I really never wavered in my decision to have a double mastectomy,
but as the day approached, and I made my way through my first October – breast cancer awareness month – as a “survivor,” I wanted to have some professional photos taken – something to remember “them” by, and also something to document the process, build awareness, share my journey from “before” to “after,” whatever that was going to look like.
I imagined something artsy, tastefully done, not completely nude, but showing their volume and shape without the constraint of a bra.
I didn’t think to do this until about a week before surgery, but a friend introduced me to a wonderful photographer, Marie. When I told her my idea, she suggested using pink body paint to cover my breasts and then splattering them with black to represent the cancer. So creative and perfect, I thought, and she squeezed me into her busy schedule, two days before the surgery – Monday, October 28.
Although I loved her idea in theory, as the day approached, I grew more uncomfortable with the idea of topless photos, even covered in paint, even in the name of breast cancer awareness. The very idea of being naked in front of Marie as she painted me pink was making me anxious, and I imagined the horror of my teenaged daughters if I published the photos, which I really wanted to be able to do.
The solution was a super-stretchy too-small hot pink sports bra
that my daughter had worn (under her t-shirt) to the breast cancer walk the weekend before. You could still very much make out the lines of my breasts, but my photos wouldn’t be R-rated.
The fact that earlier that day the plastic surgeon had taken a thick purple sharpie and drawn a line down the center of my chest (you can see it in the pictures if you look closely) and big purple parallelograms over each breast to mark where they would cut made the whole thing feel that much more real…