*R.I.P. Jennifer Merendino 10/6/71 - 10/22/2011
I must write this quick update about Jen, as she unfortunately lost her battle with Cancer on 10/22/11. It's extremely hard to write anything because the wounds are still not healed enough for me to write any that can do her justice. She was such a strong and amazing woman and inspired so many people. I love you Jen and thank you for changing so many peoples lives for the better. May you rest in peace and no longer be in pain.
I have been wanting to write this post for a while, but it didn't feel right until now.My boyfriend's co-worker Angelo [angelomerendino.com] and his wife Jen, (who are now mutual friends of ours) have been battling cancer for the past 4 years. Jack and Angelo met shortly before Jen was first diagnosed with breast cancer. I can still remember the tearful phone call from Jack when he had first heard the news. Jen is one of the most amazingly, charismatic, and beautiful people I have ever met, she especially should never deserve such pain and suffering.
I must say, that having met both Jen and Angelo, they have drastically changed our lives for the better. Although, we are on the outside of their struggles, they have managed to positively affect us and widely inspire us to live better lives.
Skip ahead to shortly after they believed that Jen overcome breast cancer, we were having dinner and she opened my world up to the knowledge of such harsh chemicals as parabens, sulfates and perfum that lie in our some of our food and in many of our beauty and household cleaning products. These chemicals have been linked to dangerous diseases, including cancer. Parabens and breast cancer in particular have been linked, please see the information from breastcancerfund.org. Many of these chemicals that we still use in America have been banned through out Europe.
Keeping in mind that using things in moderation really will not effect us but when we list the amount of products that contain these harsh chemicals we realize that daily they are consumed by us, applied to our skin, and used to cleanse our bodies and our homes. When that all adds up, it does not equal moderation.
Since that evening, I have made the effort to change over all of my beauty products, cleaning products and to eat whole foods that do not contain harsh preservatives. I even began selling beauty and nutritional products that do not contain these chemicals in order to promote a healthier lifestyle for my family and friends. If you have any interest in the Arbonne product line, please contact me, I'm serious it is wonderful.
But enough about me, I want to focus this message back on the people who deserve the attention and support. Unfortunately, in 2009 Jen was diagnosed with chronic cancer, which means that she can never be cured of it. As an attempt to spread more knowledge Angelo began a photo documentation depicting their most recent battles. Through these incredibly moving photos he has been able to show the reality of what they are facing on a daily basis. Jen's light has remained bright and her strength and beauty show through her pain and suffering.
After reading Angelo's story about he and his wife, please show your support by following this link [here] to the One Life - An International Photography Competition sponsored by Photo District News and voting for Angelo's photo portfolio that has been entered in a contest, which aims to illuminate the individual's perspective. Winners can receive cash prizes - for this Merendino's that would be a great amount of financial support for the high medical costs. Lastly, you can follow Jen's blogs Green Your Intentions, for living a better life and My Life With Breast Cancer to get her perspective.
I have pulled Angelo's story from his website www.angelomerendino.com where he also updates his images regularly.
September of 2007, I married the girl of my dreams. Five months later, Jennifer was diagnosed with Stage 3B Breast Cancer. Completely numb and in a state of disbelief, 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, hip and sacrum. Jennifer now lives with the diagnosis of chronic cancer: until there is a cure for cancer, Jen will always have to receive some type of treatment.
During our battle, we have been blessed with an incredible support group. Nonetheless, most people are not aware of the challenges that we face every day. We often hear: "Jen looks healthy, glad that things are back to normal." Little do they know that she is in chronic pain from the side effects of 3-plus-years of treatment and medications. Or that we face fear, anxiety and worry daily. Few know that Jen has to give herself shots every day into her abdomen. She has to use a walker and cane and is exhausted from being constantly aware of every bump, bruise or twitch. She has to do special exercises to fight off lymphedema. The frequent doctor visits lead to battles with hospitals and insurance companies. Pain has sent her back to the hospital twice, for week-long stays.
Sadly, most people do not want to hear these realities and we can feel our support fading away. Other cancer survivors share this loss. 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. And how can others understand what we have to live with everyday?
My photographs show this daily life. They humanize the face of cancer, on the face of my wife. They detail the treatments forced into and onto her body, through the visible scars. They show the challenge, difficulty, fear, sadness, loneliness and also love that we face, that Jennifer faces, as she battles this disease. These photographs do not define us, but they are us. 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, kinder empathy, deeper understanding, sincere caring and heartfelt concern. - Angelo Merendino
I offer my love, support and gratitude,