Cancer Survivors Show Off Scars In Powerful Pictures For New Social Media Campaign
The social media platform was set up by Vicky Saynor in April in response to an "ill-thought out" campaign from 'Fashion Targets Breast Cancer Now', which used slogans such as "2 are better than 1" and "bosom buddies" alongside beaming celebrity endorsements.
And although the charity has since apologised for missing the mark with its well-intentioned campaign, Vicky said she was inspired to create an outlet highlighting the reality of cancer, one that would directly connect and support the community affected.
View this post on InstagramWritten by Renee @rshill37 . I was diagnosed with Appendix Cancer in Aug 2016 at the age of 31. I was in, probably, the best shape of my life & shocked is an understatement. I went to see my primary care doctor about some pretty non-descript symptoms - basically being a woman. She took what I had to say seriously. I ended up meeting a gynecologic oncologist a week later & immediately had surgery scheduled. She thought it was a possibly malignant ovarian cyst. My appendix & ovaries were removed during the initial surgery. There was so much disease on my ovaries no fertility could be saved. I went from having never heard of this disease to becoming a relative expert. My family & I learned everything we could. I went from my initial surgery to starting chemotherapy 4 weeks later. I went in every two weeks all fall, with the goal of shrinking my tumors while simultaneously getting my body strong enough for a major surgery. I had five rounds of Folfox & 3 rounds of Folfiri. Thankfully the chemo did what it was supposed to & my surgery was scheduled. On Jan 20, 2017 - I underwent a 12-hour cytoreductive/HIPEC surgery. The recovery from this was long, difficult & still hard to think about. My body was no longer mine. I slowly got back to my life: work, walking, exercise, eating. I ran for the first time four months after surgery & it was only for a few minutes, but it gave me hope. I was so weak & fragile. I went back to yoga 10 months after my diagnosis, which was great for me both physically & mentally. All summer I said yes to every activity I could: hiking, biking, kayaking. My biggest accomplishment was running the Door County Half Marathon on May 5, 2018. It was my slowest & most difficult half marathon, but I finished it. This has fuelled me to get stronger & faster & continue on my path to being the old me. I am now 2.5 years cancer free. The first picture is part of a series I had taken this year. The second picture is me & my oncologist who handed me my medal when I crossed the finish line. #rarecancerawareness #appendixcancer #cancerawareness #checkcheckcheck #truecancerbodies
A post shared by TRUE CANCER BODIES (@truecancerbodies) on
In November 2018, Vicky was diagnosed with Grade 3, Stage 1, Triple Negative Breast Cancer after she found a lump on her breast while preparing to fly out her honeymoon.
And following her surgery, Vicky, who had learned how to check herself properly via Coppafeel, decided to set up her Instagram blog @gammy_tit as a cathartic way of journaling what she was going through.
Within 72 hours of being inspired to create the campaign, Vicky had recruited 38 True Cancer Bodies from around the country to participate in a photoshoot to show a more authentic representation of the disease.
Between them, the group, made up of both women and men who range from 26 to 57, represented 10 different cancers including breast, bowel, multiple myeloma and Ewing's sarcoma - many of which never get the glossy celebrity endorsements.
Since the photoshoot, True Cancer Bodies told PRETTY 52 they have received incredible support by showcasing "the ugly side as well as the beautiful" of living with the disease online.
View this post on InstagramHi, I'm Jen @thecancerchrons Cancer can feed off your identity, taking parts of it away bit by bit. Your hair, your dignity, your strength, your hope, various organs & body parts, your independence. Mine decided I would also need to sacrifice my face. Our face is how we present ourselves to the world & is tied in such a big way to our identity. Osteosarcoma (bone cancer) most commonly presents in the legs of young boys, as well as dogs & the occasional polar bear. Mine decided to show up in a 29yr old, as a small lump sticking out above my upper teeth. Chemo was unimaginable - 24hrs/day, 5 days/week, 3 weeks on & 2 weeks off. Rinse & repeat 6 times. Then surgery to remove the tumour & a lot of the bone in my face, reconstructing my upper jaw using the bone, skin, muscle & blood supply from my shoulder - later having to use the blood supply in my leg after the shoulder one started to fail. And yes, they took most of my top teeth away from me too. I didn't look human when I woke up from that surgery & it's been hard going through the past 2 years having my face change so much. People often asked what was 'wrong' with me & I couldn't step away from announcing 'I have/had cancer' whenever I met anyone new. At times it was difficult seeing people on Instagram going through cancer treatment & looking glam, when I just wanted to hide my broken face away. Now, 2 years since diagnosis, I am finally starting to be happy with how I look, thanks in a big way to finally having some teeth back. I can't stop smiling. In some ways I have grown to love my patchwork body even more now. I no longer worry about things like a bit of excess weight or there. It feels trivial compared to what incredible things my body has endured. It has done me proud. Sarcoma awareness month is drawing to a close. Osteosarcoma is a rare cancers. Did you now that 54% of all cancer deaths in the UK are from rare or uncommon cancers? If you have a hard lump please get it checked out. Doing so could save your life. Continued below... :arrow_down::arrow_down::arrow_down:
A post shared by TRUE CANCER BODIES (@truecancerbodies) on
The Instagram account has amassed over 4,000 followers and they also operate an inclusive Facebook support group for cancer patients and their families.
Speaking to us about the campaign, they said: "Our key message is to raise awareness for difference cancers and show the true face (and body) of cancer.
"Cancer is not pink and fluffy, it is brutal on every level. If we can open people's eyes to that then hopefully people will become better at knowing their normal, checking their breasts, balls, poo, skin and every other part of themselves.
"We know that early detection saves lives and our hope is that by getting to know more about different cancers, we can empower people to take ownership of their body and the changes they see or feel."
Each month, True Cancer Bodies aims to spread awareness about different types of cancer; this month they're shining a light on rare cancers, in September it will be Thyroid and Lymphoma Awareness and then Breast Cancer Awareness in October.
With over 200 different types of cancers out there, the campaign admitted it will take them time to bring awareness to all of them but they're "determined to be a voice" for all those suffering.
And while TCB is empowering those who follow them, several of their posts have been removed because they're deemed to breach Instagram and Facebook's "community guidelines" despite the positive message behind each photo.
"We find ourselves in awe daily by what the members of our community are going through & how that affects both they bodies and minds," they told PRETTY 52. "Whether that be losing their hair, eyebrows, eyelashes, major surgery which results in scars they proudly show, the brutal side effects of chemo and radiotherapy.
"We should applaud these warriors who will let us see their most vulnerable side in order to help others. We have had a number of photos and posts removed by Instagram and Facebook for breaching their 'community guidelines'.
Despite the minor setback, they won't let anything get in the way of supporting their community.
They concluded: "These images have shown nothing by the stunning beauty of the people in them and yet because of the nudity or scars that can be seen, they are deemed to be unacceptable to post. Something needs to change."
Featured Image Credit: Binky Nixon