Bare Reality

bare reality

Photographer Laura Dodsworth started the project after becoming frustrated with how breasts were shown in the media, feeling that most portrayals created an “unobtainable ideal.”

“I felt compelled to embark on a personal exploration of what it means to be a woman,” Dodsworth told The Huffington Post in an email. “To understand women’s experiences through their body. I wanted to re-humanize women through honest photography and interviews, present our breasts as they really are and burst the ‘fantasy bubble’ of the youthful, idealized and sexualized breasts presented by the media.”

bare reality

© Copyright Laura Dodsworth 2012-2014. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

The book features photographs of women aged 19 to 101, of all breast sizes and sexualities. Some women talk about how their breasts give them confidence, while others reveal struggles with self-esteem related to their cup size.

All of the stories remind us that women should be proud of their bodies despite the size, appearance or presence of their breasts.

In an anecdote from the project posted on The New Statesman today, one woman shares her experience with breast cancer and a subsequent mastectomy.

bare reality

© Copyright Laura Dodsworth 2012-2014. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

The woman, age 54, also discusses her decision to cover the scar with a floral tattoo rather than undergoing reconstructive surgery.

I don’t think I could have psychologically come to terms with my “battle scar” as easily without the tattoo. It would have taken a lot longer to look in the mirror and feel okay about the scar where the boob was. It makes a statement and it’s pretty to look at. I’m proud of it. I want people to realize you don’t have to hide away, just because you’ve had breast cancer.

For each book sold, a donation will be made to Breast Cancer UK.

Dodsworth, who is herself the 100th person profiled in the book, hopes that the project will empower women and assure them that, no matter how complicated their relationships with their breasts, they are not alone.

“Bare Reality has changed me, and changed how I think and feel about women.” she told HuffPost. “It has transformed my relationship with my breasts. Quite simply, I like myself more as a woman, and I like my breasts more.”  Learn more here.

New Swimwear Line Proves you Don’t need 2 breasts to Look Sexy

from The Huntington Post, Ryan Grenoble, posted 5/28/14:

 monolina

“Who says you need two?”

That’s the question a group of breast cancer survivors and supporters are asking after founding “Monokini 2.0,” a social art project centered on swimwear designed for women who have had a mastectomy.

“We think that the current focus on a breast-reconstruction after mastectomy as the only way to a full life, is a breast-fixated way of seeing what a woman is,” the group wrote on Facebook. “We want to incite a positive self-image of breast-operated women by showing that you can be whole, beautiful and sexy even with just one breast or with no breasts at all.”

Monokini 2.0 features the work of seven fashion designers from Finland and the U.S., and a handful of models who have lost one or both breasts as a result of a mastectomy.

The project is the brainchild of Elina Halttunen, a breast cancer survivor. In a release, Halttunen explained the idea came from her own experiences after having had a breast removed:

“I do not want to hide, I do not want to stop swimming, I do not want to undergo extensive plastic surgery operations, and I do not want to be forced to use the uncomfortable prosthesis on the beach,” Halttunen said in a release, explaining that the idea came from her own experiences after having had a breast removed. “I want to feel as free and active as I did before my cancer, and I am pretty sure that there are others out there like me.”

 

To view some of the bathing suit line and the courageous and natural women who model them, visit http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/28/monokini-2-breast-cancer-swimwear_n_5405377.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular

Dense Breast Tissue = MRI

MRI-foundationActress Christina Applegate had a double mastectomy in 2008.  What follows is an article about how she discovered it.
“I lost my mind,” said Christina, 42, when asked how she reacted to her diagnosis. “I still sometimes lose my mind six years later. You look down and you have a daily reminder of everything that you’ve gone through.”

The double mastectomy saved her life after her breast cancer was detected by an MRI when she was 36 years old. “I started getting mammograms at 30, but my doctor said ‘the mammograms are not working for you because you’re too dense, and so we’re going to do an MRI.’ It was with that MRI that I found cancer, years before a mammogram would have.”

The former “Married with Children” star finds that as a mother to Sadie Grace, she worries that the foods we eat have something to do with women getting cancer so early on in life. “We have her on a completely plant-based diet,” she told ET’s Brooke Anderson. “It’s because I want her to have the best chance possible.”

