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I developed early to say the least, so when I was diagnosed at age 38 with breast cancer I could look forward to nothing but the rest of my life without a bra. I have tried to find the golden ticket no matter the quality of candy bar you are handed. When I was seven my mother had a stroke and was later diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a second cousin told me our family had a history of breast cancer although no one is going to talk about it. I was made very aware that there was no escaping a fate that had you in its sights.

In 2012, I took the diagnosis very well. I saw the hair loss as a chance to have all those cool hair colors that naturally black hair doesn't like transforming into. Being a big fan of drag queens I imagined myself dressing for a performance every day. I picked out my outfit, added lashes, painted my face & added the coordinating wig. I felt great the first four rounds of chemotherapy. My doctors were trying to shrink the 9mm tumor in my right breast before surgery. But the tumor was not playing nice, and stronger drugs were started. I bloated up 20 pounds, adding to my already large frame. Laundry was lucky if it got done, let alone dinner. These drugs made me feel like sharp needles were being poked randomly about my body. After round 5 I went into shock, for 8 minutes I left my body, I felt like I was drowning and couldn't manage to reach the surface. Turns out I went stiff as a board, eyes wide open, unresponsive an ambulance was called. Lucky for me, I'd just gotten out of the shower before it happened, so all of the emergency workers got a show, of which I profusely apologized for. I begged to not have more chemo after that but my doctor's said I needed to finish. So I did.

Thirteen days before the Christmas of 2012 , a radical double mastectomy was scheduled for me. Filled with shame over the body that came out of surgery that day. Incapable of caring for myself, at the mercy of my husband, whom I felt the most shame towards. It was he whom I was afraid to show my body afterwards, for fear of rejection. Would he flee like the majority of spouses, tell me I looked disgusting naked, or stay with me but deprive me of intimacy? He encouraged me to embrace my body, although I wasn't ready.

Young Survival Coalition was looking for state leaders and I signed on as Riverside County State Leader, without ever even having attended anything. It might of not been long since my last surgery, but I knew I wanted to support ladies facing a future with breast cancer, the way my friends & family had supported me. When spending time with other "survivors" I felt they weren't ok living in their bodies post cancer. It occurred to me I already had the golden ticket. When I thought about how these ladies saw themselves, I cried. These women were living in forced abstinence. Either self imposed or by a spouse that was either repulsed or afraid to touch them after such radical surgeries. Hysterectomies and hormone therapy only add to the difficulties of sexuality post cancer. The idea of not feeling sensual touch again is almost worse than being told that you have a disease that killed 522,000 people last year.

My husband had encouraged me to pursue modeling the winter of 2014. I didn't know if it was going to work out for me. I was 5'10", over 200lbs, over 40 & scarred from the mastectomy / lymph node removal. But people really started to take notice. Something in me did die with cancer, my body dimorphic disorder. I decided to try to do the same for fellow survivors by creating a Pinup Calendar of sexy survivors and what better with a beautiful woman, than a hot rod? First, I asked people that I knew from YSC, people I knew would do it. Before long I was getting messages from ladies all across the United States wanting to participate. We had three ladies fly in just for the photo shoots. One in particular, Emily, was the only mentor I had during my treatment. She was someone who was referred by a friend and became my sister in crisis. Emily's reconstruction had failed and her family was encouraging her to pose without her prosthetics. I told her " you keep bragging about how great your ass is, prove it". She walked out in that dress without breasts & was proud of her body, perhaps for the first time in years. After the shoot she exclaimed "those men wanted to take pictures with me & didn't even care I didn't have breasts!" . I am proud to say each one of these ladies has a story like this. Where they started out scared, even trying to back out, but were present & faced the fact that they are indeed beautiful after breast cancer. The first set of pictures I showed a gentleman & he said "wow, is she a professional model?" , "No, would you of ever guessed she was anything but? This woman is a breast cancer survivor" I said. He replied "I would of never guessed". That was exactly what I was trying to achieve, a seamlessness between beauty and tragedy. A beautiful warrior.
 
Date of Posting: 14 July 2016
Posted By: Pin-up Survior

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