New book affirms cancer survivors are still beautiful
By Courtney Llewellyn
Reminder Assistant Editor
WILBRAHAM "Everybody knows somebody," Torran Bagamary said of those who have dealt with breast cancer.
He, along with his partner Michelle Iglesias, both Wilbraham residents, recently released a book of photographs and quotes from local women who have overcome the disease titled "Still Beautiful: Encouraging Breast Cancer Survivors to Find Peace Within."
Iglesias, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004, rattled off frightening statistics of the disease: there were 240,000 new incidences of breast cancer in the U.S. in 2007, with 40,460 of those projected to die from the disease; 2.4 million are living with a history of breast cancer, one percent of whom are men; one in eight women has the chance of developing breast cancer; it's the second most common type of cancer in the world.
She acknowledged that the facts were frightening, but the reality of the disease is even more so.
"When I was diagnosed, what was shown to me scared the bejesus out of me," Iglesias told Reminder Publications
. She was speaking of the clinical photographs taken of women who had gone through everything from a lumpectomy (removal of a lump from the breast) to a double mastectomy (removal of both breasts).
Iglesias ended her treatment in 2006, and she has a large scar running across one of her breasts as a reminder of what she went through.
"It's not just a devastating thing to go through," she said. "It's a self-esteem thing.
"You're human first," she continued, "but then you're a woman. It's not just a breast, it's losing your hair -- it's taking your femininity away from you."
Bagamary originally came up with the idea of creating a book providing an unveiling view at the world of breast cancer, with survivors sharing their stories and their scars. He and Iglesias wanted to do something different to help those dealing with the disease.
The goal of "Still Beautiful" is to help those going through treatment find peace with what's happening to their bodies and be happy with the end result, no matter what it looks like.
"It's about gaining strength and realizing beauty," Iglesias said.
"It's about being able to look in a mirror and saying 'I am who I am and I love myself,'" Bagamary added. "We want women to achieve peace, accepting what's happened."
The book features 14 different models, ranging in age from 23 to 83. Bagamary said that every model expressed how liberating posing for the book was for them.
"Still Beautiful" is different in that it shows real women who have gone through a variety of treatments and includes quotes from each of those women.
"It hadn't even crossed our minds to use someone else's words for 'Still Beautiful,'" Iglesias said. A model in the book herself, one of Iglesias' quotes is, "Life takes on new meaning when confronted with death."
"There are so many books with stories [about this]," Bagamary said, but none that he knows of actually show photographs of the survivors.
Iglesias said their goal is to get the book into every breast cancer doctor and plastic surgeon's office to give women hope.
The book is available at www.stillbeautifulstore.com
, which launches this week, and sells for $49.95. A portion of the sale of every book will be donated to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, where Iglesias was treated.
Iglesias noted that the book is not just for breast cancer survivors, either. "It's for anyone who's dealt with trauma in their lives," she said. "We're encouraging survivors to find peace within."