Can you keep a secret? I haven’t told anyone but a few weeks ago I let a complete stranger take a topless photograph of me. No, I didn’t go to a Burlesque club (don’t think they have much interest in women with one breast). And it wasn’t that one your surgeon takes before breast surgery (where do all those photos go by the way?) No. I am one of the women featuring in the photographer Laura Dodsworth’s collaboration with Stella McCartney to raise awareness of breast cancer – ‘No Less a Woman.’ Scroll down to the link, get a box of tissues and read the stories of the first four women. I’m too shy and scared to tell you which one is me.
I haven’t told my family, my friends, my colleagues or my boss that my photo and interview is on the Stella McCartney website. I did tell my partner. The irony of me being photographed half naked for all to see when I hide my scars from him was not lost on either of us. Nudity is such a massive thing in our culture. I won’t tell me family as they would be upset. My friends, colleagues and boss would be shocked. I am sure that there is very likely some clause in my job description that refers to not bringing my profession into disrepute, and anyway it’s not the first thing I want to tell my new boss (picture the scene!).
I would never been photographed topless before breast cancer. So why did I do it? The truth is that I don’t really know. Most of the stories that are used to raise awareness for breast cancer focus on what I call ‘silver linings;’ our bravery, our ability to inspire, to ‘still’ be sexy and beautiful despite breast cancer – of course we are! But what is less talked about is our pain, our loss and the fact that too many women still die too soon. Having bought Laura’s book, I liked that she wanted to celebrate this aspect of womanhood, to share our different stories about our bodies, our breasts. I felt like I became mute when I went through treatment for cancer but that I have found my voice again. And now that I have found it I want to shout from the rooftops. And I trusted Laura with the story of my body despite my fears.
On Monday the first stories will come down and four more women take the centre stage. My story will go off into the ether and that’s exactly how it should be. I am just one voice, one story. I am not special. We all know that there are far too many women like me, like us. Please share, but keep my secret safe.