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The Battle They Didn’t Choose: A Husband Poignantly Documents His Wife’s Breast Cancer Fight (PHOTOS)

When you’re standing before family and friends and annunciate those vows on your wedding day, it’s hard to imagine the extent to which — and exactly when — you just might have to eventually literally stand by your partner “in sickness.”

That he would do it if it ever came to pass was never in question, but Angelo Merendino certainly never thought it would be just five months after saying “I do” to his wife Jennifer. But that’s when she found out she had breast cancer. It was a battle they didn’t choose, but it was one they faced together, every painful step of the way.

“I remember the exact moment [she was diagnosed],” Angelo said. “Jen’s voice and the numb feeling that enveloped me. That feeling has never left. I’ll also never forget how we looked into each other’s eyes and held each other’s hands. “We are together, we’ll be ok.”

And they were, but she wasn’t. Four years later, Jen was gone.

The journey wasn’t just physically painful for Jen and emotionally heart-wrenching for both of them. Part of the process was struggling to get people to understand their “day-to-day life and the difficulties [they] faced” — fear, anxiety and insurance company battles, to name a few.

Angelo, a photographer, documented their entire journey with Jen’s disease with his camera.

“[The photos] humanize the face of cancer, on the face of my wife,” he said. “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.”

Take a look at some of their photos, which tell their difficult, emotional, and beautiful story, and then some:

nggallery id=’131636′

  • The Battle They Didn’t Choose 1 of 16
    The Battle They Didn't Choose
    Photos by Angelo Merendino
  • The Battle We Didn’t Choose 2 of 16
    The Battle We Didn't Choose
    "The first time I saw Jennifer I knew," Angelo writes. "I knew she was the one. I knew, just like my dad when he sang to his sisters in the winter of 1951 after meeting my mom for the first time, 'I found her.'"
  • The Battle We Didn’t Choose 3 of 16
    The Battle We Didn't Choose
    "Five months [after we got married] Jen was diagnosed with breast cancer. I remember the exact moment…Jen's voice and the numb feeling that enveloped me. That feeling has never left."
  • The Battle We Didn’t Choose 4 of 16
    The Battle We Didn't Choose
    "I'll also never forget how we looked into each other's eyes and held each other's hands. 'We are together, we'll be ok.'"
  • The Battle We Didn’t Choose 5 of 16
    The Battle We Didn't Choose
    "With each challenge we grew closer. Words became less important."
  • The Battle We Didn’t Choose 6 of 16
    The Battle We Didn't Choose
    "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.'
  • The Battle We Didn’t Choose 7 of 16
    The Battle We Didn't Choose
    "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."
  • The Battle We Didn’t Choose 8 of 16
    The Battle We Didn't Choose
    "Throughout our battle we were fortunate to have a strong support group but we still struggled to get people to understand our day-to-day life and the difficulties we faced. Jen was in chronic pain from the side effects of nearly 4 years of treatment and medications."
  • The Battle We Didn’t Choose 9 of 16
    The Battle We Didn't Choose
    "At 39 Jen began to use a walker and was exhausted from being constantly aware of every bump and bruise. Hospital stays of 10-plus days were not uncommon. Frequent doctor visits led to battles with insurance companies. Fear, anxiety and worries were constant."
  • The Battle We Didn’t Choose 10 of 16
    The Battle We Didn't Choose
    "Sadly, most people do not want to hear these realities and at certain points we felt our support fading away. Other cancer survivors share this loss."
  • The Battle We Didn’t Choose 11 of 16
    The Battle We Didn't Choose
    "People assume that treatment makes you better, that things become OK, that life goes back to 'normal.'"
  • The Battle We Didn’t Choose 12 of 16
    The Battle We Didn't Choose
    "However, there is no normal in cancer-land."
  • The Battle We Didn’t Choose 13 of 16
    The Battle We Didn't Choose
    "Cancer survivors have to define a new sense of normal, often daily. And how can others understand what we had to live with everyday?"
  • The Battle We Didn’t Choose 14 of 16
    The Battle We Didn't Choose
    "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."
  • The Battle We Didn’t Choose 15 of 16
    The Battle We Didn't Choose
    "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."
  • The Battle We Didn’t Choose 16 of 16
    The Battle We Didn't Choose
    "Love every morsel of the people in your life."

    — Jennifer Merendino

For more of Angelo’s moving photos, visit MyWifesFightWithBreastCancer.com

All images used with permission from Angelo Merendino

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