When his wife Jennifer was diagnosed with stage 3B breast cancer in 2008, photographer Angelo Merendino used his camera to document her experience. These images became the unsparing, moving photo essay “The Battle We Didn’t Choose”.
In Angelo’s words: “…we entered the world of cancer. A double mastectomy, four months of chemotherapy, five weeks of daily radiation, reconstructive surgery, and finally we were told that Jennifer was free of cancer. It was just after our first anniversary. Cancer, however, opted again to interrupt our life. Some two years after Jen’s initial diagnosis, we received news that the breast cancer had metastasized to her liver and hip; ultimately the cancer made its way to Jen’s brain. A little over a year and a half after this second diagnosis, Jennifer passed.”
During their battle, Angelo and Jen were blessed with an incredible support group. Nonetheless, they came to realize that most people are not aware of the challenges that they faced every day. Sadly, it is assumed that treatment makes the patient better, that things become okay, and that life goes back to “normal.” However, there is no normal in cancer-land: cancer survivors have to define a new sense of normal, daily.
Angelo aims to show this daily life in his images and to humanize the face of cancer. His images detail the treatments forced into and onto Jen’s body, as well as show the challenges, difficulty, fear, sadness, loneliness and love that they faced as she battled this disease.