7 Warrior/Survivors + 10 Volunteers = a jam-packed, fun-filled and emotional day for a bittersweet sisterhood.
"We laughed, we cried, then we laughed some more," said survivor Mary. No one can know the breast-cancer journey unless they've walked in those moccasins. Seeing their own beauty and celebrating survival together is key—the camaraderie borne of enjoying the experience with a group encourages self-acceptance with reassurances that they are not alone.
They say it's the worst group with the best members.
The 7 breast-cancer survivor/warriors won an all-paid half-weekend photo retreat at a gorgeous desert home on the western edge of Tucson, donated for the event by owner Kimberly Maisto of Keller Williams Southern Arizona (photos below). Friday's evening reception welcomed and introduced all participants, the survivors making their Saturday appointments for hair/makeup/nails/wardrobe plus individual photo sessions. Everyone returned early morning next day for a busy Saturday mixed with making new friends in-between salon services and photo shoots.
(below photo) Seated survivors (left to right): life-of-the-party Kaiona, Gerri, Martha, Melissa, Mel, Mary & Nicole.
7 survivors (seated) with 10 volunteers to help make their day special.
Photographs & PhotoBooks
Following the boudoir-photo retreat each survivor chose her favorite images from a curated collection of the best, then photographer Jana retouched and creatively edited all final selections and custom designed a personalized keepsake photobook with about 50 photos for every survivor.
Seeing reactions to a boudoir book where they are the beauty in the photos? Priceless. Women have been moved to tears.
It was a fabulous event held in the donated, well-appointed venue The Post workspaces. Showcasing the 7 survivors' images in 50 large canvas photographs provided opportunity to publicly acknowledge and express gratitude to donors and sponsors of both events—the photo retreat and exhibit. The exhibit featured a special Sponsor Hour for donors, survivors, volunteers and special guests where pink champagne and charcuterie boards were served.
We thank our "Gem" venue sponsor donating use of The Post's large and beautiful space to feature our exhibit. A big crowd came to see the photographs—and stayed to meet the survivors and enjoy the food trucks, silent auction and free pink lemonade.
The exhibit also served as fundraiser through our nonprofit partner Nadia Strong Foundation to help defray expenses with photo sales and silent-auction donations. Photographs give a face to survivorship as survivors embrace their new normal while celebrating getting to the other side just to be alive. This year, title-sponsor doctors from Tucson Plastic Surgery bought ALL canvases for the survivors to take home.
Photographer/project-creator Jana M. Suchy with Oro Valley Mayor Joe Winfield at The Post Workspaces' Pink-Ribbon Boudoir photo exhibit .
What Survivors Said About Their Pink-Ribbon Boudoir Experience:
"I have loved every minute—in a heartbeat I'd do it again. The reason we were all able to come together was crappy, but out of it you gain some lifelong friends." Melissa
"Best part, discussing our journeys with other women who have been there, to meet women at different stages. Others don't like to talk about it, tippytoe around it." Nicole
"I enjoyed the entire experience, it turned out to be so much more than I ever imagined. I think that I met a whole bunch of badasses. It's definitely something everybody should try. Talk about a confidence boost. I'm so glad I was thrown in your path." Martha
“This is an amazing event you have masterminded & I will treasure it forever.” Melissa
"I love my book. When you're going through [treatment] you feel ugly, not feminine, and it's hard to remember what you looked like. If I was newly diagnosed it would make me feel inspired to see the books." Kaiona
"It was part of being a community. Seeing the women who didn't see themselves as beautiful or they belonged—during the experience and after—that they could see themselves in a different way." Mel
“It’s so important for women to be able to reconnect with their bodies. One-thousand percent I’d recommend boudoir to other survivors.” Mel
“You put together an incredible group of people. The best part was start to finish—Queens for a Day!” Mary
“I left crying out of gratitude—I felt really seen when I thought I’d be invisible.” Martha
“Being with a group was emotionally healing for me, being with others like me.” Gerri
“Definitely I’d do boudoir again. I think it’s important to remember that we are still women, despite surgeries.” Nicole
Bringing Sexy Back One Survivor at a Time.
Are you interested in the Beyond Beautiful project? To learn more about boudoir also visit photographer Jana's site wayoutwestcreative.com at the link below.