Breast Cancer Survivors Reveal Their Scars in Beautiful, Brave Photo Series

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Isis Charise was used to getting phone calls from women. The pin-up and boudoir photographer from New York City had made a name for herself for capturing beautiful images that celebrated the female body. So three years ago, when she picked up the phone to a man’s voice, her day became unordinary.

He was calling to book a photo shoot for his wife, a 12-year breast cancer survivor who had undergone a single mastectomy. He wanted her to feel beautiful again, he explained to Charise. He still saw her as that.

On the day of the shoot, his 62-year-old conservative wife was determined to remained clothed and hide her scars. Charise continued with the shoot (“Exposing yourself is never the point,” she explains). But eventually, the women looked to Charise, said, “I’m doing this for myself,” and threw her clothes to the ground.

“I saw this amazing transformation of someone letting go of 12 years of shame about their body,” Charise recalls. “It was a powerful moment for both her as a woman and me as an artist.”

Two weeks later, a close friend called and asked Charise to photograph her before and after her own mastectomy. In both shoots, Charise watched her friend go through every emotion — fear, bravery, worry, grief, empowerment.

“Those two experiences combined were so powerful,” Charise says now. “I knew I couldn’t ignore them.”

She went on to photograph more than 30 women who have had mastectomies to survive breast cancer in a powerful series she calls, “Grace.”

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As the Grace project grows, Charise receives emails from women all over the world asking to become a part of it. They’re all working on self-acceptance, she says. They all want to share their story with other women who are going through something similar. Sometimes, she gets emails from women who aren’t battling cancer — instead, they write to thank her for helping them find confidence despite their imperfections.

Through the nerve-racking, vulnerable, uncomfortable experience of being photographed naked, Charise says her subjects are finding confidence, empowerment and beauty.

“I saw something in my face that I thought cancer had stolen from me forever,” one subject wrote after seeing her portraits. “When I think I don’t have any fight left, I’ll look to these photos.”

Follow the Grace project on Facebook and visit its website for more information. If you’d like to make a donation, head here.

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Custom-Made Shoes Help Kids Trek Through Life’s Most Difficult Journeys

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A child walks into a hospital for his first day of chemotherapy. Another has already been in that hospital for weeks, receiving treatment after treatment for her rare illness. In a different wing, a teen is relearning how to walk after an accident. They’re all on different, difficult journeys they had no choice in embarking on.

425486_406256686120039_740780384_n And if they’re going to make it through, they’ll need a good pair of shoes on their feet.

Better yet — they’ll need a magical, custom-made, one-of-a-kind pair of shoes. That’s what Madison “Peach” Steiner thinks, anyway.

About three years ago, the 23-year-old artist from Farmington, N.M., founded “Peach’s Neet Feet,” a nonprofit where volunteer artists paint shoes for kids and teens living with diseases, disorders and disabilities.

“We use the shoes as a way to celebrate people,” Steiner told The Mighty. “We say, ‘Hey, these are yours and only yours.’ Kids with cancer may view them as their fighter shoes. A nonverbal kid may see them as a way to show their identity.”

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Steiner estimates that her 30 volunteer artists have painted 2,000 shoes to date. To apply for a pair, parents can [email protected] with their child’s name in the subject line. Steiner then sends an application, most of which are approved. The artists sometimes even visit the kids to make sure they get the design right.

“We want the shoes to come out as unique and individual as possible,” Steiner explained. “They’re a part of the kids that represents who they are. From the beginning, I’ve hoped these shoes would become more than just shoes.”

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Kids outgrow, wear out and get shoes dirty. Kids step in puddles and spill drinks on themselves. Steiner knows this — she hopes that when they’re ready, these kids and their parents will view the shoes as a keepsake, a symbol of a long, hard but maybe beautiful journey.

On one occasion, Steiner delivered a pair too late — the shoes arrived on a customer’s doorstep days after their daughter had passed away from cancer.

“It was a situation where I froze and thought, ‘This is going to be a bad thing or a good thing,'” Steiner recalled. “They’ll view the shoes as something negative or they’ll see them as something to cherish.”

This couple chose the latter. They contacted Steiner to let her know they’d always take the shoes with them — in the car, on errands, on trips and to a memorial service at their daughter’s school, where a tree was planted in her honor.

“They were going to carry the shoes with them wherever they went,” Steiner said. “They were going to continue their daughter’s journey for her.”

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Visit Peach’s Neet Feet’s website and Facebook page to learn more. If you’d like to cover the costs of a pair of shoes for a child, head here.

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