So many survivors share with SurvivorNet that a cancer diagnosis can be an incredible blow to body image. You may not look or feel like yourself, even after treatment ends, especially if you’re left with scars and other changes make you uncomfortable in your skin. Because these issues are so common among female cancer survivors, Jen Rozenbaum, a New York City-based photographer and breast cancer survivor, has made it her mission to showcase how beautiful these scars can be.
Her photos, which show the drains, scars, and bruises that resulted from her mastectomy and reconstruction, offer a window into the reality of living with cancer.Read More
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Shout out to my body today. ⠀ ⠀ It’s been through hell and back. At first, and for a while if I’m honest, I was mad at it. How could it betray me in the way it did. ⠀ ⠀ I have spent the last year digging deep for forgiveness and understanding. This has lead me to a new love and respect for my body. ⠀ ⠀ What does that mean? It means I listen to it now. It means I nurture it different. Push it hard at times and other times rest it when needed. ⠀ ⠀ It means I use my body as a tool to bring awareness to life after breast cancer. I now thank my body for the gifts it has given me. ⠀ ⠀ (If you are reading this post, you are one of those gifts. ❤️)⠀ ⠀ There is a certain surrendering that exists in life. Before cancer, I thought I knew the way to make my dent in the world. The universe had a different plan for me. I don’t fight it anymore. I embrace it. ⠀ ⠀ This is me, making a small dent and being grateful for a body that allows me to do so. ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ #nikonnofilter #nikonz7 #mirrorlessreinvented #nikonambassador #selfportrait #nyc #breastcancer #breastcancerawareness #mastectomy #memorialsloankettering #lifeaftercancer #jenrozenbaum #reconstruction #selfie #arttherapy #reconstruction
In a post earlier this week, Rozenbaum gave her body a shoutout because her scars and bruises showcase everything she has been through.
“Shout out to my body today. It’s been through hell and back,” Rozenbaum wrote. “At first, and for a while if I’m honest, I was mad at it. How could it betray me in the way it did. I have spent the last year digging deep for forgiveness and understanding. This has lead me to a new love and respect for my body.”
In a November interview with SurvivorNet, the photographer explained that she feels it’s important for people to understand that breast cancer really does affect the whole body.
“We think breast cancer affects the breast, but it’s a full body and mind experience,” Rozenbaum told SurvivorNet. “I wanted to shock people with that and say, ‘This is what’s really going on.’ My hope is that it gives people who support people with cancer a little more empathy.”
Diagnosed with invasive lobular carcinoma on July 12, 2017, she had a double mastectomy on Aug. 2, 2017, and then eight rounds of chemotherapy. In March 2018 she had her first breast reconstruction and, hoping to make a few changes, had another one in 2019.
Initial Cancer Photographs
Rozenbaum, an advocate for women’s empowerment and a photographer who’s part of the “intimate photography” market, shot her first breast cancer patient about seven months before she herself was diagnosed, when a woman asked her for portraits before she went in for surgery.
“The thought of her losing her breasts and her having to cope with that, was unbelievable to me,” Rozenbaum said.
When Rozenbaum was diagnosed, she thought about taking pre-surgery self portraits, but decided she wasn’t quite ready. Still, she told SurvivorNet, “I knew it would be a big part of my healing after. So I started taking pictures right after my surgery. Some [were] more journalistic, some more artistic.”
The more she started to publish them, she said, the more other breast cancer survivors contacted her to take their photographs.
‘Scars to Stars’
Rozenbaum’s series have been an inspiration to survivors and their loved ones. Survivor Marianne DuQuette Cuzzo, who has shared her story with SurvivorNet in the past, posted that spending time with Rozenbaum and her staff was “one of those most important and wonderful days of my life. … They captured that ‘thing’ inside me!!! Always on my mind Jen, and wishing you a very beautiful recovery! ‘Scars to stars.'”
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One of those most important and wonderful days of my life… spending the day with Jen Rozenbaum and amazing staff … they captured that “ thing” inside me !!! Always on my mind Jen, and wishing you a very beautiful recovery! “Scars to stars”⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️@jenrozenbaum @makeupbydianacappolla @tonimariexii #breastcancer #cancer #reconstruction #noneeconstruction #scarstostars #scarsareourmaps
“I believe that being in front of the camera helped [Marianne] see her femininity and her sensuality in a different way, and feeling like it doesn’t just come from your breasts,” Rozenbaum told us of that shoot. “It changes who you are, but it doesn’t take it way.”
The experience, she said, was important to her own journey as well.
“It was so interesting because I was in chemotherapy when I photographed her,” Rozenbaum said, “and it was just such an exchange of energy. I left there thinking I wish I could be like her, she’s so strong. And my team looked at me and said you are like her, we see you like her.”
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Today I give a shout out to @marianneduquettecuozzo9128 who is my woman crush Wednesday. ⠀ ⠀ I photographed Marianne in 2017 while I was undergoing chemotherapy. This day is one I will never forget. ⠀ ⠀ In the face of many bouts of cancer and issue after issue with breast reconstruction, Marianne is still smiling and is a ray of light. ⠀ ⠀ That light shone on me just when I needed it most. This is the beauty of “photogratherapy”. The healing exchange of energy between photographer and subject. It’s a beautiful thing. ⠀ ⠀ Captured with the Nikon D850 and lit with the Jen Rozenbaum solix kit by @westcottlighting ⠀ ⠀ #nikonambassador #nikons850 #nikonlove #nikoncamera #westcottlighting #intimatephotography #jenrozenbaum #LongIsland #portwashington #NewYork #ilovephotography #shamelesslyfeminine #lingeriephotos #nikonnofilter #wcw #womancrushwednesday
Photographing Survivors as a Survivor
There’s a saying she’s loved since well before cancer, Rozenbaum said: Every portrait is a self-portrait. That’s “because when you take a photo, you are showing [the subject] how you see them.”
“I’m not afraid of asking someone about their scars, or tell me your story, or let’s just have a fun day and not talk about it [which] gives them a safe space because they know I’ve been there and dealt with it,” she said.
Rozenbaum added, “When I photograph breast cancer survivors and patients, I see them in a different way because of what I’ve been through, and I hope that it helps them see their strength, their power.”