Add to Collection


Black and White medium format portraits of women who are proud to have undergone mastectomies when fighting breast cancer

'It didn’t bother me, the surgeon said Ihad the choice of mastectomy or radiotherapy and I said ‘mastectomy please’ andhe said ‘oh no, go home and think about it for a while,’ I said ‘ well theanswer will be exactly the same.’ It’s just never bothered me, it’s only aboob, I’ve had all my children, I’d breastfed them all, they had done theirjob, I know I’m not sort of normal, the only thing that sometimes gets me iswhen I see really pretty bras, you are so limited, there is a bigger selectionnowadays but it’s not like going into a shop and seeing rows and rows of prettybras, but that’s nothing is it, I’m still alive. I’m probably not normal, but maybe itsbecause it’s better than my son who had to have his arm amputated as a childdue to cancer, and then we still lost him, and he was only 14. There are justso many young people affected who are so much more worst, how could I possiblybe bothered about losing a boob?’


'I don’t regret a second of it, a lot of people say at 32 it was a bigdecision to make, but I had 2 children, a lovely husband, solid marriage, Ididn’t have anything to think about other than survival. I suppose the biggestissue with it all, not least is the cancer, you think well that’s cut off gone,that’s it over, but the impact it had on family life. With two kids runningabout, still working full time, having chemotherapy and radiotherapy, it wasjust bloody inconvenient.’ Since Rachel’s double mastectomy, she has enduredreconstruction, which they now offer to younger women before the mastectomyoperation. ‘ I’m a big lady and they wouldn’t do reconstruction at the time, soI actually spent some time without and use to wear prosthesis, but with a youngfamily it was a nightmare, these soft, spongy things would drop out when youwent swimming or shopping, so I decided to have reconstruction. Still theyweren't happy to do surgery unless it was completely essential, in the end Imanaged to convince them that it wasn’t for vanity but for sanity.’ ‘ I thinkit has made me a different person, things happen in life for a reason andsometimes you will never know what that reason is. I don’t think of myself as acancer survivor, I just see it as I’m different this side of my life than I wasin that side of my life.’

'It is a fairly decent age in other people’s eyes. I think I wasjust quite relieved I was the age I was at the time, an older woman, being awidow it helped as well, no one had to look at me, I would imagine it would beharder being a younger woman. I was offered reconstruction, but at my age Ithought no, I’m not fussed. My diagnosis happened quickly, so I suppose Ididn’t have time to worry about it. I was just sitting on the bus with my armsfolded and said ‘ mmm, where has that come from?’ It still didn’t effect mesomehow, it’s almost as though nature gives you a hand and you learn to acceptthese things. I just felt relieved after the mastectomy, in the back of yourmind you do think, I had it, they cut it off and it’s gone and just get on withyour life, I didn’t have time to dwell on it.’
'After I had my mastectomy Ifelt devastated, I couldn’t bare the dressing to come off, I felt shocked whenit did come off, it’s gone, it’s really gone. It is horrible, it’s part of yourwomanhood you've now lost, it takes time to come to terms with it, but you haveto decide, you can either go down or go up and I wanted to go up. Sometimes Istill look at myself and think ‘oh god, look at that ugly scar, people can seeit,’ but it’s not the end of the world. I had lots of reassurance from myhusband saying that you’re beautiful and it doesn’t matter, you are who youare, your so brave etc, and well as long as I’m fit, as long at I’m healthy,it’s only your boob, I’m thankful to still be here, so what’s a boob at the endof the day?’