I am still haunted by the memory of the phone call from my mother telling me in a trembling voice that my sister, Joanne, still in her thirties, had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Following a prolonged, heroic battle to survive, she was to eventually die from that disease. Two decades later, I anxiously faced a surgeon in an antiseptic hospital waiting room as he uttered the dreaded words, “Your wife has breast cancer.” In my career as a physician I have many times had the sobering responsibility of delivering the news of a cancer diagnosis to patients and their loved ones. However, I was not prepared for the overwhelming effect that breast cancer in two close family members would have on my life. I began to see the disease in a new light. I learned that anxiety about survival, initially the most important worry, can give way later to a new unease both in the survivor and her partner. The woman may begin to cover her nakedness, fearing a spouse’s averted glance, or turn away from the reflection in a mirror that unremittingly reminds her of fears of diminished femininity. A partner withdraws a hand to avoid touching a scar which once was a graceful curve. Lovers draw apart, an absent breast now a barrier to their intimacy. A fiancé quietly turns his back and walks out of a cancer survivor’s life. These fears about body image, femininity, and sexuality are understandable in a society that is bombarded by media messages of centerfolds, push-up bras and silicone implants—messages that erroneously imply that a perfect breast is the requisite icon of the feminine essence. With the support of my wife Stephanie, now a 23-year survivor and one of the women in the book, I undertook this photographic project hoping to show that a woman’s fundamental nature is not dependent on anything external; the loss of part or all of her breast is not a threat to her being. The short narratives, written by the women and their partners, are included as an important part of the message.
About the Author
As well as being a fine art photographer, Art Myers is a physician specializing in preventive medicine and public health. He graduated from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and received his post-doctoral degree in public health from the Graduate School of Public Health, San Diego State University. Although largely self-taught in photography he has studied in workshops with Annie Leibovitz, Arnold Newman, Larry Fink, Sally Mann, Joyce Tenneson and other well-known artists. His photographs have been exhibited in numerous galleries and museums in the United States and Europe.
Art Myers is a physician as well as a fine art photographer. He is best known for his photographic series of women with breast cancer and the resultant book Winged Victory: Altered Images; Transcending Breast Cancer, which earned gold Nautilus and Living Now Book Awards. Myers' additional work documenting socially relevant issues includes photographic series of women with HIV and women living in an urban rescue mission, among others. He has been awarded the prestigious Nyumbani humanitarian medal for photographic work he did for the same-named African orphanage for children with HIV/AIDS. Myers' photographs have been exhibited in museums and galleries in the United States and a number of other countries and can be viewed at www.artmyers.com.