Beth contacted me in late August 2015, weeks after discovering that she had cancer—bilateral, concentric, invasive mixed mammary carcinoma to be exact. Her medical team had recommended a double mastectomy, which was scheduled for September 15. She wanted me to create photographs as keepsakes for her daughter, who was about to turn twelve. Beth was confident that she would beat the cancer, but she wanted her daughter to remember what she looked like before the surgery.
During our initial meeting, I proposed three photo sessions: one just prior to the surgery, one immediately after, and one at least a year after surgery. We both wanted to create something that reached beyond Beth’s initial need to document herself for posterity. We then spoke to breast cancer survivors and discovered that there is little post-operative support for women who have undergone mastectomies. We hoped that these photographs would serve as a resource for people to better understand the experience.
I was honored to be included in such an intimate, personal exploration, and moved to have received her trust with something so important and full of unknowns. I was also struck with Beth’s matter-of- factness about the situation. My impression was of someone very comfortable in her own skin, powerful, confident, and willing to explore and take chances. With this said, she did feel a certain amount of conflict about the attention she might receive and the notion of vanity that could be construed from such a project.
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