Daring Series Turns Famous Cartoon Characters Into Breast Cancer Survivors

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As this year’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month comes to an end, Italian artist AleXsandro Palombo is here to remind us all that the quest to raise awareness for the disease extends far past October. On Monday, Palombo, who made headlines for creating a series where he gave Disney princesses disabilities, released a set of drawings he calls “SURVIVOR,” where he imagines famous cartoon characters as breast cancer survivors.

The series (below) features Disney princesses like Cinderella, Arielle and Tiana and female cartoons like Marge Simpson, Betty Boop and Wilma Flintstone as women who have underwent single and double mastectomies to survive breast cancer.

Palombo told Metro UK that the new series is “a powerful reflection on the disease, mastectomy and its effects, female identity and acceptance.”

Take a look at a few illustrations below, and visit Palombo’s website to view the entire series.

SURVIVOR Breast Art Campaign Iconic The Simpsons Wilma Flintstone Marge Lois Griffin Wonder Woman Cinderella Aurora Snow White Jasmine Jessica Rabbit Betty Boop aleXsandro Palombo Disney Princess1b

SURVIVOR Breast Art Campaign Iconic The Simpsons Wilma Flintstone Marge Lois Griffin Wonder Woman Cinderella Aurora Snow White Jasmine Jessica Rabbit Betty Boop aleXsandro Palombo Disney Princess 9a
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SURVIVOR Breast Art Campaign Iconic The Simpsons Wilma Flintstone Marge Lois Griffin Wonder Woman Cinderella Aurora Snow White Jasmine Jessica Rabbit Betty Boop aleXsandro Palombo Disney Prince 3a

SURVIVOR Breast Art Campaign Iconic The Simpsons Wilma Flintstone Marge Lois Griffin Wonder Woman Cinderella Aurora Snow White Jasmine Jessica Rabbit Betty Boop aleXsandro Palombo Disney Prince 7a

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SURVIVOR Breast Art Campaign Iconic The Simpsons Wilma Flintstone Marge Lois Griffin Wonder Woman Cinderella Aurora Snow White Jasmine Jessica Rabbit Betty Boop aleXsandro Palombo Disney Princess 7a

SURVIVOR Breast Art Campaign Iconic The Simpsons Wilma Flintstone Marge Lois Griffin Wonder Woman Cinderella Aurora Snow White Jasmine Jessica Rabbit Betty Boop aleXsandro Palombo Disney Prince 5a

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Tattoo Artist's Incredible 3D Nipple Art Brings Comfort to Breast Cancer Survivors (NSFW)

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When Jeff Paetzold did his first tattoo nipple reconstruction, he felt as if he had finally found what he was meant to do.

The 31-year-old from Batavia, Illinois, has been a tattoo artist for nearly 14 years, but it wasn’t until three years ago that he discovered just how much good he could do with his talents. Since then, he’s helped around 400 people, most of them breast cancer survivors, feel more comfortable about their bodies.

Tattoo artist Jeff Paetzold with his daughter
Tattoo artist Jeff Paetzold with his daughter.

“To be honest it all felt like fate. I felt like I was finally where I belonged,” Paetzold told The Mighty in an email. “Sure, in a studio setting it’s nice to make someone happy by giving them a tattoo they love. But here, I’m helping to give happiness back.”

His skill at working around scar tissue and making realistic, 3D-looking tattoos eventually put him in touch with Northwestern Specialists in Plastic Surgery, where he works two mornings a week helping patients get back a little of what they’ve lost.

Women who have had a mastectomy and then breast reconstruction surgery sometimes opt to have a nipple tattooed on their breast, instead of having one built using other tissues. Often times, the areola tattooing performed by surgeons or aestheticians is very flat and unrealistic in appearance. Paetzold, however, uses shadows and highlights to give the impression of texture and dimension, creating the illusion of a protruding nipple.

“For me, it added more normalcy which made me feel better about myself,” Elizabeth Davis, who was tattooed by Paetzold after her double mastectomy, told My Fox Chicago.

Editor’s note: The following photographs may be considered NSFW.

This patient had left nipple reconstruction, followed by Paetzold’s tattoo.

left nipple tattoo after

This patient had bilateral nipple reconstruction.

bilateral nipple tattoo before

bilateral nipple tattoo after

 Another bilateral nipple reconstruction.

bilateral nipple tattoo before

bilateral nipple tattoo after

Helping these women regain happiness with their physical appearance brings Paetzold great personal satisfaction. He’s often moved by their gratitude.

“The most touching reaction was when I had a patient so overwhelmed with joy looking in the mirror after I told her I was done, she started sobbing,” the artist told The Mighty. “She hugged me and couldn’t stop saying ‘thank you.’ At this point, I couldn’t even hold back my own tears. I’m not a very emotional person, but I couldn’t help but let my guard down. There was something so powerful about that moment. It’s something I will never forget.”

