Breast Cancer Warrior Stories: Sharon
Boudoir photography is about showing women their sensuality. Showing them a side of themselves they don’t see regularly. That powerful, beautiful femininity innate within them. As October – Breast Cancer Awareness Month – approached, it crossed my mind that breast cancer survivors (I prefer the word ‘warriors’ myself) may be most in need of such a reminder.
I can only imagine that the treatments, the chemotherapy, the radiation, the surgeries…they take more from you than just the physical flesh. They must take you and reshape you into someone you have to get to know again. And, in that, the sensuality and sexuality of your womanhood must get lost in it.
So I sought out Breast Cancer Warriors and asked them to let me work with them in a boudoir session so I could show them that their sensuality and their sexuality still exists. These blogs are their stories.
This is Sharon’s Story.
“I finished my hairdressing training in 2001, and I made the decision to move to Saskatoon – a bigger city – to start my career. My children and I had only been in Saskatoon a couple of months when we hit a deer which ended in me needing to have shoulder surgery.
“A few months later, after a shower, I was drying my hair and noticed a lump sticking out of my breast. I was very scared to see how quickly something like that can hit you.
“My mother is also a breast cancer survivor, so she made the trip out to be with me for support. It was only a few weeks after I noticed the lump that I had a lumpectomy. The surgery went well, but within two months I had another lump on my other breast. By the time a decision needed to be made, they had results back that I had first-stage breast cancer, but it was all contained within my tissues.
“A lot of hard decisions had to be made.
“My surgery was scheduled for February 14th! I had two small children at home so my mother stayed and helped with everything. I had a complete double masectomy and made the decision to not keep my nipples or areolas due to the 10% chance that they contained bad cells.
“It was a very hard day, knowing that when I woke up from surgery I would have no breasts. I understood it was what needed to be done, but we all know very well that women’s breasts do shape us in a lot of ways. Because of that, I had also decided to have expanders put in to slowly start rebuilding my breasts.
“It was a long journey of injections to stretch the skin out to prepare for the implants. It wasn’t an easy one, since I had complications from the surgery. After coming home, I was struggling to breathe and had pain in my chest. My Mom and sister took me in and they discovered that I had a pulmonary embolism (a blood clot in my lung).
“Through hematology testing, we found out that I was missing a protein in my blood.
“I ended up needing a couple of emergency surgeries due to excessive bleeding.
“I struggled a lot with physical and emotional pain for many months – trying to cope with the loss of my breasts. My Mom was an amazing support and reminded me that I’m still here and able to enjoy my children.
“Finances were difficult. I had to be off work for a long time and I had two small children to support. There simply isn’t enough out there for these situations. My family was huge support however, there need to be more resources for these women who never expect to go through this ever in their lives!
“After a year of preparing my skin, I was able to get the implants put in! I was quite excited to feel kind of complete again! Unfortunately, I wasn’t so lucky. The first implant was the incorrect implant so it twisted on me. Then due to a bad experience with a surgeon who botched both breasts, I spent the next 17 years feeling ugly and less of a woman. Always worrying about relationships and if I would be accepted the way I was. Feeling like I was being stared at because it was noticeable through my shirts.
“My first grandchild was born so I moved back to Manitoba so I could be closer. There I found a family doctor who agreed to refer me to a surgeon who could fix my breasts.
“I received the amazing news that I had a consultation with a surgeon! When the surgeon saw my botched breasts, he was quite shocked. A lot of surgeries were ahead of me.
“My first reconstructive surgery was in November 2018. I felt like I was starting all over again, but I wasn’t giving up. Two years and three surgeries later, I feel complete and I’m the happiest I’ve been in almost two decades. I received nipple tattoos that are absolutely incredible.
“When life gets you down, don’t give up. Find strength in other breast cancer warriors, family or friends. We are fighters, we are warriors, and we have so much to live for – with or without our breasts.
“I now have two grown children, three beautiful grandchildren, an amazing family, and a wonderful man in my life that loves me for me. Scars and all.”
When asked how the boudoir session with me helped her in her journey, Sharon had this to say, “The boudoir session was amazing! It gave me a chance to feel sexy, and let go of my inhibitions that I have had bottled up for many years. I lived with a lot of insecurities and since I did the boudoir session it made me feel so good about being a woman again.”
Makeup for this session was applied by Hazel Evoy. Hair was done by Sharon.
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