Today, Christina’s foundation Right Action for Women gives free MRIs for high-risk women. “Were into almost 500 now,” said Christina. “We’ve spent over half a million dollars on MRIs, which is really incredible.”

If you have dense breast tissue and are at risk, and cannot afford an MRI, you may wish to visit her website which helps women like you.

Less invasive procedure destroyed all cancer cells when tumor was 1 centimeter or less.

o-NEW-YORK-TIMES-570Interesting new technique.  Here’s my concern…. when I was diagnosed with DCIS (ductal carcinoma in Situ), they identified one area.  Post mastectomy and upon analysis of the tissue removed, they found other DCIS cells not previously identified.

Had we simply ‘frozen’ the identified cells, I would have ended up having breast cancer again…either more DCIS or it might have progressed to another stage.  This is not a ‘sure thing’ yet, so proceed with caution.

“A tumor-freezing technique might offer a reasonable alternative to surgery for some women with early stage breast cancer, a preliminary study suggests.

The research, to be reported Wednesday at the American Society of Breast Surgeons annual meeting in Las Vegas, looked at a treatment called cryoablation. The approach, also called cryotherapy, uses substances such as liquid nitrogen or argon gas to freeze and destroy cancer cells.

Cryoablation is already an option for benign breast tumors called fibroadenomas, and for certain cancers — including some cases of skin, prostate and liver cancers. But researchers are just beginning to look into its potential for breast cancer.

The new study included 86 women with early stage invasive ductal breast cancer — which means the cancer had begun to invade the fatty tissue around the milk ducts.

The standard treatment is to surgically remove the cancer, usually followed by radiation. And it’s very effective; the five-year survival rate for stage 1 breast cancer is 100 percent, according to the American Cancer Society.

Still, some researchers want to find less invasive treatments — especially since breast cancer screening often finds tiny tumors, explained study author Dr. Rache Simmons.

Cryoablation fits the “less invasive” bill: A surgeon inserts a thin probe through a small incision in the skin, and then — guided by ultrasound — targets and freezes the tumor.

There are potential advantages of cryoablation over conventional surgery, according to Simmons, who is chief of breast surgery at New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City.

For one, it can be done with local anesthesia, and it avoids the pain and hospital stay that comes with surgery. “Cryoablation lends itself very well to the outpatient setting,” Simmons said.

And afterward, she noted, there’s no surgical scar.

But cryoablation also has to work. To put it to a preliminary test, Simmons and her colleagues treated all of their study patients with the procedure, then looked at the immediate results.

Overall, the treatment was only moderately successful: It got rid of all evidence of the cancer in 69 percent of the women. The rest of the women still had some “residual” cancer.

However, Simmons said, the treatment was “100 percent effective” in a subset of women with the smallest tumors — about 1 centimeter or less. So it’s possible that for those women, cryoablation could be a new option.

An expert not involved in the study urged caution, however. “We already have a very good treatment” in conventional surgery, said Dr. Subhakar Mutyala, associate director of the Scott & White Cancer Institute in Temple, Texas.

He noted that even when women are not able to have major surgery, minimally invasive surgery — which uses small incisions — may be an option.

Why is the ‘cure’ a drug?

molehilllComing to us from San Antonio Texas,  this story:

“Women at high risk of developing breast cancer because of family history or bad genes have a new option to help prevent the disease.

A study of 4,000 women found that a daily hormone-blocking pill cut the risk of developing breast cancer by more than half after five years of use.

The drug is anastrozole (uh-NASS’-truh-zole), sold as Arimidex (uh-RIM’-uh-dex) and in generic form. It can cause hot flashes, joint pain and other side effects, but these were nearly as common among women given dummy pills and are often due to menopause and aging.

Results were reported Thursday at a cancer conference in San Antonio”

Is this a surprise?  Not terribly.  My fear in this is much like vitamin crazes or drugs that the pharmaceutical companies profit by… marketing something that alters your body genetically always always has repercussions….    In this case, the fear is that women will buy and consume this drug and years later discover that it has a harmful ‘side effect’ – in essence, trying to ‘fix’ something and break something else in the body.

