Five years ago, we started the Of Scars project in order to start a conversation. There were injustices in the way that people were failing to respect the scars – emotional and physical – of surviving breast cancer. Women being banned from gyms for indecent exposure when their swimsuits wouldn’t fit comfortably over mastectomy scars and they chose unconventional options. Women feeling the need to hide away in closets to change their clothes where even their husbands couldn’t, and wouldn’t go. There were women being left by men who thought that cancer was “too hard” to deal with.
We didn’t know it at the time, but we were living in the time of Breast Cancer Awareness 1.0, where “awareness” simply meant that you understood that women were dying of this horrible disease and that something needed to be done. And at the time, it was critically important and the actions that were taken saved lives. What we also didn’t know was that by continuing from that point to push the conversation forward, we would be on the wave of Breast Cancer 2.0 – where we’re past knowing that the disease exists and that women are dying, and we find that women are surviving, and that it takes support for them to survive well.
Let me say that again.
It takes support for women surviving breast cancer to survive well.
We learned that survivors become survivors the minute they are diagnosed, and that it takes a team of supporters to love them and help them and to tell them the truth, in order for them to live well and to learn to accept their new reality.
Cancer changes you, forever. we’ve learned this. Over the last five years we have heard the stories, we have cried the tears. We have gotten right into the mix and helped to spread the conversation about it, we have helped people to embrace the fact that it’s okay to talk about it.
We’ve learned more than we could have ever dreamed of, when we first helped to start this conversation, and we didn’t start it alone. We started where we were standing, in our community, and other people have started where they are standing, in their communities. We’ve seen projects similar to ours crop up all over the globe.
The conversation is happening. The conversation is strong enough to continue.
We want to help feed new conversations in our community, and we know where to start. The next conversation is a really confusing issue that we encountered in our five years of working on Of Scars – an issue we want to explore and maybe even get to the bottom of. One that almost no one is immune to, whether they admit it or not.
It’s about self acceptance. It’s the root of what we have stood for in the Of Scars project. Women who felt imperfect or scarred or even just different stood in front of our cameras for five years and each and every one of them reached some new level of self acceptance. Even if it wasn’t a total transformation, some part of them became more comfortable and self-accepting.
Through the years I’ve wondered the same thing, over and over: would I do this project, if I were on the other side of the camera? I’ve never been able to give myself an honest answer – I don’t think it’s something I could possibly answer without having to truly decide that, and I sincerely hope I’m never in that position. I know that if I chose to do it, I would have the same issue many of the women we have worked with have had. I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “shoot whatever you want of my boobs but please, make me look thin.”
I struggle with this, every day. I put so much energy into actively not accepting my body that some days it just makes me exhausted and angry. I have absolutely no idea how to truly accept my body for what it is, and I know I’m not the only one.
Yet, in spite of this – or maybe because of it, we are living in the era of selfies. But not natural selfies – they are posed, styled, filtered and manipulated. What do we look like anymore? If we don’t take an honest look, will we just be getting farther from truly accepting ourselves, as-is?
We also want to discover some of the thought that leads to the ability to wholeheartedly accept one part of yourself, and so actively reject another part. If we can find some patterns, perhaps we can share some ideas to broaden our self acceptance.
Let us know if you want to be part of this new project – you can reach out through the ways you have contacted us on the Of Scars project. You know where to find us.
We are going to pause pursuing new work on the Scars project and take a time out on hosting the meetings and events we have been doing. This doesn’t mean the project disappears, only that it goes on holiday while we focus our efforts and time on a new conversation.
We are SO grateful for the opportunity we’ve had to help usher Breast Cancer Awareness 2.0 into the world, and our hearts turn to mush when we think of the generosity and openness of everyone who has participated in and supported the project these last 5 years. I know I echo Kate’s feelings as well when I say that this project has truly changed my life for the better, and I couldn’t be prouder of what we have all accomplished together.