Women bare their mastectomy scars for breast cancer awareness

All photos courtesy Stand Up To Cancer/Ami Barwell Photography

One in eight Canadian women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lifetime and with October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, these statistics are being shared more and more.

There’s no doubt that cancer has touched almost all Canadians, either through a personal experience or supporting a loved one who has been diagnosed.

To support Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Stand Up To Cancer campaign released a photo series featuring women affected by breast cancer proudly displaying their mastectomy scars.

The photo series, titled Mastectomy, was shot by Photographer Ami Barwell. Inspired by her own mother’s battle with breast cancer, Barwell wanted to highlight women who have been touched by breast cancer, displaying the bravery and beauty of those living with cancer. Barwell’s mother, Sue, was first diagnosed in 1993 and underwent a mastectomy followed by radiotherapy and chemotherapy. In 2011, her 69-year-old mom was diagnosed again. She has since made a full recovery.

“It was absolutely devastating when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer,” said Barwell. “I wanted to shoot this project to raise awareness and show the defiance of women who remain equally as beautiful without breasts… despite what they’ve been through, these women are empowered. They are strong, happy and sexy.”

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While some of the women featured in the photo series are in remission, others are still undergoing cancer treatment today.

One of the women featured in the series is 46-year-old Mel Johnston from Merseyside, England. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014, she later discovered it had spread to her lymph nodes. Despite receiving chemotherapy and surgery, doctors determined last year that her cancer is incurable.

“Since having cancer I want to embrace every opportunity that comes my way and really live life to the max. But I also want to demystify mastectomy scars,” said Johnston. “I’m still a woman and I wanted to show that breasts do not define my sexuality or gender. I’m still me despite having a part of my body missing.”

Despite the incurable status of her cancer, Johnston couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be featured in the Stand Up To Cancer photo series.

“I’m so proud to be part of this project. Stand Up To Cancer is all about sticking two fingers up at cancer and I think Ami’s captured that beautifully,” explained Johnston. “I wanted to be involved partly because, when it comes to new experiences, the word ‘no’ is no longer in my vocabulary.”

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Launched in 2012, Stand Up To Cancer was founded by Cancer Research U.K. Rachel Carr, head of both SATC and Cancer Research U.K. said the project highlights the bravery and inspiration the pictured women represent.

“We’re grateful to all of them for being part of it. Ami’s powerful images perfectly capture their strength and defiance,” she said Carr.

“We hope these images will inspire the nation to join the rebellion and help fund our ground-breaking research so that we can help save more lives, faster.”

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