October may be known as the spooky season but it’s also Breast Cancer Awareness Month. You may have already seen the pink ribbons and ads for research walks. However, sometimes the true reality of such a life-changing diagnosis can be forgotten between these campaigns.
The women featured in these photos not only battled breast cancer, they had to get a double mastectomy, the surgery to remove a breast. It’s a common treatment and preventative action for women diagnosed with cancer or at high risk of it. One in six women with early stage breast cancer choose a double mastectomy. 
According to BreastCancer.Org, about 12% of women in the United State will develop invasive breast cancer during her life. That’s one in eight women. The death rates for women with this form of cancer are higher than all others, aside from lung cancer. About 276,480 women are expected to be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in the United States, as well as 48,530 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer. 
Many women after a mastectomy choose reconstruction surgery, but not all do. Some embrace their new chests, like Christina Belding. Some even get tattoos to weave the scars into art. After all, the scars are a reminder of a battle they had won. Their bravery and strength are absolutely beautiful.
This is the month to remember not just breast cancer but the warriors who overcame it.
11 Photos of Beautiful and Strong Women with Double Mastectomies
Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable
Nikki Leigh McKean poses in her underwear in this photo taken by Carlyle Routh. Her hands are raised to bring focus to the scars on her chest. In her Instagram post, she talks about why she didn’t rush to get reconstruction surgery after the mastectomy.
“I needed to grieve the loss of my breasts and it didn’t feel right for me to replace them with something that wasn’t mine and that had the possibility of harming me in the future – choices are personal. But isn’t that so with all things in life? Personal to me and what’s best for me in this moment!
“I’m comfortable with being uncomfortable.”
New and Beautiful
Erin Fish’s photograph is a boudoir style. She wears black shorts and a blouse open and slinked behind her shoulders. The focus is on her scars, on how she’s becoming comfortable and feeling beautiful in her new chest. The stitches and bandage show how recent the surgery has been.
Love Your Scars
Shay Sharpe founded Pink Wishes, an organization that advocates for young women affected by breast cancer. She was diagnosed at age 26, so she understands the void in support for young women with this disease. At age 36, cancer returned. That’s when she made the decision ‘to go flat’.
On her website, she writes, “I have opted out of reconstruction and made the decision to stay flat. No fat transfer, no implants, no prosthesis. I’m just gonna rock my flat chest! Surprisingly enough, It was an easy decision… No regrets! I LIKE IT!”
Yvette Michelle didn’t just embrace her scars; she adorned them. An intricate floral design spirals around her chest, as if they are blooming from the scars.
Michelle is a photographer specializing in maternity and “baby’s first year” shoots. She also teaches photography in person and online. On her website, she offers makeup and hair services for her shoots, commenting on how they help boost the confidence of women of all ages.
After finding the beauty in so many people through the lens of her camera, it’s empowering to see Michelle showing the beauty in herself.
Ivica Just took this picture herself, featuring the protective gauze over the scars on her chest. She sits curled up on the floor in just her shorts and a gentle smile.
On the Instagram post, she wrote, “THE SCARS. Of course, I wanted them to be ‘pretty’. What can be pretty about scars? Well, they are mine, I cannot change them for ‘no scars’. So I can choose to accept them, maybe even to like them?”
Samantha Vale wears only a pair of jeans in this photo caught by photographer Amy Cassidy. The black and white coloring draws attention to her scars, but her piercing gaze is just as striking. Despite what must’ve been a vulnerable experience, she seems at ease with her pose and her facial expression.
Danille Morgan sports faded jeans, hoop earrings, and a seemingly effortless confidence. The slight puckering of her chest scars are visible, but her stunning gaze is what really captures the viewer’s attention.
Raw and Real
Chiara is model represented by We Speak and this daring photoshoot was captured by Sophie Kietzmann. This photo speaks volumes about the suffering Chiara underwent, but her strength and determination speaks just as loud.
“I never thought I’d opt for a non-reconstruction after a double mastectomy,” she wrote for the caption of the post on the Beauty Through The Beast Instagram account. “I wanted to have the typical female form… but they got infected so many times that I decided to stay flat. In that moment I felt myself again, in my skin.
“The scars remind me of breast cancer and my journey through it, but I’m glad I’m still here. Beauty for me is being confident and celebrating yourself, no matter what figure we have.”
Christi Lee captured her post-cancer body in this selfie, sitting casually and comfortably on the floor with her chest bearing thin scares.
Ericka Hart is a model, writer, sex educator, and breast cancer survivor. In this photoshoot by Joey Rosado, she is nude with a floral headpiece and gold stripes twisting around her body. Hart was diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer at age 28, but she is now celebrating almost five years of being cancer-free.
Juliet FitzPatrick writes about battling feelings of anxiety on Instagram, but in this photo, she exudes pure joy.
“Then I was distraught when told that I needed mastectomy. Now proud to show scars and raise awareness that living flat is OK.”
- “One in Six Women Choose Double Mastectomy.” BreastCancer.Org. January 18, 2017
- “U.S. Breast Cancer Statistics.” BreastCancer.Org. June 25, 2020
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