To see more of Paetzold’s artwork, visit his artist page on Facebook or the website of the studio where he works.

The Mighty, in partnership with Fuck Cancer, is asking the following: Share a story about one moment or conversation related to a cancer diagnosis or experience that made an impact on you. Find out how to email us a story submission here.

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Marine's Topless Selfie Has People Talking for All the Right Reasons

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Some selfies are frivolous, some are narcissistic and some are downright inappropriate. This one is important, selfless and downright brave.

Barbie Ritzco, who has served 20 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, was diagnosed with Stage IIIB breast cancer in February 2011, four months after being deployed to Afghanistan, according to a blog post she wrote for The SCAR Project. That August, after chemotherapy, she underwent a bilateral mastectomy, followed by months of radiation. Not long after, she ran the Marine Corps marathon.

“I wanted to do something that I would feel… that I had did something that day besides making it through the day,” Ritzco says in the video below.

Then, in 2013, she got a heart-shaped tattoo on her chest and posted this picture to Facebook:

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“Undergoing a mastectomy is a life-changing experience,” Ritzco, also known as “the Warrior Queen,” wrote on Facebook. “Sharing photos can help raise awareness about breast cancer and support the men and women facing a diagnosis.”

In mid-August 2014, “Flat & Fabulous,” a Facebook group Ritzco cofounded, reposted the selfie, asking its fans to keep Ritzco in their thoughts, as her cancer has returned.

“For Barbie, the vision of Flat & Fabulous was never to be a ‘cancer’ group,” the post reads. “She wanted a place to EMPOWER women who were living without reconstruction.”

In less than two weeks, the photo was shared more than 700 times.

According to a blog post on The Huffington Post, Ritzco wrote this message on “Beyond the Pink Moon,” a private Facebook group devoted to sharing news about breast and ovarian cancer:

I think of this as a detour on my journey. I am an innately positive person and nothing will ever change that, but now more than ever I need your support. I will be taking time to focus on my healing. Three years ago when I joined Beyond the Pink Moon, our founder Nicki, lovingly nicknamed me the Warrior Queen because I never give up. I never will.

h/t Mic.com

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Meet the Breast Cancer Survivor Who Bared It All in John Legend's New Music Video

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Since its July 10 release, John Legend’s new music video for his single “You & I (Nobody in the World)” has been viewed more than six million times on YouTube. In it, you’ll see 63 women look at themselves in a mirror.

You’ll see Legend’s wife, supermodel Chrissy Teigen, get ready to go out. You’ll see a boxer mid-workout. You’ll watch a bride shake off nerves, a girl get her ears pierced and a young woman try on clothes in a dressing room. You’ll see an elderly woman apply makeup, a teenager with Down syndrome look her outfit up and down, and a mom adjust her glasses. You’ll watch “Orange Is The New Black” actress and transgender advocate Laverne Cox take off her makeup and a cancer patient take off her wig.

And at the 2:43 mark, you’ll watch a woman take off her bra, revealing scars from the double mastectomy she had in 2010. Her name is Brenda O’Brien.

This is her story.

Brenda O’Brien in the music video of John Legend’s "You & I (Nobody in the World).”

Brenda O’Brien in the music video of John Legend’s "You & I (Nobody in the World).”

“It’s not like I want to show everybody my chest all the time,” O’Brien, 50, says in the beginning of her interview with The Mighty. “But I want people to know what it looks like to go through what I went through. This is my body. It’s just a fact. I’m embracing it.”

O’Brien was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005. She sat in a Jiffy Lube with her father when she got the call; he knew from her face what the doctor had said — he recognized the expression from his wife, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer years earlier.

“It was a blow,” O’Brien recalls. “But I remember feeling like I could get through it.” She underwent treatments and had a lumpectomy.

Five years later, the cancer returned. This time, O’Brien chose to have a double mastectomy. Months of radiation therapy followed, along with reconstruction surgery. She found herself with a new, almost unrecognizable body.

“It was one of the most emotional times of my life, not because of the vanity or visual of it,” O’Brien says. “But because I felt like I had failed somehow, like I couldn’t heal.”

As she worked to accept her body, O’Brien — an artist and writer by trade — began a photojournal, documenting her life with breast cancer. She wanted to make a resource for women who would Google “double mastectomy,” as she had months earlier. She wanted them to find pictures filled with bravery and beauty — not the scary, shock-value images she had seen when she first searched. She asked different photographers to take her picture for a series that became the What Lies Beneath Project.

shannon warf photography
shannon warf photography

A few weeks before the Legend video was released, O’Brien stood on a closed set with director Mishka Kornai.