Before we chase after drugs, let’s identify the why is cancer among us and how do we eliminate it!

BRAC1 & BRAC2 Testing

breast cancer brac1 gene o-NEW-YORK-TIMES-570So there is a lot of commotion – a topic known to those who go through breast cancer and were born of the  jewish faith, but not widely known… thank you NYT for making it public!

Please read the following articles, and take action.  It is your life.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/27/health/in-israel-a-push-to-screen-for-cancer-gene-leaves-many-conflicted.html?_r=1&

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/27/new-york-times-front-page-israel-cancer_n_4349525.html?utm_hp_ref=media

Blood Test Shows Promise for Cancer Detection

blood-drop“Researchers say they’ve developed a blood test that can detect some cases of early stage lung and prostate cancer.

Although the test has limited accuracy and only a small number of people have tried it, it potentially could provide doctors more information when they suspect a patient has a tumor.

“[This is] one more tool doctors can use to help guide clinical decisions,” said study co-author Dr. Daniel Sessler, professor and chairman of the department of outcomes research at the Cleveland Clinic. “It is also potentially important because the only current routine diagnostic method for lung cancer is CT scanning, which is both expensive and requires radiation exposure.”

Researchers have spent a decade or more trying to develop a blood test to detect cancer, said Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society. Tests would be especially useful if they detect cancer in its early stages when treatment is most effective. Some scientists dream of a test people could take at home using drops of blood from a finger prick, he said.

The prostate specific androgen, or PSA, test can detect signs of prostate cancer, but its usefulness is the subject of much debate because it is sometimes inaccurate, leading to unnecessary treatment. A blood test like the one developed for this study could be a useful addition to prostate cancer screenings, the researchers said.

For now, studies into cancer tests continue, Lichtenfeld said, but they remain challenging to develop because signs of cancer in the blood can be minuscule. “We’re getting closer to the possibility but we’re there not there yet,” he said.

In the new study, which Lichtenfeld described as “very early” research, the authors examined blood samples from 95 cancer patients and compared them to samples from healthy people. They also examined blood samples from 24 patients before and after they had surgery for lung cancer.

The researchers found that the cancer patients had up to six times the level of serum-free fatty acids and their metabolites (which are produced during metabolism) as the cancer-free participants. Also, within a day after lung cancer surgery, the levels of fatty acids decreased by between three and 10 times.”

Perhaps someday, this will include ALL types of cancer, including Breast Cancer.

 Read the full article or watch the video.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

pink-ribbonThis year I will lead my 2nd annual Paddle Breast Cancer kayak trip in Charleston, SC, sponsored by Sea kayak Carolina.  My heart goes to all the friends and families who have had to deal with this terrible illness, and my heart soars with all those who are able to join me on this paddle to celebrate life, survival and our indominable spirit.  We honor those who lost their lives to breast cancer as well.

If you have not been involved in your own testing, here is a link for a screening survey.

We strive not just to survive, not just to endure, but to obliterate this disease so it should never claim another life.

The local Charleston newspaper ran a video clip – click here to view the segment.

Namaste to all my friends – may health be yours.

Skin Cancer risk

pillsLadies… are you taking vitamin D supplements to assist with calcium absorption to prevent osteoporosis?  Well, so am I…  and guess what a new study reveals – Higher levels of vitamin D, still within the normal range, are associated with an increased risk of non-melanoma skin cancer.

Does this mean I will stop?  Probably not, but I see a blinking yellow light now….

Here’s the full article.  The study is not conclusive, and even contradictory to others.

Balance is key.  Don’t overdose on D, just like you wouldn’t on any other vitamin.

A woman’s story

mastectomy-scars

Here is a story that was presented online.  This woman had profolactic double mastectomy because she had the BRAC-1 genetic predisposition (much like Angelina Jolie).  However, every surgeon and plastic surgeon is different.

I also had a bi-lateral mastectomy, but my scars are only on the side, and we did perform the nipple-sparing techniques after testing the nipple tissue and determining it was free of cancer.  Had I not done so, the techniques used these days are actually tattoos of nipples which look similar.

