Embracing Beauty After Cancer
- Marie Helvin, a 71-year-old American former fashion model who was previously married to photographer David Bailey, has almost bared all modeling for intimate apparel brand BlueBella Lingerie and she looks incredible.
- It’s great to see the iconic supermodel thriving in her early 70s and empowering others to do the same, especially after being diagnosed with stage one breast cancer in 2022.
- Helvin didn’t need to undergo chemotherapy and radiation therapy, but she is taking Tamoxifen on a five-year treatment plan. She also had a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.
- “Body image is both the mental picture that you have of your body and the way you feel about your body when you look in a mirror,” Dr. Marianna Strongin, a New York-based licensed clinical psychologist, tells SurvivorNet.
- “As you allow yourself to spend more time looking at all of you, you will begin having a new relationship with your body,” Strongin suggests.
Helvin, who was formerly married to photographer David Bailey, insisted in a recent interview with BlueBella Lingerie that, to her, sensuality is “more a state of being.” It’s wonderful to see the iconic supermodel thriving in her early 70s and empowering others to do the same.
“To me, it’s not something that has to do with sex…or even being in a relationship… it’s more a state of being.” Marie Helvin shares her take on sensuality 🧡Read MoreClick the link to shop Valentine's.https://t.co/Cjgg9uly4D pic.twitter.com/42sn5t0Hbk — Bluebella Lingerie (@Bluebella) January 27, 2024
During a recent interview with BlueBella Lingerie, Helvin described sensuality to BlueBella founder Emily Bendall as, “To me, it’s not something that has to do with sex … or even being in a relationship… it’s more a state of being.”
On BlueBella’s website, Helvin is seen modeling all different type of sexy lingerie, including bras, panties, bodysuits, and latex.
“Marie Helvin says she’s ‘not ready to retire yet’ and speaks of her mission to empower all women,” BlueBella’s website explains. “Celebrating self-love and individuality, she showcases Bluebella’s special curation of boundary-breaking lingerie sets, nightwear and more in our exclusive Valentine’s campaign, plus, shares some personal stories and career highlights with us.”
Expert Body Positivity Resources
- Let’s Talk About Sex: Breast Cancer Survivor Meghan Koziel on Improving Your Sexuality & Confidence After Cancer
- Finding Joy After Cancer Turns Your Life Upside-Down
- Brave, Bold, and Beautiful in the Face of Cancer — Reclaiming Confidence Through Makeup And Skincare
- These Intimate, Sexy Photographs Show Scars and More — a Powerful Message About Femininity and Beauty
The inspirational breast cancer survivor also spoke with People about her decision to pose in lingerie and latex for BlueBella’s Valentine’s Day campaign.
Helvin exclusively told People, “I think, like every woman, I want to wear something beautiful and sensuous. Just because you turn 70, it doesn’t mean that you stop wearing lingerie and then you’re only going to wear big pants.
“I just don’t see that there’s any problem with it. Yes, I’m 71, but I love lingerie. I love buying it. I love wearing it. So do all my friends the same age. I don’t think age has anything to do with it.”View this post on Instagram
Since Helvin’s photoshoot marked her first modeling gig since her stage one breast cancer diagnosis two years ago, which was followed by a mastectomy and reconstruction.
Speaking of her diagnosis, Helvin said, “It really taught me that what you think is fair, what you think you have, it’s not always the real truth of the matter. I thought I was the healthiest person. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke. I’m in the gym every day. I don’t eat meat. I run. And this happened to me.”
Helvin also admitted that her confidence stems from looking back on the “best” times in life, which were filled with “great sex, feeling sensual, being in love.”
Marie Helvin’s Breast Cancer & Mastectomy
Marie Helvin was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer back in 2022. Helvin, whose mom Linda also had breast cancer and passed away in 2007, ultimately didn’t need to undergo chemotherapy and radiation therapy, but she is taking Tamoxifen on a five-year treatment plan. Tamoxifen is a selective estrogen receptor modulator, meaning it works to prevent estrogen from helping cancer cells to grow. It is also used to prevent breast cancer among women who are high-risk for breast cancer because of family history.
What is Tamoxifen for Breast Cancer?
Following Helvin’s diagnosis, she decided to undergo a mastectomy and breast reconstruction.
In an earlier interview with the Daily Mail, Helvin said her new breast will “never be perfect,” however, it’s “beautiful because it saved my life.”
It’s important to understand that a lot of women choose to undergo reconstructive surgery after breast cancer treatment, like Helvin did, though many others choose to “go flat.” The choice is entirely up to you.
“Breast reconstruction is a restoration of a woman’s form and her sense of self and I think that’s a very rewarding part of it,” Dr. Andrea Pusic, chief of plastic surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, told SurvivorNet in a previous conversation.
