Thursday, October 7, 2010

"Baring to lighten others' burdens"

 Photo borrowed from The Daily Yomiuri, October 3, 2010, Edition T, p. 3

From today's Daily Yomiuri Online:

When Mika Masui found out she had breast cancer in 2007, she was distraught. "When I was told I'd lose a breast, it threw me into a panic," she said. 

The next year, she had a mastectomy and immediately afterward breast reconstruction. "[After the operations], I calmed down and was able to regain a positive attitude toward life," she said.

The experience inspired the 51-year-old Tokyo company president to produce a photo collection of women who have had their breasts reconstructed. "If I'd known before the surgery how my breast would end up, I could have dealt with the situation a little more calmly. I wanted to educate women about the experience in a visual way," she said.

Receiving the diagnosis of breast cancer and the ensuing treatment can be very difficult, and even mild cases can mean the loss of a breast to surgery, often leaving a woman anxious about her changed body.

Reconstructive surgery can usually restore a damaged chest, but information on the procedure is not widely available. Masui hopes the project will change this by raising awareness and sharing experiences.

The photo books will be donated to clinics and hospitals so women with breast cancer can see and read about the experiences of others in their position.

There are two ways breasts are reconstructed--silicone implants or by using fatty tissue from the patient's body.

According to plastic surgeon Yoshiko Iwahira, many women who want reconstructive surgery after a mastectomy feel restricted in their daily lives, thinking they cannot do things such as going to a pool with their children or to hot springs with their friends.

"Compared to 10 years ago, more people are aware of what breast reconstruction offers, but still not enough breast cancer patients get sufficient information," she said.

With the help of several doctors, Masui recruited models for the project. Nineteen women from their 30s to 50s who had undergone breast reconstruction came to the photo shoot in July in Tokyo.

Nobuyoshi Araki, a well-known photographer, was asked to take the pictures. He said he decided to participate in the project because he is also currently receiving cancer treatment.

"I got the sense those women feel like they received a gift from God when they had their breasts reconstructed," Araki said.

"There's not much information available about mammoplasties. I hope [the book] will help people who are suffering after losing a breast," one of the models said.

The collection is titled "Inochi no Chibusa" (breasts of life), and in addition to photographs of women, it describes the models' impressions about the surgery and their experiences. The book will be released in November for 4,625 yen from Akaaka Art Publishing Inc. The price includes a 2,000 yen donation that goes toward distributing copies to medical institutions and other places.

"For women, a mammoplasty not only helps restore their body, but also is a source of emotional support," said Toshihiko Satake, associate professor at Yokohama City University Hospital. 

"Publishing a book like this gives information about the models' experience, but more importantly, it conveys a positive message. I think it's a very meaningful project."

Link to Araki's official website:

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