Christmas Week: A New Breast Cancer Connection
I was privileged, during this week prior to Christmas, to make a new breast cancer connection. Coincidentally enough, I learned about Nadia through another breast cancer friend and colleague, Barbara Jacoby. Barbara posted an article on social media about Nadia’s generous work with breast cancer patients through her love of photography.
I read that Nadia was right here in my own back yard. I reached out to her for a meeting. As is the case with many breast cancer survivors I speak with, the conversation began with an immediate hug and a feeling of connection. We both encourage moving beyond a breast cancer treatment in our own communities through our separate nonprofit foundations, DiepCFoundation.org and NadiaStrong.org.
The purpose of our separate yet similar Foundations seem to collide with the same message: We encourage women and men to move beyond the diagnosis and feel comfortable in their “new skin” after mastectomy.
I explained to Nadia how I speak to women and men who are often made to feel shamed about choosing breast reconstruction from friends or family who feel it is a “vanity procedure”. Comments like, “Shouldn’t you just be happy to be alive?” or “Why would you put yourself through that kind of surgery?” are remarks breast cancer survivors sometimes deal with when making the very difficult decision to have breast reconstruction after mastectomy.
Nadia and I both agreed how personal the decision to reconstruct or not is and how we honor all choices after mastectomy; autologous (using your own tissue) breast reconstruction, implants, going flat, or wearing a prosthesis, choosing to have nipples or not, deciding on a tattoo after mastectomy or not.
We chatted about how breast cancer had changed us both and the joy and sometimes difficulty of dealing with all those changes. She is a tall, slender woman with clear, sparkling eyes that speak with compassion and clarity. In a recent article from the Tucson Weekly featuring Nadia’s work she states:
“When you’re going through cancer, you feel like hell, so you look like hell,” she says. “I’m trying to show them that you can be beautiful beyond breast cancer.”
Through her artistic eye and love of photography, Nadia brings breast cancer patients to a beautiful setting and photographs them. She encourages them to wear bright, uplifting clothing that makes them feel empowered and comfortable. Her photo shoots are affirmation that looking at these portraits after a breast cancer diagnosis can help you see yourself in a beautiful new light!
I can’t wait to experience this with Nadia very soon. We agreed that it would do my heart good to do a photo shoot with her. It is a New Year’s resolution we are both looking forward too.
We wrapped up our meeting with a hug and gratitude for new a new Christmas week breast cancer connection. I went out to her car to get a copy of the Tucson Weekly article that was written about Nadia. Oh that car!! I snapped a quick photo. We both looked at it together and I pointed out that it was meaningful with her standing by her car and my shadow visible taking the photo; a promise of things to come!
One of my favorite quotes from the article written about Nadia is this:
“Cancer is not written on your forehead,” Larsen says. “You’re not defined by cancer. Feel like a model for a few hours. Feel good about yourself and your fight and moving on with your life.”
Merry Christmas Nadia and Merry Christmas to all the connections I have made in the breast cancer community. I can’t wait to see what 2018 holds!