark a dialogue,” Angelo said. “It’s great to hear someone say, ‘I hug my husband a little tighter after seeing this story.’ I love that. It makes me think our love was stronger than cancer.”
The book is currently available on the
iTunes bookstore for $US19.99. Half of the proceeds go to
The Love You Share, a nonprofit that provides assistance to cancer patients in need. You can see more of the incredible images at
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