By Rick Cohler
GREEN BAY – Since 1985, the month of October has been designated as Breast Cancer Awareness month to focus attention on preventing and treating breast cancer.
Breast cancer accounts for 12.5% of all new annual cancer cases worldwide — making it the most common cancer in the world — according to the American Cancer Society.
About 13%, or one in eight, of U.S. women are going to develop invasive breast cancer during the course of their life.
Aurora BayCare Clinic and local photographer Rachael Phillips have launched “Faces of Breast Cancer” to highlight the inner beauty which still shines in the faces of women fighting the disease.
“I turned 40 in March and got my first mammogram,” Phillips said. “Being curious, I started to explore photos online and I was stunned when I saw the scars and what is left from breast cancer and as a photographer I thought I could help bring more awareness to breast cancer.
Phillips and Jessica Winkel, Business Development Manager for Bay Care Clinic, came up with a plan.
“We put a call out to local breast cancer patients,” Winkel said. “We had 10 spots on a first-come first-serve basis to participate in a program where they would get their hair and makeup done, have a portrait taken and be willing to talk about their cancer journey.”
Another 10 women were put on a waiting list and will likely have their turn next year, according to Winkel.
The profiles will be featured on the RP Photography website during October.
While acknowledging it is a difficult subject, Phillips said it has increased her awareness.
“Yesterday, one of the ladies did tear up a lot talking about her children, so it definitely has been emotional but it has opened my eyes,” she said. “I’m hoping that the women we interview throughout the month are more accepting of their bodies and giving them an outlet to express their fears, celebrate what they have overcome. I ask them what their goals looking forward and I’ve heard some awesome and inspiring things like traveling more, learning to appreciate my family more and keep growing.”
Korissa Diehl of Green Bay had her styling done on Thursday, Sept. 7.
“When you go through cancer it’s ugly,” she said. “You lose your hair, you go through treatment, you’re not feeling good then all of sudden you get to come to an event like this! You get pampered a little bit, they do your hair and makeup. It shows a little bit of the beauty in all of the ugly you go through. You need to hang on to that beauty. This whole event has, for me, meant empowerment, it means hope and bringing awareness to others. It’s just an amazing event. I think that cancer patients are the strongest people I will ever know and I think that giving opportunities to see our stories is so incredibly important to bring that awareness. Having a strong medical team like Aurora BayCare is everything in your treatment so I’m just incredibly thankful to be here.”
Diehl said people think that once treatment is over the journey is done, but said it’s almost like chapter No. 2.
“I am still doing hormone treatments and will be on them for the next 10 years,” she continued. “I will be having reconstructive surgery next week and I go in about every six weeks as they watch me pretty closely; but I am living life and I am thankful to be here.”
Phillips said the photo shoot helps the women build confidence.
“They are showing me their scars and I appreciate their opening up to me about that and honestly I hope it helps them overcome their struggles,” she added.