2015 I BELIEVE Project Winners: Diana and Victoria
November 2014 was the first I BELIEVE Project session, where I offered a complimentary contemporary glamour session to a deserving woman who is a cancer survivor. This year I continued on my efforts and offered this wonderful experience to two more deserving women—Diana and Victoria.
This post is a double the beauties–images from both the July 2015 and September 2015 I BELIEVE Project sessions. Let both of their stories motivate you to do monthly breast exams and get annual mammograms—I’m turning 40 in November and I’m scheduled for my first mammogram myself!
Diana: July 2015 Winner
I photographed 67-year-old Diana in July, after her breast reconstruction surgery. She arrived in great spirits and no bra—she told me she didn’t need one anymore because the girls were perkier than they were when she was 16 (her words, not mine!).
I share her submission essay so you can understand her powerful story.
I am a two-time survivor.
In May of 2001, a small spot was found on my mammogram that necessitated a biopsy. The biopsy was positive for a malignancy. On June 22, 2001, I had a 1 cm lump in my left breast removed that was hormone positive. It was also in my lymph nodes, Stage 3, which required me to have both chemotherapy and radiation. I lost my hair of course but I am lucky that my head is shaped well (most of us ladies do have nicely shaped heads) and bald was more fun than a problem.
All went well and everything was fine until Nov of 2013, when I had my annual mammogram. I had not felt or seen anything to cause concern but I had a call the day after the mammogram asking me to come back for another mammogram and possibly an ultra sound. At that point I took a closer look at my breast and I could see an odd shape. When I showed my husband he could see it as well. It did not feel like most cancers do, not hard and round, rather soft and sort of mushy. Two weeks later I had another biopsy and two weeks after that I found that this one was also positive. It was not hormone positive as the first one was but was scarier, Triple Negative (TNB), a more aggressive and faster moving cancer. This one required a mastectomy which was performed on 7 Jan 2014 and I did not get the results and staging until the pathology reports came in.
My husband and I went to see my doctor both expecting to hear that I now had Stage 4 breast cancer. Can you even imagine our relief when Dr. Soto-Hamlin smiled at us and said, “Stage 2.” And it was Stage 2 only because of the size of the tumor, 4.5 cm. I had asked her why I had not felt it or seen it earlier and she told me it was because the TNB cancer feels like breast tissue and until it rose to the surface it could not be seen. This time there was no radiation, especially because I had previous radiation to the same breast, but I still had to do the whole chemotherapy thing again since that is the only treatment at the present time for TNB.
I am not a vain person so the bald part really didn’t bother me and I discovered a love for cute hats and scarves. I have my hair back but it is so very soft that I have to keep it short so I can control it and doesn’t give many options for different looks. My eyebrows have not come back as completely as would be nice but a little eyebrow powder seems to do the trick. My eyelashes are also lacking a great deal. I am now experimenting with different mascaras to see if something works to give me a ‘fuller’ look. I am 66 years old, 67 in June, and will be having reconstruction the end of May this year. My husband has been extremely supportive through everything and has never made me feel any less of a woman. Still I have felt that my own self-confidence has taken a hit. Following a mastectomy and now reconstruction I do not feel that I hold or carry myself as well as I should/could. I hope that a glamour session might give me back the self-confidence I now feel that I am lacking. I would also hope to share with my sisters that life goes on post diagnosis, surgery and treatment. We cannot move backwards and we cannot change what has happened to us, we can only move forward, one day and one step at a time. We must continue to live our lives as fully as possible regardless of our diagnosis or prognosis. Whatever life we have left we have to live as totally and completely as we can. We cannot let cancer win.
When I met Diana for the first time for her consult, she had me cracking up! She really made *me* feel at ease—such a fun and calming presence about herself AND so young at heart! Diana was thrilled she could wear the blue dress—her mother had it made for her years ago and it remained one of her favorite items in her closet. Glad I could give her a reason to wear it again…without a bra, of course. 😉
I’d like to thank Makeup by Takari for styling Diana’s hair and makeup.
If you’d like to see all of her images, please take a moment to view her reveal movie.
Victoria: September 2015 Winner
I ventured to Sheboygan County, Wisconsin at the beginning of September to photograph Victoria’s session. I must thank Dana Schmidt, owner of StudioDee Images, for letting me use her studio and for being my assistant for the day, and hair/makeup artist Rachael Lubach for bringing out Victoria’s sassy side.
Victoria was just 27 years old when she found out she had Stage 3A breast cancer. It was December 2014, she’d been married just over four years, their oldest son was 2 1/2 years old and their youngest was 3 months old. The next eight months would see Victoria taking this battle head on, with completing radiation and chemo.
I’m certain her husband and their children gave her the strength she needed to find the energy to be a wife, a mother, a fighter.
Leading up to her session, Victoria lead me to believe she had just a bit of peach fuzz, but then she showed up with his badass pixie cut that Rachel styled in a Rock-N-Roll messy do.
I. Loved. It.
When we were chatting at her consult, she mentioned she had a plum dress that she loved how it looked on her. I told her to bring it along…
She also mentioned during her consult that her favorite color is hunter green, so of course I had to make her a hunter green tulle skirt (with the help of Alisha the Assistant and Jenn the Backup Assistant)! And this top I created to go with it on the fly—how awesome is this made-just-for-her gown?!
Things are looking up for Victoria. She goes next week for more scans, but she tells me there is nothing indicating that the scans shouldn’t be clear! She celebrated five years of marriage the same day of her session, their youngest is now a year old, and she’s on her way to visiting a friend in New York!
If you want to read more about her story, get updates on her, or just say hello to her, you can follow her through her Facebook page: Breastcaat27
To see all of Victoria’s images, please take a moment to view her reveal movie.
I truly love what I do!
Until next time,
Shannon© Copyright 2015 Shannon Hemauer, All rights Reserved. Written For: Shannon Hemauer Photography