What have you done in the last 10 minutes? Answered a few emails, made a cup of tea? In that time, a woman in the UK has been diagnosed with breast cancer. In the next 10 minutes, another will hear the same news – one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and a chance to shine a light on the life-altering disease and the women who fight it every day.
To launch this month’s Stand Up To Cancer campaign, 14 of those women have bravely taken part in a photoshoot, baring their mastectomy scars. The images show laughing, carefree women, while some are defiant in their stance against breast cancer. They’re a true reflection of how women can overcome their diagnosis and live proudly with their scars.
The series photographer, Ami Barwell, was inspired by her own mother’s fight with breast cancer and her subsequent mastectomy. “I wanted to shoot this project to raise awareness and show the defiance of women who remain equally as beautiful without breasts,” she explains. “Stand Up To Cancer is about bringing people together to rebel and rise up against cancer. The photographs show that, despite what they’ve been through, these women are empowered. They are strong, happy and sexy.”
Most of the women pictured have decided to “live flat” – that is, to opt against reconstructive surgery – and want to prove their choice as a positive one. “I want other women to know that having reconstruction is not the only option and I love the freedom of being flat,” says Caroline Harper, who was photographed both before and after her double mastectomy. Fellow model Gillian Trim added: “I want to show those women who are going through their cancer journey that it is doable, not easy, but with time and acceptance you can get through it and that we are still sexy and beautiful. It’s also something I had wanted to have done – a picture to celebrate my journey and have a reminder as to how strong I proved myself to be.”
The photographs are just the start of Stand Up To Cancer’s October campaign and you can find out how to get involved here. All the money raised will go towards cancer research, helping to fight the disease that kills 11,400 people per year.
If you have been affected by cancer, you can call Cancer Research UK nurses on 0808 800 4040 for advice.