“We’re absolutely not looking to exploit this,” he told her.

“It’s not exploitation,” O’Brien replied. “This is it. This is my real body. This is me.”

When cameras rolled, she looked into a mirror, as instructed, and readied herself the way she would for any ordinary day. Then, on one take, Kornai asked her to think back that day in 2010 when she realized a double mastectomy was the best — if not her only — option.

“That feeling I felt — that ‘this is it,’ devastating feeling — it’s always right under my skin, ready to go,” O’Brien says. She cried while she undressed on camera, and she cried weeks later, when she watched the footage back for the first time. But the tears aren’t all out of sadness; they’re a sort of celebration, too. Each time O’Brien sheds them, she sheds a piece of herself who felt defeated by breast cancer. She sheds the parts of her who felt ashamed of her body after surgery. She sheds the pieces of her past she doesn’t need anymore.

“If you keep living in a body you used to have or in a situation that’s not there anymore, you’re just going to be depressed,” O’Brien says. It’s what has driven her to “show everybody [her] chest all the time.” It’s what has driven her own photo project. And it’s what drove her to pose for New York photographer Isis Charise in the Grace project, a photo series of breast cancer survivors.

O’Brien stood before the camera once more for Charise — this time, with her two sisters, Kathleen and Angel, by her side. Within 11 months of her own diagnosis, both women had been diagnosed with breast cancer, too.

Together, the trio has created a network called Three Sisters Survival to raise breast cancer awareness and research funds and to connect survivors and cancer patients around the world.

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O’Brien didn’t hesitate when producers called and asked her to appear in Legend’s video. She felt honored to stand with the 62 other women who bravely shared their insecurities with the world. Her own insecurity may seem more severe than others’, but she doesn’t see it that way.

“I was talking to someone who said, ‘Well, it would all mean more if John Legend didn’t marry a supermodel, and I thought, ‘Well, you just missed the whole point of the video,’” O’Brien says. “I know people who are beautiful but don’t think they are. Everyone has something they’re insecure about. Everyone has something they’re dealing with.”

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Eric Ita photography

It’s true. She’s come a long way since her double mastectomy — many women would never bare their scars the way she does. But she still struggles with her new body. Dating can be awkward. Meeting new people means explaining her past. Getting dressed can be a production.

“It’s not like I’ve got it all worked out,” O’Brien says. “It’s an ongoing thing, but I feel 95 percent better than I did when I had my mastectomy.”

Today, she works in New York City as a makeup artist for Broadway’s “The Lion King” while she works to turn the What Lies Beneath project into a book. Every day, in the midst of a busy schedule, she has to learn to love herself.

Patience, she says, is the key to accepting a new body.

“You’ll find your womanhood deeper inside yourself. You’ll find it in every other part of your body — in your elbows, knees, your back,” she says. “Every part of your body is a woman.”

Meet the 63 women from Legend’s video in the behind-the-scenes documentary below.

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These Stunning Swimsuits Are Empowering Women Who Have Had Single Mastectomies

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Introducing: Monokini 2.0, a fantastic swimwear line designed specifically for women who have had single mastectomies. Finnish fashion designers wanted to create a line that empowered women who have gone through breast cancer “and took the brave step to expose themselves as they are.”

The line, developed by Elina Halttunen and art duo Tärähtäneet ämmät, is modeled by women who have all had breast cancer and undergone mastectomies.

“We want to expand the body image of what is a whole and healthy woman,” a Monokini 2.0 press release reads. “You are beautiful as you are, even with one breast or no breasts at all.”

Visit Monokini 2.0’s website to view the entire line.

Monokini2_Katja

Monokini2_Virve

h/t WeWomen.com

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Intimate Breast Cancer Video Proves ‘the Toughest Battles Need the Best of Friends’

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When Alison Chavez was diagnosed with stage 2/3 invasive ductal carcinoma, a form of breast cancer, in July 2013, the first “person” she told was everyone — she made a Facebook status while still on the phone with her doctor. Almost a year later, Facebook is telling Chavez’s story in the poignant video below. The 2-minute clip is proof that “the toughest battles need the best of friends.”

Chavez, 37, finished her last chemotherapy session in January 2014 and continues to share her cancer updates on a Facebook timeline she created. She also acts as a mentor in breast cancer Facebook groups to help newly diagnosed patients learn how to cope.

“It never occurred to me to keep my diagnosis a secret, and I’m so glad that I didn’t,” Chavez wrote in her blog for The Huffington Post. “Cancer became such a huge part of my life; I would have had to hide from the world if I didn’t want anyone to know, and that’s no way to live.”

Watch her story:


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