(Some images may be considered NSFW)
"Joyful, sexy, strong. We are showing them a picture and telling them a story that brings awareness to the fact that they do not have to lose these characteristics, or their life. We are granting patients a community when they feel isolated, reassurance when they are frightened and information when they feel overwhelmed. Down to the root of my soul, I knew I had to show this side of things. We are celebrating life and beauty beyond breast cancer. We are helping patients find themselves again."
With one foot in the medical world and one foot in the patient world, Katelyn Carey had the experience and knowledge it takes to create a life-changing book aimed at individuals diagnosed with breast cancer. This book is not an insipid pamphlet or images lined with statistics. It is a work of art that is accomplishing exactly what modern medicine would not.
At the age of 29, Carey went through a full, preventative mastectomy. After her great-grandmother, aunt and mother were taken by breast cancer, Carey knew by age 21 that she needed to embrace extreme measures in order to cope with her possible genetic outcome. When doctors told her that there was an 85% chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer, she took the leap. To deal with the loss of her mother, Carey built what she refers to as a "gypsy wagon", and she hit the road. "I didn't want a home that could be taken away from me," she explained. And although a rebellious nature seems like a minute detail in such a significant story, it's Carey's attitude, persistence and fierce determination that has lead her to the successful impact she is having on the world today.
Her book, Beauty After Breast Cancer, which was released in mid-November 2015, is a gorgeous coffee table book with 38 narratives accompanied by extraordinary images of breast cancer survivors. The authentic stories are uplifting and comprehensive, while possessing the vital information one needs to know after being diagnosed with breast cancer. Carey found the individuals through familiar nurse navigators (nurses whose job it is to fully assist the sick. Carey referred to them as "personal experts you can hold in your pocket until you're ready) and support groups. Each interview with the survivors began with one question, "What is it you most wish you were told?" in regard to the process, options, struggle, fear, every complex aspect that fastens itself to a diagnosis. After the book was released, the responses Carey received were as heartening and positive as they get, usually in the realm of, "If this book had been out when I was diagnosed, everything would have been easier". Carey knew the three full years spent working on it, were certainly not a waste.
"When you are diagnosed with cancer, your perspective shifts to the hilt. It's like watching a scene from a movie that features a major natural disaster, like a tsunami. You have that individual standing on the shore as a humongous wave comes crashing down on them, throwing them all over the place. You can't breathe, you can't see. This is what it feels like to be told you have cancer. It completely knocks you down. You are asked to make all of these crazy important decisions right away and it's so difficult to understand, meanwhile you are being shown these clinical, awful images of torsos to compare yourself to. It's not the reality. We're here to put you back on your feet after those instances."
Katelyn's primary career is in the ER of a hospital, which validates her fearless attitude when it comes to enlightening us all of the flaws pertaining to the medical field, especially in regard to breast cancer. In a certain sense, statistics are a wonderful thing to know. When it comes to a heart-wrenching diagnosis, there must be more than numbers shown in order to make a patient, rather, a human being, comfortable and prepared to take on medical options and keep themselves optimistic. There is a severe lack of compassion when it's needed most. Beauty After Breast Cancer is the solution to this crucial issue. Since there are numerous variations of breast cancer, Carey knew it was important to include contrasting stories told by different people, including male perspective. Everyone's survival story is different, just like everyone's diagnosis.
"There are plenty of examples of extreme reactions, which is necessary. One woman wouldn't get out of bed for 9 months. Another knew right away, that she would be okay. I am a patient leading patients, letting them know that it can be okay; that they are not a statistic or a clinically portrayed torso. They are beautiful, even- especially- after surgery. I want to get the message out to the medical field. After being diagnosed, individuals must understand that it won't be easy the first time they see themselves after surgery, but it definitely gets easier. When a positive attitude is developed, the outcome will change. This goes for survival rates and surgical results. A change in your mental outlook will affect everything."
The photographs are raw, real and stunning. Photographer, Joseph Linaschke is to thank for that, along with every participant and of course, Katelyn Carey. The images show individuals who have undergone various surgeries, such as lumpectomies and bilateral mastectomies. Scars are shown, realistic outcomes are revealed, and a profound, artistic, beautiful change in the medical field is finally available.
To order Beauty After Breast Cancer and support Katelyn Carey, visit the site: http://beautyafterbreastcancer.com/
All photos courtesy of Katelyn Carey