I have seen many strong women in my lifetime as a boudoir photographer in my JT Noir Studio located in Palatka Florida. All women, all walks of life, and all with wonderful stories.
When I am photographing my clients, we get to know one another very well. I learn about their families, their lives and most importantly - their fears. Most of which consist of the anxiety they feel coming into the studio to be shot revealing so much. After a session, they leave the doors with their heads held high and I can see that empowerment flooding their faces and body. I walk back to my desk every time with a huge geeky smile on my face knowing I have helped them see what the rest of us see in them every day. I have freed them from believing they are less of a woman because of stretch marks, weight or even just that nagging feeling we all have that we just don't look the way wished.
The opposite happened when Susan Deter from the Pink Door (Accredited post-mastectomy care center focusing on products for the fashion-conscious woman after surgery) came into my studio looking to see if I would want to help host a breast cancer survivor event. While photographing these three young women, I realized my own fears. They walked in with heads held high, with that empowered look as if they had seen it all and were not scared of anything life would throw at them. The had no issues with their bodies, no hesitation with telling me their stories or showing me their scares. I came to feel my own fears as a woman. A woman like any other that has a 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer (according to breastcancer.org) . A woman who wonders if I would ever be as strong as these women to fight they way they did, or be as confident as they were.
Then I read their stories. Fear, feeling ashamed, scared and alone. These women were right were many of you are, or have been, dealing with your battle or celebration of surviving. The message is clear. Each one left the studio talking about early detection. Some spoke about ignoring those small voices and regret that they did. All of them however, had one thing besides cancer in common. They empowered me, and the rest of the supporters that were at the event that day.
Three of the ladies in this video are cancer Survivors (yes intentional capitalization there) The other women there felt the awesome energy of those ladies and decided as well to get gussied up and strut their stuff. I even got to be in front of the camera when they asked me to be in the group picture! (can you see my geeky smile now:)
Vonshell ~ I was 26, recent college graduate with no health care insurance. I turned to the Putnam county health department an the Breast program paid for my initial testing leading up to my diagnosis. I was then referred to north Florida where dr. Earl Pickens stated to me "God takes care of me an I am going to take take of you" still fighting with insurance an bring a single mother do to the death of my child's father I can honestly say God made a way! I under went a bilateral mysectomy an reconstructive surgery hassle free as Dr. Pickens stood firm to his word. Dr. Jason Rosen Burge joined Dr. Pickens in recreating what cancer tore apart, as a result of padget disease which is the type of cancer I carried my entire chest was stripped of most of an nearly all tissue so reconstructive surgery was not optional. As of today I have survived 9 surgeries including tissue an muscle transplants but I am a survivor.
Tina ~ October 2010 I was doing my self breast exam and I found a lump I said to my boyfriend this doesn't feel right, so I called my primary doctor to schedule an appt. After sending me for a mammogram and ultrasound they indeed confirmed I had breast cancer. I remember leaving the office in tears saying I DON'T WANT TO DIE. I hit this ugly disease head on, told the drs let's do what we have to do to fight this. I started chemo, then a mastectomy, radiation, about 8 or 9 surgeries all together, and I beat breast cancer. It was a very long rough road but I have 3 beautiful children that needed their mommy and I was determined to win this fight. Positive attitude, will to live, and a great support system is the way to get through it. Early Detection Is The Best Protection.
Brittney ~Back in 2011 I was laying in my bed watching t.v. hands positioned behind my head. Something told me to do a self breast exam. I learned how over many years of growing up due to my mother and aunt having breast cancer. I began with my right breast doing circular motions starting at the nipple. That outcome was smooth and fluffy. I began on my left breast, exactly the same but before I finished I felt a small knot the size of a bead. I called my son's father into the room asked asked him to feel. He replied "its nothing, you are fine". I brushed it off but a small voice kept telling me to get it checked out. I kept it to myself for over 2 months until I told my mom what I was dealing with. She encouraged me and after two weeks I made an appointment. I had to get special insurance authorization since I was told I was too young for a mammogram. I was 25 with two children. When I was told I had breast cancer, I just started to cry. I felt ashamed and I didnt know why. I cried all the way home in the car with my mom thinking I was going to die soon. I had my lump and 16 lymph nodes removed. Chemo and radiation and boy it was an emotional roller coaster. I kept it all to myself and in 2012 I was cancer free. I moved to Texas and came back to Florida in 2013 only to find out the cancer had come back not only in my lymph nodes but my lower back had been attacked. This time I did not keep quite. I expressed my journey to my family and friends,. I am here today to share my feelings and shot love to all who showed not only me love but my boys as well. As of Oct 19th 2015, I am cancer free for a second time. I am a proud survivor who wouldn't chance my experience for anything in the world.
I encourage you all (yes you men as well!) to do monthly checks and self exams.
If you need more information on fittings please check out The Pink Door at http://www.pinkdoor.org/home.htm.
Makeup by Devan Hodges ~ Tangles Salon
Hair by Jessica Spencer at Salon St Johns
Jennifer Tallerico is an award winning and internationally published fine art photographer in the Palatka area of North East Florida.