Still all woman

Chat - - True-Life -

On 11 Novem­ber 2014, I rang a bell in the can­cer ward of the hos­pi­tal to mark my last chemo ses­sion.

Wear­ing a sash say­ing Sur­vivor, I felt proud of ev­ery­thing I’d been through.

My body was still ex­hausted, limbs aching, head bald. But I was can­cer-free! ‘That’s what mat­ters,’ I told Mum.

A month on, I had re­con­struc­tive surgery to re­build my breasts – but they would never be the same again.

I had no nip­ples, didn’t feel sex­ual or at­trac­tive.

Of course, I was grate­ful to the doc­tors who’d saved my life.

But I’d come to hate the new re­flec­tion star­ing back at me in the mir­ror.

I read about women who’d had nat­u­ral-look­ing nip­ple tat­toos. Only, I had other ideas. I de­cided on some­thing pretty, unique...

The can­cer had sapped my fem­i­nin­ity – now it was time to re­claim it.

‘I want to have flow­ers tat­tooed on to my mas­tec­tomy scars,’ I told Mum.

It took me weeks to pick out the black, pur­ple-grey flo­ral pat­tern.

‘Per­ma­nent lin­gerie,’ I joked to the tat­too artist.

The op­er­a­tions had left my chest numb, so I didn’t feel much dur­ing the four-hour ink­ing ses­sion.

I rem­i­nisced about ev­ery­thing I’d been through. Felt lucky to be alive. And for the first time in so long, I was ex­cited – I couldn’t wait to see my new boobs.

‘All done!’ the tat­too artist an­nounced at last.

I’m not usu­ally emo­tional, but see­ing the beau­ti­ful roses swirling across my chest, I burst into tears. Fi­nally, I liked the re­flec­tion star­ing back at me again.

As I re­cov­ered, my spir­its lifted and I started dream­ing again.

Could I still model? I won­dered.

My body had changed, my self-con­fi­dence had been rav­aged. Em­brac­ing be­ing bald, I’d had peo­ple stare at me, call me ‘fella’ in the street. Un­likely, I thought, sadly. Only, then some­one from Sour­puss called. They wanted me back!

Pos­ing for the cam­era, my self-es­teem soared.

My life had changed so much since the last time I smiled into that lens.

And cat­a­logue mod­el­ling was just the start – soon the cat­walk beck­oned!

In Fe­bru­ary 2018, I was asked to model for lin­gerie la­bel Anaono at a New York fash­ion show.

Its un­der­wear is de­signed for women af­fected by breast can­cer and breast surg­eries – and strut­ting down the cat­walk, show­ing off my tat­too, was em­pow­er­ing.

Two years be­fore, I’d met Brian, 31, on Face­book.

He made me feel com­fort­able, con­tent – and beau­ti­ful.

When I’m with Brian, I’m not any less of a woman.

Now my mod­el­ling ca­reer, here in Philadel­phia, has re­ally kicked off. It’s bet­ter than I could ever have imag­ined.

I’ve even posed top­less – some­thing I’d never con­tem­plated be­fore can­cer.

I’m proud of my scars, my chest, and my beau­ti­ful ink­ing. And I want to in­spire other can­cer pa­tients.

It’s the fight of your life, but you can and will feel beau­ti­ful again.

It was time to re­claim my fem­i­nin­ity from can­cer

I was asked to model lin­gerie Feel­ing beau­ti­ful

Brian makes me whole

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