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Interviews and Questions from Scarves Dot Net

knots for hope

Whether it’s heartfelt anecdotes or inspiring triumphs, the Scarves Dot Net gals love to share stories — especially when they’re incredibly touching. That’s why we’re starting a new series called SDN Spotlight. From influential bloggers to community leaders, we’ve scoured the blogosphere for the most inspiring men and women.

Our first interview was with Ann Silberman. Ann taught us that we should not solely focus on breast cancer “awareness” during October, but instead we should channel our efforts to support cancer research all year long.

We are happy to bring you another interview today, this time with photographer Angelo Merendino of The Battle We Didn’t Choose: My Wife’s Fight with Breast Cancer. Angelo’s blog documents Jennifer, his wife, and her fight against cancer through photography. His black-and-white shots chronicle the honest reality of Jen’s cancer, but also show the unwavering love between a husband and wife.

Read on for our interview with Angelo:

shaving jen's head

5-3-2011 Shaving Jen’s head

SDN: How did you meet Jennifer, and when did you know that she was “the one”?

Angelo: I was living in Cleveland, Ohio, and was looking for a bartender job. I wanted to work at an establishment that I would enjoy and where I could be myself. There was a restaurant in my neighborhood, The Fulton Bar and Grille, and I stopped by one afternoon to apply. When I arrived, there was a sign on the door that read “back in 15 minutes,” so I sat down to wait. A few minutes later, I saw a black VW Beetle pull in to the parking lot, and I got up to meet the driver. When I turned the corner I was stopped in my tracks — I saw Jen and knew right there that she was the one.

my wife's fight with breast cancer

September 2007 Honeymoon

SDN: How was Jennifer’s breast cancer discovered, and how did you deal with the news?

Angelo: Jen went to see her general practitioner for a check up. The doctor felt a lump and advised Jen to schedule a mammogram. A short time after that, Jen got the phone call that no one wants to get. We were both numb. I remember that we looked into each other’s eyes, knowing we were together and that would never change.

my wifes fight with breast cancer

4-25-2011 Jen waiting

SDN: Can you describe your journey together as Jennifer battled breast cancer?

Angelo: Jen was diagnosed in February of 2008, just five months after our wedding. The following eight months brought a double-mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation, and reconstructive surgery. After this we started to put our life back together, which was tough because we were still so numb and exhausted. We noticed that many people would say, “That’s great, treatment is over and things can get back to normal for you two.” That wasn’t the case at all. Jen was aware of every bump or twitch in her body, and it felt like cancer was always just over our shoulder.

In April of 2010, our biggest fear became our reality, when Jen’s cancer metastasized to her liver and bone. We were back in the non-stop world of treatments, doctors appointments, side-effects, and on and on. Around this time, we realized that most people do not know what it’s really like to live with cancer. We only knew because we were living it, so we started to share our experience with others. Each day brought new challenges, and we did our best to communicate and stay positive. Throughout all of this, our love for each other grew stronger.

SDN: What advice can you give those who have loved ones facing this fight? In what ways can they offer support?

Angelo: It is so important to be there for someone who is receiving treatment for cancer — not only during treatment, but also after. You don’t have to know what to say, you just have to be there. You can also send food or order dinner for someone. You can offer to clean someone’s home. You can even just send a text message telling this person that you love him or her — just don’t disappear.

my wifes fight with breast cancer

8-13-2011 Jen and Beth, friends for over 20 years

SDN: A telling statement that you made on your blog is, “There is no normal in cancer-land.” How did you and Jennifer define a new sense of normal?

Angelo: Jen and I did our best to stay in the middle. By that I mean that our emotions were pushed and pulled in so many directions, and we couldn’t go too far with any of these feelings. Of course we were happy when good news came in, but we also had to stay prepared for news that we didn’t want to hear, because it happens — and vice versa. It’s just that cancer brings so many unknowns and unpredictable situations, and not many people talk about how to deal with this. We had to keep our guard up and always roll with the punches. That said, the most important thing we did was to embrace every second.

my wifes fight with breast cancer

7-1-2011 Jen getting Eribulin

SDN: Your beautiful photography has been a way to express yourself throughout this experience. What are you hoping others take away from your photographs?

Angelo: Thank you. I hope that people see the love in my photographs. Cancer played a heavy part in our story, but I don’t think that it was ever more powerful than Love.

SDN: What photo resonates the most with you from your journey together?

Angelo: I can’t pick one, but I do love the photos that I made of Jen and me by holding the camera out in front of us. I just like seeing us together.

SDN: How has blogging about Jennifer helped you through this experience?

Angelo: Blogging about our experience has helped me because of the overwhelming kindness that has come in response to my posts. I guess it helps me to believe that although Jen is no longer physically here with us, her legacy and love are still alive and strong.


12-16-2011 Jen receiving communion

SDN: You are in the process of creating a book of your photography in Jennifer’s honor. Can you share more about this project and your hopes for its future?

Angelo: Thankfully, Jennifer let me photograph our day-to-day life. Our hope was that we could share with others the challenges faced by those struggling with cancer and the importance of family and friends. My goal is to publish a book that will accompany a traveling exhibition of these photographs, our story. To raise funds I have started a crowd-funding campaign. By contributing to my campaign, you will help bring awareness to the realities of a daily life with cancer and the importance of being there for someone who is fighting for his or her life.

My photographs are not just about cancer. They are about love and life and never giving up. They are about embracing every second.

***

Many thanks to Angelo for sharing his story and beautiful photos with us.

If you are moved by Jen and Angelo’s story, please contribute to Angelo’s crowd-funding campaign: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/241925.

Also, check out Angelo’s blog, Facebook, and Twitter for more photos and updates.

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