Today on Phlearn we are welcoming back Angelo Merendino. If you haven’t seen our previous feature, you can view it here to get acquainted.
Last interview, we showed a story presented by Angelo Merendino about his Wife’s Fight with Breast Cancer. Jen was Angelo’s love of his life, as soon as he met her he realized she was the one. Five months after their marriage however, their vows were challenged by a diagnosis of breast cancer. During that moment of diagnosis where so many emotions are running throughout your head, they looked into each others eyes and held each others hands, and said as long as they had each other- they would be okay.
In Angelo’s words; “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. 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.”
Angelo is back today to talk about his book that was released on September the 1st (Angelo and Jennifer’s 1 year wedding anniversary) titled “The Battle We Didn’t Choose: My Wife’s Fight with Breast Cancer”. The book is $14.95, and 50% of the net profits of the book sales will be donated to “The Love You Share“, which is Merendino’s non-profit organization that he’s starting in Jennifer’s honour. The mission of the Love You Share is to provide financial assistance to cancer patients in need while they are receiving treatment.
This book is a PDF, and for good reason too. To accompany the carefully written words and the delicately placed photographs are little audio bars where you can press “play”. In these audio clips are recordings of Angelo speaking of his love for Jennifer. Video is also implemented into this book.
So join us as Angelo joins us to talk about his new book “The Battle We Didn’t Choose” and much more.
Hi Angelo, welcome back to Phlearn!
I’m so excited about the release of your PDF book “The Battle We Didn’t Choose”.
How did the release of the book go?
Releasing this book has been an incredible learning experience. Working with the book designer, creating, updating and maintaining my website, marketing the book…I had no idea how much goes into producing a book. I’m still working hard to spread the word that this book is available but so far the response has been positive. All in all, I feel like this book is a love letter from me to Jen, so the most important thing to me is that I finished what I started.
In total, how long did it take for this book to go from planning stages to published?
I’ve been editing these photographs since Jen passed, which was on December 22nd, 2011. During this time I worked on many different types of edits – exhibitions, my website and interviews to name a few, and things evolved into the final book edit. As far as planning the layout, text, audio and video…I’d say I really started to focus my thinking this past February.
Do you ever plan on releasing a hard copy of the book? (why/why not?)
I chose to release the initial version in digital format is that I wanted to make our story accessible to people all over the world without dealing with shipping a physical book. The digital format also makes the book more affordable while offering an opportunity to expand on the traditional book format by including audio, video and links.
That said, it is important to me that I release a hard copy of the book at some point. Printed and digital photographs offer two very different viewing experiences. I just have to figure out the means to make this happen.
How soon into the planning of the book did you decide to implement audio? It’s such a nice touch. To hear you actually talk about this is so, welcoming.
Thank you. As I started to explore the possibilities that a digital book offers it just made sense to add audio. The more I experimented the more video made sense too. So, audio and video were in my thoughts from the beginning.
Jennifer felt it was important to share her experience with breast cancer. She hoped that by doing so other woman facing the same challenge wouldn’t feel so alone. This is incredible.
I’m curious. What’s the most inspiring feedback you’ve ever received from somebody who was touched by your project and your lives?
I don’t think I can choose just one thing because the response to our story has been so overwhelming. When a woman with breast cancer is inspired by our story that fills my heart with joy. The same is true when someone schedules a mammogram after seeing my photographs or when someone points out how obvious it is that we were so in love. I have to make something positive out of this experience or else cancer wins.
Last interview, you were yet to have your exhibition The METAvivor & Angelo Merendino Photographic Exhibit, and since then you have had more exhibitions. How are all of these exhibitions and shows going?
The Metavivor exhibition and my current show, Observing and Reacting, have been wonderful experiences. I’ve been able to meet and get to know many inspiring people and hopefully our message will continue to spread.
What is the most valuable thing you’ve taken someone whom was attending an exhibit of yours?
That love is stronger than death.
Besides helping people all over the world with your blogs and your book by telling you and Jen’s story, your also helping people by telling yours and Jen’s story to doctors, nurses, and students at the VA hospital in Cleveland (as I seen from a Facebook update).
Was this the first time speaking at a hospital? If so, how was it and do you plan on trying to do this again at different hospitals (or the same one) in the future?
This last speaking engagement at The VA Hospital in Cleveland was my second time speaking to doctors, nurses and medical staff. The first was at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan. It’s a very emotional experience for me. Jennifer and I hoped that by sharing our experience we could shed light on life with breast cancer not only to our family and friends but also to people in the medical world. I can only imagine the challenges a doctor faces on a daily basis and at the end of the day he or she goes home and is a parent, a spouse, a friend…My goal is to humanize cancer so that doctors and nurses do not see someone as “just a patient” but as a loved one, someone who is the most important person to one or many other people. Hopefully I can continue to speak at more hospitals as these two experiences have been well received.
I’m only asking this question because I looked at your Facebook page and realized how open you truly are. I hope you don’t mind me asking but, how did you celebrate you and Jen’s wedding anniversary on September the 1st?
I don’t mind at all. I spent the afternoon with my parents at their home, and then we went to the cemetery. After this I met two of my friends (they both stood up for us at our wedding) for dinner to celebrate the release of my book. It was a rollercoaster of a day…many emotions came flooding through my mind.
Tell us a fond memory of Jen that you have thought of recently? (I love the Facebook post about jen doing the robot!!)
For the first six months of our relationship Jen and I dated long distance, which grew to be too much and I moved to Manhattan. On the night I flew to town Jen and I had dinner at one of our favorite Italian restaurants. After we finished eating I got down on one knee and asked Jen to marry me. Jen yelled, “SHUT UP!!!!!” So, there I was on one knee after selling most everything I owned except for my cameras, my drums, some clothes and my cats and I was wondering, “What does shut up mean?!?!” Then Jen grabbed the ring and I could breath again!!
They say it is better to have loved and lost then to have not loved at all. Tell us about the love you had with Jennifer.
I remember the last day when Jen was alive. One moment I would want so badly for it to be me and not Jen, and then I would flash back to a memory of Jen and me sitting in the park, laughing and holding each other…it felt like I could hear her laughter and feel her body like I was back in that moment. As painful as that day was there were also moments of complete happiness and joy as I realized that I got to spend part of my life with the woman of my dreams. Our time together was the greatest time of my life and I’m proud that our love is stronger than cancer.
What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome in publishing this book?
Deciding which photographs to not include. It was difficult deciding what worked best as an overall edit vs. something that was so important to our story. Some photographs aren’t as “strong” technically as others but they are incredibly important for the story. I had to let go of my ego and follow my heart.
Would you say that Jen is proud of you?
Yes. Jen always encouraged me to follow and trust my heart and I know I was true to my intentions.
To purchase Angelo and Jennifer’s book “The Battle We Didn’t Choose: My Wife’s Fight with Breast Cancer” you can either click here, or click the image above.