“Until death do us part”; a simple vow, yet a solemn one. And for couples all around the world, communion with this intention is one of the strongest bonds between two. For Angelo Merendino and wife, Jennifer, their marriage in New York’s Central Park was where they sealed their lives together… “for better or for worse”.
But unfortunately things did get worse. Much worse. Five months after their beautiful union surrounded by family and friends, Jennifer was diagnosed with breast cancer. The illness, which an estimated 1 out of 8 women (in the US) will contract, is the most prevalent cancer in the world. That doesn’t make the burden any easier to bear.
The couple had witnessed the tragic toll cancer could cause in others, but never expected to experience it for themselves. To bear the burden together, first-time photographer Angelo Merendino photographed each stage of his wife’s battle – from her diagnosis, to her treatments through to the very final stages of her life. The intent was to “humanize the face of cancer” and capture the reality many live with every day.
Merendino told the Huffington Post, “People turn away from the day-to-day of cancer a little more which I understand. It’s painful. Before Jen and I went through this, I didn’t know what is was like either.” Although his initial plan was to only show the photos to his family, he and Jen ultimately “chose to face it head on and put the information out there if people want it.”
The following photographs “show the challenge, difficulty, fear, sadness, and loneliness” caused by the unexpected diagnosis. Most importantly, the images also share their unquestionable love for one another.
A word of warning, the documented journey may be found distressing.
Although it has been a year and a half since Jennifer passed away, the site Merendino created to raise awareness and support of the disease has gained incredible response. “The Love You Share”, a non-profit organization, has mission to financially support women in need whom are receiving treatment for breast cancer. From the proceeds of his book, “The Battle We Didn’t Choose, My Wife’s Fight With Breast Cancer”, 50% of profits go to help other women possibly survive their bout with the disease.
And because of Jen’s bravery, her legacy will live on in the countless lives that may be saved through increased awareness and financial aid offered by the organization. For Merendino, “It at least makes me feel like we made something positive out of something horrible.”
All photos were taken by Angelo Merendino