real life

She was diagnosed with cancer. This is what her husband did next.

When Jennifer Merendino was diagnosed with cancer, her husband documented her battle.


We all know someone who has been affected by cancer. Yet very rarely do we witness the stark day-to-day experiences of life after the diagnosis.

Jennifer Merendino was diagnosed with breast cancer less than six months after marrying her boyfriend, Angelo, in 2007. She endured  numerous treatments and surgeries – a double mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation and reconstructive surgery.

While Jennifer and Angelo were fortunate to be surrounded by a strong support group, the couple struggled to give their loved ones an understanding of the difficulties and emotional turmoil they faced daily.

“People assume that treatment makes you better, that things become OK, that life goes back to ‘normal’. However, there is no normal in cancer-land. Cancer survivors have to define a new sense of normal, often daily,” Angelo writes on his website The Battle We Didn’t Choose, established in Jennifer’s memory.

In order to help their loved ones understand how serious things had become, Angelo began taking photos of Jennifer as her disease developed.

He captured the first locks of hair she lost when she began chemotherapy, and the pain and loneliness etched on her face during her long stays in hospital. Other images depict the reactions of strangers as they passed Jennifer, aged just 39, using a walking frame to walk down the street.

The heartbreaking final shot is of Jennifer’s gravestone in Ohio. She died in 2011, only days after her 40th birthday.

On his website, Angelo writes that he hopes these images will “humanise” the face of cancer.

“Cancer is in the news daily, and maybe, through these photographs, the next time a cancer patient is asked how he or she is doing, along with listening, the answer will be met with more knowledge, empathy, deeper understanding, sincere caring and heartfelt concern.”

See the full series of photos here, or follow Angelo on Twitter here.

The Cancer Council provides various support services to people battling cancer. You can find information about these services here.