If you only read one wrenching, touching, tearjerker of a story today, please make it this one.
Five months after New Yorkers Angelo and Jen Merendino were married, Jen was diagnosed with breast cancer. As the next four years of treatment and medications passed, which left then-39-year-old Jen fatigued, in a walker, staying for long stints in the hospital.
With each challenge we grew closer. Words became less important. One night Jen had just been admitted to the hospital, her pain was out of control. She grabbed my arm, her eyes watering, "You have to look in my eyes, that's the only way I can handle this pain." We loved each other with every bit of our souls.
Jen taught me to love, to listen, to give and to believe in others and myself. I've never been as happy as I was during this time.
Angelo, a photographer, began to document her (and their) trials with intimate, powerful shots initially meant for their friends and family. The result is a chronological series of photographs of Jen throughout the course of her illness: laughing, sleeping, grimacing with pain, pushing the painkiller drip, putting on makeup, swimming in the ocean.
My photographs show this daily life. They humanize the face of cancer, on the face of my wife. They show the challenge, difficulty, fear, sadness and loneliness that we faced, that Jennifer faced, as she battled this disease. Most important of all, they show our Love. These photographs do not define us, but they are us.
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Jen passed away a year and a half ago of Stage IV breast cancer. If you're not already crying, this blog post about an alert Jen set on Angelo's phone for the 22nd of every month, just a short time before she passed away ("Jennifer thinks Angelo is hot!"), should do you in. Fucking devastating.
The Battle We Didn't Choose [My Wife's Fight With Breast Cancer]