I have asked the beautiful woman in the photos you see in the photos included in this post if she would be willing to write her own blog post about what brought her to this point in her life. Exactly one year ago, today, October 7th 2015 she walked into my studio as she was about to begin the physical aspects of one of the biggest decisions she will ever have to make. A decision that I had never even thought about. -Steff
As we all know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. To many people this represents a time when we see an extra dose of pink ribbons and charity walks popping up around town. To myself and the countless number of families touched by breast cancer, this month means so much more.
Breast cancer has had a strong influence on both my father’s and mother’s side of the family. After going through genetic testing and learning I am the carrier of a genetic mutation which greatly increased my chances of developing breast cancer, I decided to undergo a prophylactic mastectomy last October. I always knew my decision to have the surgery was the right thing to do, but that didn’t make it easy. Learning about this gene before it became an issue was without a doubt one of the greatest blessings of my life because it gave me the priceless knowledge, options, and power to potentially save my life and prevent going through the same struggles so many women in my family have faced. I was so grateful for the opportunity to take charge of my health but also so terrified of what this all meant going forward.
As a single 26 year old living in a world so fixated on body image, the reality of having a mastectomy was overwhelming to say the least. How is this surgery going to affect my self confidence? What kind of man is going to want to marry someone without boobs? Will not being able to breast feed my children make me a bad mother? Questions like these cycled through my head on a daily basis.
I scheduled a boudoir session with Stephanie exactly one week from my surgery because it was important to me to have something to look back on. This shoot represented so much more than just wanting to be pampered for the day. I went in with the outlook that it was going to be the last time I would ever feel beautiful exposed in my own skin. From the moment I walked into the studio, Stephanie was a breath of fresh air who could not have been more welcoming and understanding of what this all meant to me. She is a true professional who made me feel at ease with her encouraging words and relatable wisdom. At the end of the shoot, I remember walking to my car and a wave of emotion hit me like a ton of bricks because it was all over. I felt like I was leaving a piece of myself at the studio and all I had left to hold on to were the unseen photos on Stephanie’s memory card. It took me almost a year to go back and view those photos. For the longest time, I wasn’t ready to go back to that day and revisit the emotions I was feeling at the time. I was scared seeing my body as it use to be would remind me just how much my physical appearance had changed over the past year and send me back to the place of insecurity I had worked hard to overcome.
As expected, based on Stephanie’s portfolio of work, the photos were stunning and so tastefully done. Such beautiful images, yet all I saw when looking at them was a scared, insecure, young woman no amount of makeup or good lighting could hide. Having come through all this, I now feel stronger and more beautiful than ever. This experience taught me that beauty truly does come from the inside. It is not defined by flawless skin, perky breasts, or thigh gaps but rather the scars and imperfections that tell one’s story. A story from a past that has molded that individual into the person they are today. Just as each person’s story is different, so should be their bodies - unique and beautiful in their own right.