“…A lot of breast reconstruction is trying to erase the trauma of the mastectomy surgery, putting the cancer behind a patient, saying this is in the rear view mirror, and putting her back on track,” she added. “I think that over time with our different techniques or reconstruction immediate reconstruction, all the new things that we’re doing we’re just getting closer and closer to that goal of allowing a woman to have had this surgery, have all her cancer surgery, but be herself again.”
Age Is Just a Number
It’s great to see Marie Helvin continuing to do what makes her happy— channeling her “sensual” past as she models in racy underwear. Actress Joan Collins, 90, known for the 1980s television series “Dynasty,” once said, “Age is just a number. It’s totally irrelevant unless, of course, you happen to be a bottle of wine.”
Just because you’ve been fortunate enough to live for many years does not mean you must stop enjoying what brings you joy. Helvin is a perfect example that you don’t have to be defined by your age and it doesn’t have to impede your desire to look and feel feminine and beautiful.
SurvivorNet previously spoke with cancer survivors who have gracefully reached their golden years. For each of them, they haven’t allowed their diagnosis, or their age to stop them from the joys of life.
In an SNTV documentary, “Radical Age” these cancer warriors partake in a variety of recreational activities often associated with young people which include skateboarding, mixed-martial arts, and even tattoos.
WATCH: Radical Age
“The only thing I clung to during all that was martial arts, the whole time,” Ann Perez de Tejada said.
De Tejada, 70, battled stage 2 breast cancer. During her treatment, she also trained in mixed martial arts, adding, “I’d go from chemo or work to jujitsu.”
The American Academy of Dermatology Association draws attention to adequate skin care to avoid premature skin aging. The organization suggests protecting your skin from potentially harmful sun rays by using SPF 30 sunscreen. Other tips include avoiding smoking and maintaining a well-balanced diet and exercise.
‘Femininity Is a State of Mind’
Celebrity stylist Ann Caruso was treated for breast cancer and had a hard time absorbing her body’s changes amid treatment.
“You’re not the same carefree person that you once were, and it was very hard for me to look at myself every day,” Caruso previously told SurvivorNet.
It was like I was a totally different person and didn’t fit into any of my clothes for so long.”
Thankfully, time helped her heal both the physical and mental wounds. Now on the other side of her cancer journey, Caruso has a fresh perspective on femininity and body image.
“Femininity is a state of mind,” she said. “And I think that’s something that we have to remind ourselves.”
Resilience After Cancer
Challenging oneself can certainly help people like cancer survivors, or those facing cancer, chronic disease, or other problems to develop resilience, which is an essential coping tool.
That process of pushing oneself to try new things is one of the “three wellsprings of vitality,” according to Dr. Samantha Boardman. The other two are connecting with others and contributing to the lives of people around you.
Dr. Boardman explains, “Those are the cores of vitality, and the core pathways to enhance your everyday resilience.”
These three pathways can help someone develop the strength needed to survive or manage a difficult situation, but they all stem from having a positive outlook.
Dr. Zuri Murrell, an oncologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, previously spoke with SurvivorNet about the role of a positive outlook on the survival rates of patients battling illness.
“I’m pretty good at telling what kind of patient are going to still have this attitude and probably going to live the longest, even with bad, bad disease,” Dr. Murrell said. “And those are patients who, they have gratitude in life.”
Meanwhile, there has been a major movement in the last couple of years praising all shapes, colors, and sizes of women’s bodies. This is particularly important for cancer survivors as well, especially breast cancer survivors who have had one or both of their breasts removed.
Cancer can be brutal to the human body. Along with dealing with the physical side effects of chemotherapy and other treatments, there are also the emotional blows that women and men suffer from losing their hair, organs and other body parts, along with the scarring that comes with it.
Dr. Marianna Strongin, a New York-based licensed clinical psychologist, also has some helpful advice. She encourages people that spending time in front of the mirror can help with body image.
Although “research has found that when looking in the mirror we are more likely to focus on the parts of our body we are dissatisfied with” which can cause “a negative self-view and lower self-esteem,” it’s important to look at the parts of your body that you love and the parts of your body that you don’t.
Eventually, Dr. Strongin says, doing so can help you create a more accepting relationship with yourself.
“Body image is both the mental picture that you have of your body and the way you feel about your body when you look in a mirror,” she said. “As you allow yourself to spend more time looking at all of you, you will begin having a new relationship with your body.”
Whether you are living with cancer or some other type of illness, it’s important to know you’re not alone if you’re having a hard time with how you view your body after receiving a diagnosis or going through treatment.
Contributing: SurvivorNet Staff