Don’t be fooled by these beautiful reconstruction photos you’ve been seeing all month long — breast cancer is not pretty. The treatment is scary, painful and long, and it can leave your body looking very worse for wear.
While there’s certainly a strong support base for women (and men) who’ve been diagnosed and are going through treatment, very few people are willing to get real about how it feels to experience it. Yes, there are women posting pictures of their breasts post-surgery and treatment, and they are brave for that, but few have shown us the true ugliness this disease can cause. Step in, 36-year-old Jenn Alter.
More: 14 Empowering breast cancer awareness shirts
Alter went through treatment for breast cancer back in 2013 and has the extremely harrowing pictures to prove it. And while she appreciates all the support that Breast Cancer Awareness Month brings, she doesn’t believe all the pink clothing-wearing and ribbon-sporting is doing much to actually raise awareness. However, she recognized that shock value, when appropriately used, garners a significant amount of attention, so she put her shocking photos up on her Tumblr page and titled them, “Here’s your f***ing breast cancer awareness,” along with an equally upfront caption.
So that definitely got your attention, right? Essentially what she’s saying is, “Breast Cancer Awareness” has turned into a bit of a social media fad, just like how it was cool to show you cared about the legalization of gay marriage by making your profile picture rainbow. As a result, it has taken people’s attention off the severity of the issue. Alter’s post throws it right back in your face in a rather aggressive way, and that was absolutely her intention. As she states succinctly at the end of it, “If this doesn’t make you ‘aware’ then I don’t know what will. Does it make you uncomfortable? It should.”
It definitely made an impression on the world, because it’s been reblogged thousands of times and has over 150,000 notes on it. Most are positive and tout Alter for her bravery in showing breast cancer in its rawest form. However, as with any ballsy, public move, she has received some backlash from people claiming the post is overly offensive.
More: San Diego body-art shop focuses on mastectomy tattoos
One woman in particular called her a “bitch,” but Alter, being the more mature person, simply removed the post and explained to her followers that she understands from where her anger is coming.
For the most part, Alter has received messages of thanks from people who agreed with her — they needed to see this side of breast cancer, which is often hidden from public view. She is incredibly grateful for this outpouring of support from strangers and can only hope her bold move will continue to awaken the world to the ugliness of cancer.