Powerful Portraits Tell the True Stories About Women's Bodies After Breast Cancer

breast cancer survivor portrait, woman: redefined seriesIf you've ever felt like the majority of images we see of women who have undergone breast cancer surgeries feel clinical, cold, and downright impersonal, you're not alone. And no one who has had a breast cancer surgery and felt ashamed of the scars that it left behind is alone either. But after Kristina Hunter, a college professor at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, was diagnosed with breast cancer in the fall of 2013, she was inspired to start a new conversation.

Advertisement

Specifically, "a greater conversation about body image, accepting our bodies with their imperfections, and challenging the social norms of what defines us a women," she tells The Stir.

That mission goes hand-in-hand with an upcoming book called Woman: Redefined, which Hunter worked on with photographer ML Kenneth. The book, which the team intends to have distributed free of charge to breast health centers in the U.S. and Canada, features real, moving, powerful, beautiful portraits of women who have undergone breast cancer surgery.

"I sent out three e-mails and had 33 women respond immediately," Hunter shares. "One called me right away just shouting, 'Yes, count me in!' More women have continued to come forward to model for the book. Many said that they are doing it for the women coming after them, and that they wished they had had something like this when they were going through it. ... We all saw a need for this book."

More from The Stir: 10 Breast Cancer Survivors' Mastectomy Tattoos That Are Stunning & Inspiring (PHOTOS)

One of the most amazing parts of it all is that, as Hunter notes, the portraits not only show women who've had all different types of breast cancer surgery, but they also capture a wide range of emotions. For these women, posing was about much more than simply having their photograph taken topless. "What I was really surprised about was how for many women it was very cathartic and helpful in their journey," Hunter explains.

For instance, one model said the experience made her feel like part of a sisterhood. She explained, "I could see that I was not alone ... my photograph made me feel beautiful!"

Another woman emailed Hunter, writing:

Just wanted to say thank you for letting me take part in this project. The photo shoot was the first time someone looked at me like a person and as not a specimen on the exam room table. Thank you for giving us the chance to tell our stories, share our victories and give our voice, and our bodies, power once again.

The process was incredible not only for the participants but for Hunter, who says she was moved by how strong and beautiful the women were, how they didn't always see that in themselves, and how the project became so empowering for them.

Hunter explains that when each woman was photographed, she was asked to describe herself in three words. Here, 11 of those gorgeous, inspiring images, and the words each woman chose.

What do you love most about this collection of images?

 

Image via ML Kenneth

 

 

body image emotional health breast cancer