Courage lives here

Having recently had my dearest friend face down the spectre of breast cancer, I have been dwelling on thoughts of life after radical surgery. I am in awe of the courage it takes to background fears of reoccurrence so today can be enjoyed; to put aside the past self in order to embrace a new body image; to face the unimaginable yet remain unbowed.

The media coverage of breast cancer seems largely to focus on possible causes (which over the life of a tabloid will include just about everything you do, eat or use); oversimplified research findings; or high profile survivors. Until now.


The Scar Project
An American photographer, David Jay, who says he wanted to unsettle a “public anesthetised by pink ribbons and fluffy teddy bears” has created a pictorial series about breast cancer called The Scar Project. Often leaving survivors without hair or breasts, cancer and its treatments can challenge our notions of femininity, yet the beauty of the women in the photographs shines through. The Scar Project lays bare in graphic detail the physical havoc wrought on beautiful young bodies by this disease, juxtaposed with the raw emotions of the women, ranging from sorrow, through defiance to joy.

As one young woman said “The scar represents everything I’ve been through. I’m proud of what I’ve been through.”

The participants in the project wanted to help others confronting a cancer diagnosis and to raise awareness about the number of young adults dealing with the disease.

Reach for Recovery Conference
The need to draw back the covers on the reality of cancer and its treatment (literally and metaphorically) was also articulated by the Livestrong Foundation at the 2013 Reach for Recovery conference held in South Africa. The Foundation reported that it had surveyed media and the general public in almost a dozen countries and found that there is a missing link in public awareness.

Livestrong believes this can be overcome by identifying cancer survivors who are prepared to speak out about their experience to remove the shame, silence and stigma that surrounds all cancers, not just breast cancer, particularly in developing countries.

Carole Renouf, CEO of the National Breast Cancer Foundation, reported that the conference was confronting for participants from developed countries to hear horror stories from survivors in developing countries.

“Throughout the three days of the conference, I was emotionally battered by tale after tale … of the experience of breast cancer in developing countries…

“The typical presentation of breast cancer in Third World countries is as a visible lesion, poking through the breast and chest wall. Then there are those who do get diagnosed but who cannot get the services they need,” said Ms Renouf.

Mother’s Day run
One of the biggest fund-raisers for breast cancer research is coming up next month. Every Mother’s Day for the past 15 years, people have the opportunity to walk or run to honour those touched by breast cancer and raise money for research.

Australia’s biggest breast cancer research fundraiser, the Women In Super Mother’s Day Classic, is being held on Sunday, 12 May 2013 in all capital cities and major metropolitan cities to support the National Breast Cancer Foundation.


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