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22 'Honest' Photos People With Cancer Wanted to Share on Facebook, but Didn't

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Anyone who been touched by cancer knows it has devastating side effects. The pain and fatigue from countless hours of tests and surgeries, the loss of hair and appetite, and the physical and emotional scars often cause people to feel uncomfortable in their own skin. They may be hesitant to share the reality of their cancer, especially on social media, because they don’t know how others will react.

We wanted to show the reality of cancer, so we partnered with Fuck Cancer, an organization that focuses on prevention, early detection and support for people affected by cancer, to ask readers to share an “honest” photo related to their cancer that they wanted to show on Facebook, but for one reason or another, didn’t.

Here are their photos:

1. “Colon cancer stage 3 last year. This year it came back in a big way in both ovaries (see photo of scans). So now I’m stage 4. I’ve had a colon resection and a total hysterectomy. I’m on chemo but I feel great and nowhere near ready to give up. Fuck Cancer.” -Melissa D.

series of photos of woman with colon cancer

2. “I remember frantically looking for a reference picture of how my surgical wound would look like. And whether there would be a scar. My scar is barely visible today. This image is from earlier this year.” – Madhura S.

woman with thyroid cancer photo of throat surgery

3. “This picture was taken the first day I came back from the hospital. After the surgery, I was so self-conscious I wore a toque everywhere (it helped that it was December). Other than work, I refused to go out anywhere (that cost me a relationship). I even used makeup (oh the amount of awkward looks) to cover the whiteness. It took three years for me to finally be comfortable with my face. I’ve been makeup and toque-free for four years.” – Josh P.

cancer patient scar on face

4. “Breast cancer. You can see my mastectomy scars. And this was only half way through my radiation treatment — the burns were awful!” – Tracy F.

woman with breast cancer mastectomy scars

5. “My husband helping me shave my head. Never shared this picture before, there are worse — the chemo, mastectomy, the radiation — but this photo has a realness to it that still makes me feel… sometimes uncomfortable, sometimes sad. Is that really me? Yes it is, and then I smile and appreciate that I survived.” – Taryn K.

husband shaving wife cancer patient head

6. “Thyroid Cancer. 2006 Marshfield Wisconsin.” – MissiAnn L.

thyroid cancer scar

7. “Diagnosed 8.16.16 at age 32 just when I was getting the hang of being a mommy to our 1-year-old daughter. I’ve had to add the task of learning how to be a mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend and advocate living with stage 4 cancer. This picture was after one of my most painful chemotherapy sessions that landed me in the hospital. Moral of the story… I survived because I am one of #TheMIGHTY” – Lisa

female cancer patient in hospital bed

8. “That’s the picture I took of my head after the shower when I pulled off most of my hair. I so needed to see…” – Marina T.

female cancer patient head after shower

9. “I had the courage but not the strength at that time in April this year. Robot-assisted surgery, Da Vinci XI.” – Anki H.

cancer patient stomach

10. “After my first surgery, before radiation therapy and then a total laryngectomy! Fuck cancer.” – Mike P.

cancer patient in hospital bed with hat on

11. “This was the picture when I finally realized how bad my hair loss was… and decided I couldn’t avoid shaving it anymore. I was devastated and ashamed. And I realized how incredibly sick I was and looked. Part of me felt like I had done something to deserve it. I tried so hard to be positive about everything, but when I took this picture, because I wanted to see what the back of my head looked like because it was cold, I fell apart. I never shared it because I was afraid it would scare people. And because I still am kind of ashamed. That’s not me. I don’t recognize that person in the picture.” – Joanne E.

cancer patient showing hair loss

12. “The day after my breast cancer tumor was removed from my spine — I was high ASF here.” – Fay Z.

cancer patient standing with walker

13. “When I lost my hair, I couldn’t deny that I had cancer. I felt like I was living in an alternate reality. Looking in the mirror, I did not resemble myself. As time went by, I saw the strength and beauty within me emerge. I realized that I was not my hair, I was not cancer and that no disease would rob me of myself. It was then that the fearless warrior within me began to emerge — strong, authentic and even more alive than before. I’m so thankful that my daughter was by my side. She is my biggest source of inspiration and the love of my life.” – Maimah K.

woman with breast cancer side shot of head

14. “A message to all men: deal with it rather than ignore it.” – Paul F.

cancer patient scar after surgery

15. “My mother after her mastectomy.” – Heidi W.

woman in bed after mastectomy

16. One surgery to the face and 38 hits of radiation. Fuck cancer.” – Kenny M.

cancer patient closeup face surgery

17. “I rarely post pictures of me trying to smile. It just makes me look more crooked. Cancer in my parotid gland also took my facial nerve, leaving my eye unable to blink and face paralyzed. I tell everyone that cancer broke my blinker and smiler. Fuck cancer.” – Vicki L.

cancer mom smiling

18. “Scar from removal of a stage 3 melanoma on my neck. Next picture is about a week or so after.” – Jake W.

before and after photo man with stage 3 melanoma

19. “Couldn’t stand my hair coming out in handfuls after my first chemo treatment back in March so had my daughter cut it off. Sad day for me. I had an easier time cutting my boobs off than I did my hair and I still miss my hair more than my boobs, too. Fuck cancer!” – Emily U.

cancer patient holding hair

20. “Hours after my radical hysterectomy — catheter in, swollen, full belly and numb left leg.” – Lauren L.

cancer patient after surgery

21. “Misery is a freshly-inserted NG tube.” – Siobhan D.

cancer patient with NG tube

22. “I posted this picture, took it down, posted it again and I’m not sure where it is now. This was me at 16 years old, seven years ago, no makeup, no anything. Sick and lying in bed. It bothered me because I can see how unhappy I am in this picture, and how ugly I feel. What bothers me most is that after cancer, with my head full of hair, smiles and makeup, I look at this picture and realize I still feel this way about myself at least once a day. The teenager in that picture is a part of my self-image forever. There’s a My Chemical Romance song called “Cancer” where he sings, ‘Know that I will never marry, baby, I’m just soggy from the chemo,’ and this picture is that feeling. Seven years out, between the joyful moments of being happy to be alive, I still get that feeling.” – Rachel T.

bald female cancer patient

We want to hear from you. Do you have an “honest” photo related to your cancer experience that you wanted to share with others, but didn’t? Share in the comments below.

Originally published: August 16, 2017
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