Kelly: 41 | Residence: Pittsford | President of Fight Club of Rochester, Inc.
Kelly's personality is the first thing you notice about her. It literally precedes her by about 10 feet, hits you in the face with energy, fills the entire room you're in and then some. I remember meeting Kelly about a year before she applied to be a part of this project, at the annual Gilda's Club of Rochester Bachelor's Auction, and thinking immediately that I would photograph her some day. Or at least that I wanted to :) When she applied and told me about the work she was doing through Fight Club of Rochester and her mission of helping breast cancer survivors like herself feel beautiful again, I knew our meeting was more than chance.
HER WHY - I’m a different person than I was 6 years ago. When I got cancer, I went through chemo, lost my hair, had my breasts removed, had my hair grow back (with a little bit of grey), rebuilt my breasts twice and until recently was on the estrogen regulator Tamoxifen (imagine PMS times 100, daily). But when you have cancer, it is sometimes your job to make others feel better. I found that by not letting cancer define me in a negative way, I was able to take better care of myself. I tried to find the good in every situation, so other people could see it positively through me. I have experienced some great positives. I loved when my hair grew back in beautiful curls, and now I have bigger boobs and don’t have to wear a bra. I’ve made wonderful friends and started the Fight Club of Rochester, a non-profit organization that raises money for organizations who support cancer research and people living with cancer in the Rochester, New York area.
There is a photo going around the internet of breast cancer survivors with their shirts off. None of them are re-built. These are strong and courageous woman willing to put themselves out there. I want to offer a different perspective. I chose to rebuild my breasts. They are fake boobs, with fake nipples, but I was 34 when I lost them, and still wanted that part of my life and body back. I want to show people that you can be yourself again after cancer.
HER THOUGHTS ON BEAUTY & BREASTS: Perhaps at a certain age there is no need to care about having boobs anymore, but I was 34 and still wanted to rock a bikini. I’ve rebuilt mine twice, initially after my mastectomy in 2010 and then again in 2014. The first doctor I went to didn’t give me a lot of options and I hated the way he reconstructed my nipples. He didn’t hire a real tattoo artist, and I wasn’t a huge fan of the shape. As I started to do more outreach, I was spending a lot of time talking to women about how they could feel whole again. At the same time, I didn’t like what I had going on under my own shirt. I went in for a consult with a new doctor, simply to discuss my nipples, but after that discussion, I decided to have them completely redone. Now, I’m really pleased with the result – my bust looks more natural under clothing, and I feel much more like myself.
WHAT SHE'S NERVOUS ABOUT: I don't have any anxieties about doing a shoot. I like the idea of people reading about my story, I think this will be fun. I don’t frequently have any specific reason to be sexy. I've been with my husband for almost 14 years, and he thinks I'm sexy without me really having to try. I recently turned 41. I’ve always had the mindset and sense of humor of an 18 year old, but I've definitely changed since I hit 40. I've always loved going dancing, but now I just want sit at home and drink wine in my pjs. This will be a fun opportunity to feel sexy again.
HER MISSION - It’s really easy to find the bad and scary side of cancer if your only resource is the internet. Before I was diagnosed, I had the perception that breast cancer was always a torturous process and very few survived. I didn't have much information to go on. But every time I would make it through a benchmark in the treatment process, I would think, “That wasn’t that terrible. High five to me.” I have found that talking to someone with an upbeat attitude makes it easier for you to have an upbeat attitude yourself. I love when someone reaches out to me to talk about the process. I can take their sadness and help them knock it off the table. We say “Ok, this is now your part-time job. It’s a shitty part-time job. And you’re going to do it, and get it done with. These are the steps and the resources you need to rock this out."
PARTING WORDS: Reach out. Ask questions. In any situation, what you don’t know is the scariest part.