Gallery: Unique collection of bust sculptures goes under the hammer for Breakthrough Breast Cancer Suffolk
- Credit: Gregg Brown
Some are battle-scarred survivors, others have lost parents, sisters or friends.
Some have stories of deep sorrow, some of triumph but all of them share a hope that through their collective actions they are helping bring the day when breast cancer can be defeated just a little closer.
There’s Kerry, who had her left breast removed when she was pregnant, Emma, who lost her twin sister to breast cancer at the age of just 31, and Gail, whose sister and mother-in-law were diagnosed with the disease within a month of each other. Some are mothers, others grandmothers, aunts, sisters and daughters and they range in age from their 20s to their 50s and beyond. All 23 of them have taken part in a project, dreamed up by body casting businesswoman Keri Bird, to have plaster casts made of their breasts to raise funds for Suffolk Breakthrough Breast Cancer, which is within £40,000 of hitting its first £1m. The casts, decorated by local artists and put on display around Bury St Edmunds during October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, will be auctioned online until November 16.
Laura Hudson, of Breakthrough’s Suffolk group, whose father died of cancer when she was 13, is one of the 23 Simply the Breast models.
She said: “Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer – 1,000 women a month who die from it. If I can help to raise awareness of that and thereby perhaps stop someone else losing a parent that is what I am going to do. As a mother and a woman, breast cancer and the statistics that go with it can be very scary. It would be my worst nightmare for me to even think about leaving my children at the same age as I lost my dad. When you look at the stories of the models for this project you realise just how young people can be when they are diagnosed so people of all ages need to check themselves - early detection could save a life. Breakthrough leads the way in research and that’s how to find a cure.”
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Here we feature some of the moving stories of women who have taken part in the project...
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At the age of 28 and 12 weeks pregnant my life changed forever. Having surgery to have my left breast removed while carrying my unborn baby was difficult to face but I knew I had no choice. I needed to fight this disease so I could be here for my then two-year-old daughter and the daughter I hadn’t yet met. Having one breast was a weird and scary experience and getting young, hip bras was near impossible, but that was the least of my problems. I had to face six chemotherapy sessions and 15 radiotherapy. Oh yes and of course, give birth. At 34 weeks pregnant I was induced and my beautiful baby Esmay was born - 3lb 14oz and perfectly formed. I went on to have the rest of my chemo and radiotherapy then herceptin. I’m five years since diagnosis now, I have had two further breast operations and although I don’t have nipples or feeling in my breasts I’m happy with what I have and to be alive. I wanted to share my breast cast to show that you can still look normal and that surgeons can do marvellous things. Esmay has started school and I thank the hospital staff that made it possible for us to be here today to share the experiences of life.
Mary Hills artist Susie McCabe
When I discovered the lump on my 52nd Birthday I have never felt such fear. I passed the next 18 months of multiple operations and chemotherapy in a state that I can only describe as numb, supported by my family, friends and colleagues. I came to realise how many people loved me and a stubbornness set in that every day I would prove myself worthy of such affection, that I would not take anyone or anything for granted. I am still here, I love my life, I am trying new things all the time, which opens up new worlds and leads me to meet talented people, to do things that my former self could never have dreamed of.
Laura Hudson artist Kirsty Sharman
I have volunteered for the Suffolk group of Breakthrough Breast Cancer for six years. Having lost my father to cancer when I was 13, I know the pain of not only growing up without a parent but living without one day to day as well.
I passionately believe that the only way to stop people dying of this disease is by investing in the research and finding out why and how it happens, only then can we work out how to stop it.
I am honoured to represent Breakthrough Breast Cancer and to be part of this campaign alongside so many brave and amazing women.
Sue Smith artist Joolz Halpin-Wood
Sue Smith, a counsellor and hypnotherapist from Bury St Edmunds, is one of the project’s unsung heroes. A Breakthrough Breast Cancer Suffolk volunteer for the past three years, she has worked alongside Keri Bird since March, finding models, sourcing artists and organising the ‘Simply the Breast’ exhibition at the Apex, devoting 30 hours a week to the project whilst still running her practice. She is also mum to daughter Ashlea, 22, and sons Morgan and Oliver, 15 and 13. Sue says it was her daughter becoming a woman that inspired her to get involved with the charity. “I’ve lost friends to breast cancer and my Dad died when I was 14, so I don’t want my children to grow up without a parent. But the main reason I got involved was because I suddenly realised that one day it could be my own daughter finding a lump because it really can affect anyone. I love my cast – it’s so me! – and am so proud to be involved. I just hope more people will see what we’ve done and remember to self-check.
Christina Petitt artist Caroline Blake
My cast represents my excitement and passion to be involved in this project. My story is one of two halves. In 1997 my best friend and I both found lumps in our breasts. We both had hospital appointments on the same day. I will always remember that phone call, asking me how I had got on, with me explaining mine was a fluid cyst. She explained that hers wasn’t. Hers was cancer. My fluid cysts were drained (I have continued to have recurring cysts drained, sometimes twice a year, since then). Fiona has been gone 13 years now. She was 38 and I dedicate my cast to my dear friend, Fi. I would like my cast to represent that not all lumps are cancer and not all lumps are cysts. Get it checked.
Nicola Daykin artist Kim Whittingham
Sometimes it feels like a piece of the jigsaw puzzle is missing. I have two sisters and the statistic I always remember is that one in three women will get breast cancer. When you look to the people you love most in the world it is unimaginable to think of what might be. And when you add into the equation that my maternal grandmother and aunt were both diagnosed and treated for breast cancer the realisation that it is very close to home is quite stark. I will never know if my mother would have suffered as she died when I was 11 so, as I say, a piece of this jigsaw is missing. I have witnessed the devastation that breast cancer can bring through a close friend and their family and it strikes fear into me. So I can either wait and see if and when it might happen, which is something I have no control over, or I can do something to raise awareness of Suffolk Breakthrough Breast Cancer and hopefully raise a bit of money as well.
Your average cake bake is clearly way more in my comfort zone than having your bust on show but having seen the beautiful finished sculptures, I feel privileged to volunteer. What an amazing way to show that no matter who you are, what you do, or where you come from, each of us is different and yet united by being women.
Katie Milbank artist Jane Jennison
My grandmother died of breast cancer when I was very young, I don’t really remember her much, only from photographs. When I was growing up, my mum had a lump removed from her breast and I remember going to visit her in hospital. It was scary, but it turned out to be nothing.
I had my own health scare in 2012, a little bit of surgery and I was fine. Again, it was nothing. In some ways it felt a bit odd getting involved in the project, seeing all these amazing casts from survivors, and only having had minor scrapes myself.
But that’s how life is. Without even being aware of it, you’re walking this thin line all the time, and one day it can just hit you in the face. Since I got involved with the project my great aunt has been diagnosed with breast cancer and is not doing so well. It’s all about raising awareness. It’s been amazing being involved, seeing the project grow, the casts being decorated, hearing the stories behind each one. I’m in awe of all the other women. I’m so proud to be part of this.
To bid in the online auction visit the auction site