I recently had an offer presented to me which at first scared me, then intrigued me, then excited me, and now has empowered me.
When an opportunity to be the subject of a photoshoot came up, days after the best day of my life (my wedding day), I was still riding that “high” and threw caution to the wind and agreed to go for it. I was hesitant for sure, but something in my gut told me that this was an offer that I couldn’t refuse.
I was going to do a “boudoir after breast cancer” shoot.
Over the past three years I’ve had to learn to love my body in a whole new way. When I first learned that my breasts had betrayed me, it was easy to come to terms with why they had to be removed. What I didn’t realize, was how hard it was going to be to accept them again, after reconstruction surgery.
Many doctors and health care professionals had poked and prodded at me, to the point where it was nothing for me to take my top off and have my “foobs” (my fake boobs) examined. It wasn’t until I learned about sensuality and the power of self-love post breast cancer, that I remembered why it was important to feel good in my own skin. I had to learn to feel that way again, be private, yet proud of my new self.
They’re not perfect, but they’ve come a long way. I’ve come a long way too!
After cancer treatments left my chest cut open and sewn up, burned and sore, stretched and scarred, I tried hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I knew deep down that I would find myself again. I picked myself up and went back to the gym and started eating healthy – knowing that I had a wedding dress to fit into! I was overwhelmed with compliments on the big day, and in the midst of all the attention, something clicked – I felt confident, beautiful and sexy again!
I was determined to remind myself that when I looked in the mirror at my body, the first thought would not be cancer. It would be strength and self-love. It would be a reminder of the fact that I’ve survived, and I’ve got a story to tell – a story that’s mine, that I will be known for. A story that I’m finally ready to share with the world, in hopes to inspire others.
On the day of the boudoir shoot, I didn’t know what I was in for. I surprisingly couldn’t find a lot of information about how to prepare for something like this online, but I have been following other cancer survivors, like Anna Crollman (http://www.mycancerchic.com/breast-reconstruction-awareness/) who has been documenting her journey online.
Her posts were an inspirational help for me along my own, similar, path.
I met Crystal Jessup, for the first time, at the boudoir shoot. She was about to get to know me, real fast. She worked her magic, despite being in a new space, where she hadn’t shot before. In the research I did find, it said “dress in something that you’re comfortable in”. So I didn’t go out and buy new lingerie, I packed a suitcase full of any sexy-yet-comfortable clothing that I thought I looked half decent in. The article also suggested playing some music that you like, so I turned up my favourite – Lana Del Rey, and we got to shooting. The outfit changes were smooth and I quickly learned to trust Crystal’s eye. We were able to talk a bit, while she recommended poses which didn’t really feel like “poses” at all.
Before I knew it we were done! It was easy to feel comfortable in my own skin now. Not only was I still in good shape from the wedding, but because of why I was doing this photoshoot.
I wanted to capture my body at this stage
because in exactly two weeks time, I would be having another surgery for reconstruction.
It had been a year since my delayed reconstruction, implant surgery and in that time, the cancer side had not settled properly. I had developed a condition called “symmastia” as well as some hollow areas around the implant and uneven inframammary fold lines. I was also concerned with animation on the other side. So I knew the surgery would be major, and that the look of my foobs would be changed, permanently. So I was grateful for the opportunity to have pictures taken at this stage, as a way to help explain the process to other women going through a similar series of events.
Here’s a link to the photos, if you’re interested. Please share with anyone who may benefit. A huge thank you to Crystal Jessup Photography for capturing the shots, to Andrea and Dale Ross for providing a beautiful backdrop, and to ReThink and YSC for helping to share my story.