There is no such thing as perfect. You’re beautiful as you are. With all of your imperfections, you can do anything.” -Fish, from Courage the Cowardly Dog
I was recently asked to pose for a pin-up calendar featuring breast cancer survivors by my dear cyber friend and fellow breast cancer warrior Stori Nagel. When I first started planning it I saw myself with my prosthetics and started thinking about which outfits they looked good in. My daughter and my husband both said “Why would you wear them, that’s stupid, you need to show other women you can be beautiful without them. That’s the whole point.” My daughter Julia always says “Breasts don’t matter Mom.” I knew they were right, but the thought of posing without them put a lump in my throat. You know that feeling you get the day before you start a new school or job? That nervous feeling in the pit of your stomach? Well that’s how I felt. It wasn’t only the prospect of posing without breasts and with my scars that scared me, it was all the the swelling in weird places, it was the fact that my body is a lot softer than it used to be. I used to take my body for granted, I loved to work out, so I did all the time, I lifted weights, I played Capoeira and I ate healthy. I guess I took my body for granted and always thought that it would stay tight and toned because I took care of it.
After my breast cancer diagnosis, bilateral mastectomy and two failed reconstructions… Working out has become very difficult, so my body is not as tight and muscular as it once was. Sure, I still look pretty good, but not like I used to. So the thought of posing for this calendar was stressing me out. I was worried about how I would look without my breasts and how my body would look in general. It was my own vanity but I also wanted to come off as a confident sexy woman so I could be a good role model to others who have been on the same journey as me. I thought, “How the hell am I going to pull this off?” I showed my friend Waltriessa some photos of myself before my mastectomy and she said “You stand up more straight in these photos. I want to see you like this always, my friend.”
After a quick flight to LAX I met Stori and family and we started picking out outfits. I did not feel beautiful in any of them. After talking to some friends and my husband I decided between two outfits and the best plan was to stop stressing and sleep on it. The next day I met the photographers, grabbed the two outfits and set out with everyone to get started. Stori went first and I started to get really nervous, still wondering how I was going to pull this off. I shared my story with one of the car owners and his wife (a fellow breast cancer survivor) and felt the tears welling up. Soon it was my turn and I decided to go with the tiny fitted dress with a crazy pattern. Stori told me, “Don’t think about anything, just have fun.” She applied my first ever set of false eyelashes, pinned up my hair and I was ready. Once we started shooting I just went with it, they all kept telling me to “pop out my booty” and I just started having fun. The craziest part of the day for me was when the owners of the cars came out to take pictures with us, and they were like giddy boys. They didn’t even notice I had no breasts! Instead of crying like I thought I would I found myself smiling from ear to ear. I heard Waltriessa reminding me to “stand up straight”, Stori to “not think about anything”, and my daughter reminding me that “breasts don’t matter mom.” I listened to the photographers saying “She’s a natural.” and telling me I look like Amy Winehouse. After we were done I looked at some of the test shots and was surprised at how good I looked. I was expecting to be really unhappy with the images but I was so happy with them! I sent some pics to me husband and told him how the guys didn’t even notice I had no breasts. He said “I love you for who you are not by how big your breasts or butt is. People see your beauty.” (Queue the AWWWWWWWWWS…)
Please take a moment to visit Cynthia Warden’s Photo page here:
You can read about me and some of the other calendar girls here: http://www.hausofvolta.com/#!jpurney/c139r
And stay tuned for the release of the finished Breast Cancer Survivors Pin Up Calendar !