By JILL LACINA
In Australia, one in nine women and one in 1,000 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer. I have, fortunately, not been one of them.
But a brief conversation with a stranger who had suffered from breast cancer made me want to help. And I decided to get involved with a project photographing breast cancer survivors and their scars.
That stranger was Rosemary Paul, one of the co-creators on our book, Perfect Scars. Unlike me, she has had breast cancer. She has had a mastectomy at 40 and two reconstruction surgeries since, become a Lymphatic Drainage Therapist, joined a support group, led a support group and is a proud Ambassador of the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Her five year anniversary cancer-free has been and gone and she wears pink… proudly and beautifully. She lives a vibrant life and is joyously defiant.
But in the moment she was diagnosed with Breast Cancer, she had no idea that any of that was possible. She didn’t even know what she would look like after surgery. That was 13 years ago. Back then it was almost impossible to find a photograph of a mastectomy. The one she did receive was of a headless woman who was 65 plus showing only a raw scar across a strangers chest taken under harsh surgical lights. There was no relationship between the breast cancer and the person. With trepidation, she wondered how this headless person felt about her scar? How had she lived her life and come to terms with the changes to her body and mind that inevitably occur with any cancer diagnosis?
Together with Rosemary Paul and Beverley Corlett (Psychotherapist and Interviewer Extraordinaire), we created something to start that conversation. Three years later, we are no longer strangers nor are we publishing professionals. We are wonderful friends with a shared passion for Perfect Scars! We found 20 women and one man (Yep, Breast Cancer happens to the boys as well) who courageously shared their stories and scars. All of the women and men involved have made peace with their scars and many refer to them as ‘perfect’. They have offered their wisdom and bodies to help others down the path of recovery and healing. They are nothing short of amazing.
Nowadays, there are thousands of images on the Internet of mastectomy scars. But have you seen them? They often continue to be headless images, with red angry scars, mugshot-style under fluoro lighting. Realistic? Yes. Reassuring? Not even close.
After a cancer diagnosis, people need to find hope and determination that they will come out the other side. And so do their family and friends. We hope Perfect Scars can help people deal with the physical and psychological impact of breast cancer and to love and accept their perfect scars. We wanted to reassure and inspire people to live with passion and purpose and be the perfect whole person that they always were and will always be.
All Profits from the sale of the book are donated to the National Breast Cancer Foundation to continue their support for breast cancer research. For more information and to purchase your copy, visit the website or like Perfect Scars on Facebook.