New York photographer documents wife's breast cancer battle - WNEM TV 5

New York photographer documents wife's breast cancer battle

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Photographer Angelo Merendino photographed every stage his wife went through in her battle with cancer.

The first time Merendino saw Jennifer, he knew she was the one.

Jen and Merendino started dating about six months after they met. Soon after that, he moved to NYC and proposed the night he flew into town.

She said yes, and a year later they married in Central Park.

Five months after their special day, Jen was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Merendino said with each challenge their marriage grew closer.

"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," Merendino wrote on his website.

Merendino began to document his wife's battle. Through photos he was able to capture fear, sadness and most of all the love they had for one another.

Jennifer died at the age of 40 years old in December 2011.

Merendino created a book called "The Battle We Didn't Choose, My Wife's Fight With Breast Cancer."

CBS Atlanta: How long have you been a photographer?

Merendino: I stared making photographs around 2001.

CBS Atlanta: How did you find out Jen had cancer?

Merendino: Jen's General Practitioner felt a lump during a routine checkup in 2008 and advised that Jen have a mammogram. The results confirmed that it was breast cancer. 

CBS Atlanta: How did Jennifer react when you decided to document her journey?

Merendino: Jennifer was very open with her experience. Before I started making these photographs Jen had a blog – So when I started making photographs it was an extension of something that was already happening. Jennifer trusted me and she knew that before I made photographs I was taking care of her; she was always my first priority. 

CBS Atlanta: How do you feel about the attention the photos have gotten?
Merendino: It's humbling. Our intention when I began making these photographs was to show our family and friends what we were going through. After Jen's cancer metastasized we noticed that most people didn't understand how serious Jen's illness had become and we felt our support group fading away. There were no thoughts about a book or an exhibition or anything like this attention.  A close friend suggested that I post our story on the Internet and with Jen's permission I shared some of our photographs.  The response was incredible. We began to receive emails from all over the world.  Some of these emails came from women who had breast cancer. They were inspired by Jennifer's grace and courage. One woman shared that, because of Jen, she confronted her fears and scheduled a mammogram. That's when we knew our story could help others. It helps me to heal knowing that something beautiful is growing from something so horrible and unfair…that Jen's legacy is helping others.

CBS Atlanta: How have you changed from this experience?

Merendino: Life is short and precious and I want to follow my heart. I don't want to waste time. I let the people in my life know how much they mean to me and I do my best to understand what it might be like to be in someone else's shoes.
CBS Atlanta: What feelings do you get when you look at these photos? Do you feel these moments again?

Merendino: These photographs are a bridge back to the most challenging time in my life. Sometimes I look at these photographs and I can't believe this really happened, that Jen died. Other times I look at the photographs and I think of our love. These were the greatest years of my life.

CBS Atlanta: How did Jennifer change your life?
Merendino:  Before I met Jennifer I was trying to figure out who I was. I didn't believe in myself and I was struggling to find my purpose in life. Jennifer changed all of this. She encouraged me to follow my dreams and to trust myself. Jen believed in me even when I didn't.

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