So I posed topless for breast cancer awareness.

Well, let’s be honest. I posed topless because I had access to a free make up artist, photographer and Photoshop artist and I just lost a ton of weight. But let me tell you about how that ounce of narcissism has evolved into a pound of awareness.

Last week, I was bombarded with “I like it” facebook updates. I never read my facebook emails so I was a little baffled. One night a friend clued me into what it meant. She was annoyed by it and completely forgot it was for breast cancer awareness. “It’s about feminism or girl power or some kind of something girlie.” After reading so many and replying with where I put my purse….I mean, where I like it, I found out it was for boobies, not random girliness, and I was doing it all wrong. By the time I caught on, everyone was over it. Thank god. Because I like it on the couch and that’s not so interesting.

But hey, as ass backwards as it was, it did get me to find out October was dedicated to titty health. And then I was approached to take my shirt off. It took only a few minutes to say yes. And then a couple days to rehearse a last minute no. And then only one more day to commit. I have friends and family affected by breast cancer. My mother was diagnosed a few years back and fortunately took to treatment exceptionally well. All my friends who have been diagnosed are survivors and I thank God for that as they have been an inspiration to me before and after their diagnosis.

So, a little history on me and my boobs. I have a nearly A cup. Tiny titties. So I spent much of my youth and young adulthood thinking small breasts made me immune to breast cancer. I mean, a lump would just double my cup size. Why bother looking for it? Well, shocker, small breasts are just as likely to develop cancer cells as larger ones. Did that make me start doing self exams? Hell, no.

About a decade ago, one of my closest friends felt a lump. It was benign, she had it removed. But a short while before her surgery, she offered to let me feel it so I could know what it felt like. I was terrified. I was terrified for her (even though she was told she’d be fine). I was terrified for me. Cancer was the single most powerful word in my brain. I had no desire to prevent it. I had no desire to know it. Self exams? Definitely, no. But thank God this friend was so open and blunt. And fearless. It planted the seed.

I am exactly who breast cancer awareness marketing is for. And if you ever think we are “aware” enough, please know, women like me will always exist. We will always be afraid to give ourselves exams. To this day, it takes me as much courage to do a self exam as it does to put my hand in open flame.

As I talk to survivors over the years, I am amazed at their courage. I am intimidated. And I am fearful. I’m afraid of saying something wrong. Of not having enough humor. Of putting off the wrong humor. Of making people awkward. Something I know now (and not without some shameful mistakes), it’s not about me. Those same friends put up with my awkwardness, my off-color humor, and my reclusive ways before diagnosis. They certainly don’t expect -nor welcome- a change in me now because of the change in them.

Which leads me to me posing topless. I have heard so often my friends in that photo gallery (and myself) defend our actions with “It’s not about you/them/me.” Even before the shoot, one of the women refused make-up saying, “I thought it was about the boobs.” Touche. These photos are not about what people will think about us. They are not about how differently we may be treated. They are not about us. They are not about our significant others. They are not about family or coworkers or strangers who see the photos. One of the photos is me cupping the same breasts that I was terrified to press in circular motions for the first 35 years of my life. That’s what this is about.

Losing a breast, even the possibility of losing a breast in early diagnosis, has exponential fear because of what it means. Of what we think it means. Breast cancer awareness has that much more difficult a challenge as the fear of losing one’s sexuality, sensual identity, and femininity is so attached to it. The self breast exam is so simple. And life saving. But it is the most terrifying disease attached to the seemingly most important part of one’s sensual beauty. This causes many women to not take control of their health. I may joke that I have no boobs. But I do. And in my youth, hell, even to this day, I give some sort of sexual worth to my breasts, enough to still fear my own physical maintenance.

So even if I didn’t go into this photo shoot about the boobs, I certainly came out of it all about awareness. Since that shoot, I have spoken on the radio about breast cancer awareness. I have joined http://www.armyofwomen.org. And I am writing a business plan for a fundraising project that will knock your socks off (and some other articles of clothing, too).

So I’m going to end this, not with a link to the gallery of photos I did, but to photos and video I found. These women are courageous. And this month is about them.

Pulitzer Prize Winning Beauty Out of Damage
Cancer survivor Christa shares photos on flickr to help those deal with the impact of diagnosis
FB user Sharon Adams showed her post surgery scar after mastectomy

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