On Sunday, I told you about Mackenzie Crowne’s book, Where Would You Like Your Nipple?, being free through today – it’s still free today, and if you didn’t pick it up you can click here or type in http://smarturl.it/3737hc into your web browser to get it. After reading one of her posts on her website (www.mackenziecrowne.com), I asked her if she would write a guest blog post talking a little about the book and to share a bit from the article – I found it touching and eye-opening; hopefully, you will, too.
Tis the season of joy, but for far too many, that joy is or will be dimmed by a devastating diagnosis and debilitating treatments. Five years ago I experienced such a holiday season and my heart goes out to those who now walk where I was. I’m here to tell them there is hope, as is Karla Chernicky.
Karla is a single mom and a survivor. She’s also the model for Open Heart by Lisa Scholder, the cover image of my lighthearted survivor’s guide, Where Would You Like Your Nipple? The moment I saw Open Heart, I knew it was the perfect wrapping for what I’ve tried to convey in Nipple; Hope and triumph in the midst of devastation.
Karla’s stunning and powerful portrait is part of Bodies of Courage, a Faces of Courage project raising funds benefiting cancer patients and their families. I’m always amazed, hearing the stories of survivors and learning what they’ve overcome. So many go on to speak out in their own way. Karla chose to become involved with Faces of Courage.
When I asked her what made her decide to pose for the project, and what she sees when she looks at the finished product, this was her answer:
There are actually two reasons I decided to be body painted. After surviving the cancer, chemo and the numerous and seemingly unending surgeries, I wanted to take some risks, to live outside the box, do something outside of the norm, something different. I felt compelled to really embrace life and do some things out of the ordinary, something that made me a little apprehensive, fearful even, but to do them anyway and live life to the fullest degree I could. I call it living “Big”.
A month before my bi-lateral mastectomy, I discovered the man I had been dating for two years had met someone else and dumped me like a hot potato. I was in total shock through my mastectomy and for much of my treatments, having been certain he would be by my side through it all. I took such a hit to my self-esteem and confidence that the body painting was a way for me to reclaim some of that, and a way to celebrate what I had been through.
I also very much wanted to help Peggie and the Faces of Courage Foundation. Whenever Peggie sent out the call for “help”, I tried to do as much as I could. Having been through everything alone, with just my then 10 year old daughter, I found Faces of Courage after the chemo and it was a light in the darkness, a fortress for me to reach out to, a place where I belonged and could lean on. I love Peggie and all she does and all that she is. When I grow up, I want to be like Peggie! Faces of Courage and Peggie have done so much to help and inspire me that I wanted to do what I could to give back at least a little of what I had received.
When the painting was done, I felt beautiful and free! I didn’t feel as self-conscious about my breasts with the body paint covering them. Afterward, I felt fulfilled and definitely stronger for having done something kind of scary for me to do, and happy to do something to help someone else.
As for what I see when I look at the image, I see beauty, strength, hope and courage when I look at it now, and a message of love being sent out to other survivors and those who are battling the disease. For me personally, having gone through the year long process alone, I see triumph: over the disease, the surgeries and the hardship.
I see the same and while my story differs from Karla’s, they share many similarities. I also feel the need to help others who are facing what we have experienced, as well as their friends and loved ones. It’s the reason I wrote “Nipple”.
Like all those newly diagnosed with breast cancer, I remember meeting many survivors in those first heart-wrenching weeks. They came out of the woodwork like members of a secret society, calling me into the fold. But I didn’t feel I belonged. They danced, victorious, on the other side of an abyss, while I staggered under quiet disbelief.
A wise person once said, It’s time to pull on your big girl panties and deal with it. Big girl panties in place, I took my first tentative steps toward the other side of the abyss; Toward victory. The chapters of Where Would You Like Your Nipple? are my personal and often irreverent observations of my odyssey from disbelief to hope, and finally, to triumph as a survivor.