Breast cancer awareness campaigns have certainly helped bring it to the forefront of today’s social dialogue but for the 1.7 million people diagnosed with breast cancer each year, true support requires a lot more than just a show of pink ribbons during the month of October. In fact, many who have gone through the experience say there is a much bigger need to raise awareness about the lack of information and sources of reassurance available to newly diagnosed patients facing the most difficult decisions of their lifetime. And in a society driven by beauty and body image, it isn’t easy for a woman to sacrifice her breasts – even if it is to save her own life.
Katelyn Carey is among those women and she shares her personal experience with byteclay.com. She was just 29 years old when she made the tough decision to have a preventative mastectomy due to her strong family history of breast cancer and losing her own mother to it at an early age. But even though Carey had the luxury of taking time to reach her decision and years of experience working in the medical field as a registered nurse, nothing prepared her for her experience as a mastectomy patient. She describes it as an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness that started even from the initial consultations at the doctor’s office long before the actual procedure. “When you’re facing a mastectomy and all you see are unflattering medical pictures of post-mastectomy patients with scarring, the feeling of despair becomes even more overwhelming,” explains Carey. “More shocking is that only thirty percent of mastectomy patients are told about the many reconstructive options available to them and covered by insurance. This is a time when people need to feel hopeful and reassured rather than seeing only disfigurement in their future. I know that if I had been given that information and been able to hear many other breast cancer survivors assure me I would eventually feel beautiful again, my experience would have been much easier.”
Instead, it took Carey three years of self-healing before she finally started to feel like her old self and even beautiful again. “I had always been very confident about my body. I had a good relationship with my cleavage! But after I had the surgery I was surprised at how much I felt lessened as a woman, and how much I questioned my attractiveness,” says Carey. “It made for a rather awkward dating conversation. But when I met my husband he was incredibly accepting. He took photos of me, and when I saw them I completely changed my outlook. He captured all the positive things about me and I finally realized that a woman’s beauty isn’t just about her breasts. And then I figured I ought to be able to use my newfound lack of modesty for something positive.” As Carey learned to come to terms with herself, she formed a vision of how she could channel her experience to help other breast cancer patients and ultimately change the way society views beauty itself.
Teaming up with photographer Joseph Linaschke and reaching out to other breast cancer survivors across the United States, Katelyn Carey spent the next four years putting together the groundbreaking book that is now getting attention around the world and raising breast cancer awareness to a whole different level. Beauty After Breast Cancer features the compelling stories and striking images of 38 breast cancer survivors ranging from ages 27-82, who have undergone different versions of mastectomies, lumpectomies, reconstruction, etc. But what is similar about all of them is that they all emulate beauty, strength and true personal happiness, which is the essence of the book’s empowering truth. There is beauty after breast cancer, in life and in you. “Many participants were surprised at how much fun they had during the photo shoots and everyone came out of the experience feeling better about themselves and with a better perspective on life,” Carey says. “I think when you have a face off with your own mortality, it forces you to change your outlook in a very profound way and offers you an opportunity to find a place of inner peace and resolve that most people don’t get to until they’re much older.”
One of the photo shoots took place at the famous Moroccan themed Hotel Figueroa in Los Angeles. Carey says that she was thrilled when they contacted her and invited them to use the hotel because it was the perfect setting to portray the free spirited nature of the book. Carey explains that it was also during the photo shoot in Los Angeles where she met their youngest participant whose story she found particularly compelling. Ashley is a professional model based in Los Angeles who was diagnosed with breast cancer at the young age of 26 and at the peak of her career. “A person so young and facing a situation that affected her both personally and professionally, you would think she had the hardest time dealing with it of anyone. It was quite the opposite and I was blown away by how gracefully she has handled her situation. She hasn’t let it stop her at all, she’s continued her career modeling and has even taken up skydiving now,” Carey laughs.
With all 38 participants sharing their unique and often humorous perspectives, along with the photos to capture their radiance, Beauty After Breast Cancer is a coffee table book of inspiration that has been widely received since its recent release. Carey says that the crucial factor differentiating it from all other available resources today is that Beauty After Breast Cancer is the first coordinated effort of the medical community working with actual breast cancer survivors to create something that offers real support. “It’s the book that we as patients wish we’d had at the time of our diagnosis,” says Carey. “And it’s the book we as providers wish we could have offered.”
Beauty After Breast Cancer is now available for individuals affected by breast cancer directly or for those who know someone needing a gift of support. The book is also available to surgeon’s offices, cancer centers, and breast cancer organizations around the world.
To find out more about Katelyn Carey and Beauty After Breast Cancer, go directly to http://beautyafterbreastcancer.com/