- Beth Whaanga underwent a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction
- Posed for photographer Nadia Masot to highlight the results of surgery
- Photos received criticism when posted on Mrs Whaanga’s Facebook page
- More than 100 people unfriended her for posting the images
- Mrs Whaanga and Ms Masot are looking for others to be photographed
05:05 GMT, 12 February 2014
06:13 GMT, 12 February 2014
Beth Whaanga is sharing a visual story of her battle with breast cancer to create awareness of the disease
Tackling head on the ravages of her cancer surgery a Brisbane mother-of-four has bared all in a bid to raise awareness of breast cancer.
Refusing to hide her scarred body following a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction surgery, Ms Whaanga decided to share photos of her post-surgery body on Facebook.
After posting the photos, Mrs Whaanga received a huge backlash, with more than 100 people unfriending her.
Last year on her 32nd birthday, Mrs Whaanga was diagnosed with breast cancer and doctors found she had the BRCA2 gene.
The gene, which predisposes women to breast cancer, saw Angelina Jolie undergo a double mastectomy after discovering she carried it.
Miss Jolie announced in May she had undergone the surgery to prevent the risk of gene-related breast cancer.
After her surgery in November, Mrs Whaanga refused to hide her body. Instead she teamed up with friend and photographer Nadia Masot, to photograph her body and illustrate the devastation of surgery as part of the Under the Red Dress project.
The images were then posted Mrs Whaanga’s Facebook page, where she warned her friends about the confronting material.
‘These images are confronting and contain topless material,’ she posted.
‘They are not in any way meant to be sexual. The aim of this project is to raise awareness for breast cancer. If you find these images offensive please hide them from your feed.
‘Each day we walk past people. These individuals appear normal but under their clothing sometimes their bodies tell a different story.
‘She added that self-examination was vital. ‘It can happen to you,’ she posted.
Mrs Whaanga and photographer friend Nadia Masot worked together to launch the Under the Red Dress project to address cancer awareness
One commentator Andrew Young said Facebook was not the platform for the photographs.
‘I personally do not agree with posting confronting pictures on a site where people do not get a choice whether they wish to view it, as happened to me when scrolling through my news feed,’ he posted. This may also occur to children scrolling through their feed.’
Mrs Whaanga responded by saying everyone was entitled to their opinion, while Ms Masot defended the photos by reminding people that cancer did not discriminate.
‘For the people who think it’s ‘just not for them’ may just end up being the one who will wish one day they’d payed a bit more attention when it happens to them, only worse because they chose to be offended instead of listening,’ Ms Masot posted. ‘Ignorance is never a better option.’
Mrs Whaanga told The Courier-Mail she was glad she posed for the photos.
Confronting: Many of Mrs Whaanga’s Facebook friends were offended by the images
‘And after the surgery I feel that I will live longer, and that is the best thing for not just me but for my family,’ she said,
‘I really wouldn’t want to take away from people who are fighting that fight against breast cancer; I was really fortunate given my family history and gene mutation that my cancer wasn’t as aggressive as others have suffered.’
Despite the images being reported to Facebook, Mrs Whaanga has been advised the images will not be removed.
Hoping others will share their cancer stories, Mrs Whaanga and Ms Masot are looking for people to take part in the project.
Ms Masot said there had already been some interest from those wanting to take part.
‘We’re hoping to turn it into an exhibition and coffee table book,’ she said.
She said while the images were confronting, the project’s message was the focus.
“We’re concerned about getting out the message of being vigilant and responsible for our own bodies through confronting imagery,” she said.
‘It was always going to be a bit controversial and we’re completely OK with people not being comfortable with that.’
Ms Masot said the project’s success exceeded its expected reach.
‘We just decided to do a campaign – we never anticipated the reach so suddenly,’ she said.
‘Even in my own photography I was thirsty to work on something more meaningful – cancer is an experience with life changing results.’
THE GENES THAT COULD LEAD TO CANCER
BRCA1 and BRCA2 are human genes that produce tumor suppressor proteins. The proteins help repair damaged DNA and ensure the stability of cells’ genetic material
A woman’s lifetime risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer increases if she inherits a harmful mutation in BRCA1 or BRCA2
About 12 per cent of women in the general population will develop breast cancer in their lives, while about 55 to 65 per cent of women who inherit a BRCA1 mutation and around 45 per cent who inherit a BRCA2 mutation will develop breast cancer by 70
About 1.4 per cent of women in the general population will develop ovarian cancer in their lives, while about 39 per cent of women who inherit a harmful BRCA1 mutation and about 11 to 17 per cent who inherit a BRCA2 mutation will develop ovarian cancer by 70
Tests that look for a known mutation in one of the genes and tests that check for all possible mutations in both genes are available
As BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations are relatively rare in the general population, those with a possible family history suggests are candidates for testing