I too do not regret my choices, and especially my choice of surgeon and plastic surgeon, and no, I don’t hide my body.  I wear my scars like my breast cancer necklace.  My warrior trophy… afterall, I’m still here and enjoying life.

 

Here’s another woman’s story:

“Before my surgery, I spoke openly about my decision to undergo a prophylactic bi-lateral mastectomy in the wake of a BRCA-1 diagnosis. I’m now about six weeks post-surgery, the (proud?) owner of two brand spanking new “foobs” (fake boobs), and I’ve had some time to process the new additions.

First, I believe there’s a huge misconception among the general populous about what it means to have one’s breasts removed and replaced with artificial ones (if they are replaced at all). When speaking about my upcoming surgery, I had many well-meaning people say things like, “Well at least you get new boobs!” and, “Your husband must be so excited… has he picked ‘em out yet?”

Yeah, well, it’s not quite like that. Not at all, in fact.

It seems that those not in the know tend to equate post-mastectomy reconstructed breasts with augmented breasts or “boob jobs.” Nothing could be further from the truth. You see, augmented breasts are actually real live breasts with nipples and healthy breast tissue behind which silicone or saline implants have been placed, either under or above the muscle, thereby pushing them up and out. We all know what augmented breasts look like; some of them look very real, and many of them look stunningly beautiful. If augmented breasts didn’t look damn good, breast augmentation surgeries would not be so, ahem, popular.

So even though augmented boobs are often called “fake boobs,” they’re really not. I, on the other hand, do have fake boobs (or “foobs,” as I have become prone to calling them).

What is attached to my chest right now are a pair of silicone implants with no breast tissue in front of them. I am essentially sporting implants covered with skin. There are no real breasts there to hide the fact that my “breasts” are just implants — man-made, silicone-filled implants which feel like gel-filled bags and ripple when I move certain ways.

And right now, I have no nipples either. Because leaving enough breast tissue behind the nipple to spare it can create more risk, in that cancer can still occur in the tissue left behind. Also, if the surgeon failed to leave enough tissue attached to the nipple, the nipple could become necrotic and die. As in, turn black and fall off.

No thank you. I wasn’t that attached to my nipples.

So I opted against nipple-sparing surgery, and currently have long incisions where my nipples used to be. To put it graphically — but not so graphically that it would require a “warning” tag when published — I went from looking like this:

2013-09-07-photo1.PNG.jpeg
To looking like this:

 

2013-09-07-photo2.PNG.jpeg(Hopefully you get the idea, despite my crude pencil sketches.)

And the view from above right now is even weirder for me. I went from seeing this:

2013-09-07-photo3.jpgTo this:

2013-09-07-photo4.jpgNow, don’t get me wrong. I have no regrets about my decision to have preventative surgery. None, whatsoever. I sleep better knowing that I just shaved about 77 percent off of my 87 percent risk of contracting breast cancer in my lifetime. Nor am I unhappy with my results. I had excellent surgeons and my reconstructed breasts look just like they’re supposed to look at this stage. I will have skin-grafted, man-made nipples attached in the next few months, and later have color tattooed on them for good measure. The new nipples (“fips”) will hide some of the existing scars, and hopefully will be nice and round and perky. But they’ll have no feeling. They’ll just be there as accessories. Like earrings.

And while I still look cute in a sexy bra, I no longer walk around topless, and now tend to sleep in camisoles rather than in the buff. I’m also somewhat shy around my husband, and am still shocked at times when I look in the mirror. It’s an adjustment, for all of us, even my toddler who gently pats the boo-boos she now sees on my chest.

For me, the psychological impact of losing my breasts was much greater than the physical impact. I am healing rapidly and know that the physical scars will fade. I also know that I made the right decision for me and my family. But those of us who either opted to have mastectomies as a preventative measure, or had mastectomies as a life-saving measure, aren’t excited about our “new boobs.” In truth, we’ll never be the same. We see ourselves differently now when we look in the mirror, because we are different, inside as well as outside.

But at least we’re here, stronger and wiser for the experience.”

 

 

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