Marina McDonald has long been fearful of breast cancer.
That’s the very reason the mother-of-two is vigilant with getting yearly breast checks and mammograms – she’s educated, and is acutely aware how quickly a cancer diagnosis can rip her away from her family.
Her story begins on an otherwise nondescript day in 2013, when during a routine scan she noticed her GP hovering around a small spot on her left breast. Marina would soon be told she was dangerously sick with cancer, a kind so insidious that it slipped past the prior checks, yet so ferocious that it was an immediate threat to her life.
At 43 years old, Marina wasn’t ready to leave behind her husband, Surend, and young kids, Sydney, then three, and Noah, seven. She would do whatever it took to give herself the best chance of survival.
She would convince her hesitant doctor to give her a double-mastectomy.
LISTEN: Lisa Wilkinson explains Marina’s moving story to Mia Freedman on No Filter. (Post continues…)
“I just thought ‘let’s do whatever we have to do to give me longer with my kids’,” she tells me matter-of-factly, largely unperturbed at the thought of losing her breasts, which she says “really didn’t bother me that much”.
Knowing she would be undergoing an incomparably invasive surgery and looking for comfort, Marina googled images of women post operation. She was met with a scrolling wall of “clinical, faceless images”, ones that served a practical purpose, not an emotional one. While those blueish photographs taken in doctors surgeries and dotted through pages of medical journals were well and good, Marina wanted to see the person behind the operation. She wanted to know these women themselves. Their essence, their stories.
That’s when she stumbled upon the work of David Jay, a photographer from Wisconsin, who has dedicated his life to finding beauty in the most unlikely of places. A portion of his work, entitled ‘The Scar Project‘, seeks to show how breast cancer survivors are beautiful pillars of strength.
“You can see in their eyes they’re happy with who they are” Marina thought at the time, knowing she could be one of them.
What she did next changed the course of her life forever.
Marina teamed up with Lisa Wilkinson and Canon to produce truly captivating, human images. Topless. Scars and all.
“If I can put it out there that this is what it is, this could actually help other women face up to it." Marina says, perfectly at ease with the prospect of 'baring all' for the camera. "It didn’t really bother me, I’ve always been comfortable with my own body and in my own skin. There weren’t any nerves attached to it, I just thought 'this is who I am'.”