Breast Cancer Confidence Project: Empowering women in their new bodies through photography

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Breast cancer survivors tell us body image is a huge struggle after diagnosis.

That’s why for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’re highlighting a nonprofit that aims to address that. A group of three women have one goal: to empower women in their new bodies.

Michaela Raes was 28 years old when she was unexpectedly diagnosed with Stage 2B, triple negative breast cancer.

“I was fortunate,” she said. “One night, I was just laying in bed, my cat actually was at my side, she was kneading her paws down the side of my body and I felt her hit something that felt hard and a little bit painful.”

That led to her diagnosis. It took her by surprise: No family history, and only 28 years old. The journey would lead to several surgeries.

“It was a really scary time for me — being that young I felt afraid, and just unsure of what my body would look like afterward. Would I feel comfortable with myself?” Raes said.

As a way to memorialize her body before surgery, Raes decided to do a boudoir shoot with Jolana Hollister, a photographer she met through a mutual friend.

“I was really inspired by her wanting to document the entire journey,” Hollister said. “That’s not an easy thing to do, so it was amazing to document that.”

Raes decided that sharing her pictures to inspire other women wasn’t enough. That led to the Breast Cancer Confidence Project. The first boudoir event, held in 2020, helped three survivors and one previvor with a photo shoot.

Raes is now in remission. So is Rebecca Curran, who was diagnosed at 36 and joined the team in 2021.

“I know you hear that scary statistic that one In eight women get diagnosed, but you never think it’s going to be you,” Curran said. “As soon as I saw those pictures, it was life-changing really, amazing to see myself through Jolana’s lens.”