The SCAR Project – A Look at Breast Amputees

Barbie (1) Courtesy of David Jay Bridgette. Courtesy of David Jay Elisa. Courtesy of David Jay There are many variables that go into a woman’s ability or willingness to have reconstruction following a mastectomy. I have had a successful reconstruction and then I had two failures. I know that adds up to three, but all of that activity was on the same breast. Like I said, a lot of variables…

The pain can be both physical and emotional, just look into some of these women’s eyes. I personally can’t stop thinking about the breast that I lost because the area where it used to be hurts all of the time. There is a possibility that more surgeries could alleviate the pain and maybe even put me back together again. However there is also the possibility that the surgeries could fail and I could end up worse off than I am now.

I began to wonder if there were other women like me out there who were struggling with the aftermath of breast cancer treatments and the realities of what it does to our bodies and our personalities? I also wondered if there was anyone out there who was willing to talk about and expose the shockingly raw realities of breast cancer? Lets cut the crap with the pink ribbons and the movie star smiles and have a game of show and tell.

Courtesy of David JayI came across The SCAR Project by fashion photographer David Jay. Two things impressed me right away; the first being that David is a man. The second is that he started an awareness campaign to shed light on what women really look like following a mastectomy, and encouraged them to feel empowered, instead of  ashamed. It’s somewhat of an oxymoron; a man empowering women to feel beautiful because of her disfigured breasts. Breasts are the quintessential symbol of femininity, and men have made it abundantly clear to us women how much they love perfect breasts. So much so, that we women have spent billions of dollars to augment our breasts to make their appearance desirable to men. And then to top it off, we oblige societies love affair with breasts by parading them around like balloons on Thanksgiving Day . Jolene and Kyle. Courtesy of David Jay

But what happens when the breasts need to be amputated to save your life? What if reconstruction is not wanted, not possible or not available because the woman doesn’t have insurance? For most of us women a part of our sexuality and confidence is lost with those mastectomized breasts. David found that by photographing women for the SCAR Project helped them to reclaim their femininity, their sexuality, and some of the power that they had been robbed of.

Kristen. Courtesy of David JayTo me, these pictures represent a small shift in society’s acceptance of a tribe of scarred, breastless and one breasted women. Since 1 and 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, this tribe that I currently belong to is growing. Exposure will help women like me to accept what we might not be able to change. Perhaps fashion designers will make a bra for women with one breast so we don’t have to wear an external device to appear “normal.” What if not having breasts or having one breast becomes acceptable? What if it is seen as a badge of honor and strength? What if we could tone down our obsession with breasts just a little bit? I appreciate David for helping us to see this through a different lense. Jill. Courtesy of David Jay

Please check out the SCAR Project at http://thescarproject.org/ for more photos and information.

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Of Course They’re Fake, The Real Ones Tried To Kill Me

October 2011

Breasts, tits, hooters, ta-tas, knockers, melons, jugs, boobs, bosoms, headlights, chest puppies, cans, the girls, rack, bazookas, or whatever you call them, they are a powerful part of the female body. Our breasts can attract mates, nourish babies, provide self-esteem, contribute to a woman’s sexual well-being and be the constant subject of male fascination everywhere. But for some of us, they are trying to kill us.

After my second diagnosis with breast cancer, my doctors informed me that I would need a mastectomy. It is my right breast that is diseased; the left breast has never shown signs of cancer. They gave me the option to remove both breasts or just the diseased breast. I chose to remove only the right breast and to preserve my healthy left breast. Why? Because there was no sign of disease in my left breast and I tested negative for the gene that pre-disposes one to breast cancer.

Besides, the surgeons warned me that having a mastectomy isn’t the insurance policy that we all hope it is.

The surgeons cannot guarantee that they can remove 100% of the breast tissue, so with even one breast cell left behind post-mastectomy, cancer can grow, which is exactly what happened to me.

I underwent the mastectomy and reconstruction, a process that was extremely complicated and painful since I had already received radiation on that right breast. Radiation degrades the tissues and makes reconstruction more complex. My plastic surgeon had to swing my latissimus muscle from my back to my chest wall in order to support an implant; he also had to harvest tissue from my back to reconstruct a nipple. He then tattooed the reconstructed nipple to match my natural nipple. He did an amazing job and I sit an awe of the results of a good plastic surgeon. When I showed a girlfriend the results of my surgeries, she asked which one was fake? That is how good reconstruction can be.

Perugia Italy January 2012

A year later the cancer returned for a third time in the same right breast. The cancer came back in a more aggressive form, an invasive form. Two rapidly growing tumors each a different type of cancer.  I would require immediate surgery, chemotherapy, 35 radiation treatments, and even more reconstructive surgeries. I was devastated as my breast continued to try to kill me even though it was gone.