A few weeks ago, I received a phone call from Caz, a wonderful, courageous lady. She explained that following a cancer diagnosis, she was having a double mastectomy in a few days time and she wanted some beautiful portraits of her body before undergoing surgery. “Is that weird?” she asked. “Not at all” I replied. Although I had never been […]
A few weeks ago, I received a phone call from Caz, a wonderful, courageous lady. She explained that following a cancer diagnosis, she was having a double mastectomy in a few days time and she wanted some beautiful portraits of her body before undergoing surgery. “Is that weird?” she asked. “Not at all” I replied. Although I had never been asked to do this for anyone before, I had read about other photographers who had done pre-mastectomy photoshoots for their clients.
I was incredibly moved by Caz’s story and her bravery; it was an honour to be able to create these special images for her. Caz has kindly agreed to share her story along with some of her images.
‘After fifteen years of working as a breast cancer specialist, I knew that cancer didn’t discriminate, so when a biopsy of what felt like a harmless lump under my arm showed breast cancer I wasn’t especially shocked, devastated, or stunned. After more scans and talks with my amazing NHS team, we decided that I needed a mastectomy, and because the tumour had been very hard to identify it seemed wise to go for a double mastectomy: it was goodbye to the boobs. Though the prevailing feeling I had was sadness, they’d still done their job and I was prepared to let them go. But then a thought popped into my head: why not get some photos first? I ran the idea past my two daughters, who didn’t think I was weird or mad. The younger one even knew of a school pal who’d had some beautiful pregnancy shots taken by Trish, and after looking at Trish’s website I knew she was the right choice.
Three days after calling Trish, and four days before my surgery, I found myself baring all in her private studio. She understood immediately that I didn’t want a typical boudoir shot – this was no time for glamour – but a record of how my body had been until now. I wanted something to look back on, which could maybe empower other women to make a similar choice: it’s all too easy to get swept up in the sequence of medical procedures when you’re faced with ‘the C word’, and to forget to spend some time taking stock. Trish had made a careful note of what I wanted, so the shoot was thorough yet efficient, and utterly professional. Best of all, I wasn’t ‘just another client’ to Trish; she took the time to get to know me as a person, so that she could do justice to what I had in mind.
The end photos testify that she really got it: Trish sent the images over today. After the obligatory few minutes cringing (Oh, those wrinkles! That stomach – you can see my C-section scar!) I saw past that, to a strong and beautiful sixty-one year old woman who was about to go through with something far more commonplace than we may think. Funnily enough, when I showed my daughters the photos they didn’t see any of the flaws that I did. What they saw was not wrinkles or scars, but a sensitively captured image of a beautiful body, taking a bold and empowering action, ready to face the future with grace.
This illness, and this surgery, just forged another milestone, and now I’ve got a permanent record to attest to the miraculous strength of the female body, which can do everything from growing and nourishing children, to recovering from pretty drastic – and life-saving – surgery. I hope that these words will encourage other women facing breast surgery to consider doing the same.’
These photos resonate with me deeply, as I am facing a mastectomy in a few short weeks and have been considering photography to memorialize the body I know today. May Caz be blessed with good health and know that her bravery is an inspiration to me at a very difficult time. Beautiful work Trish – may you also be blessed for what you have done for Caz (and those of us walking the same path).
Martha, thank you so much for your kind words. I’m very sorry to hear that you are also going through this and I’m sending you lots of love, strength and good wishes for your surgery and recovery. Thinking of you. Trish