Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Faces of Courage - Breast Cancer Survivors Calendar

When I first heard the words "you have breast cancer", a hundred thoughts flashed through my mind. One of them said to me "this can't be in vain". I knew from the beginning of this journey that there was a reason this was happening to me and I needed to do something with this experience.
I heard about a woman in Windsor who created a calendar of breast cancer survivors to support her local hospital. She was able to raise $80,000 for new mammography equipment. She inspired me.
Faces of Courage is the depiction of breast cancer survivors using black and white photography to capture each woman's experience. It is not a compilation of boudoir poses nor is it meant to be sexy. Each woman will be portrayed in her own light, as she is comfortable, in a beautifully artistic way.
I invite you to share this journey with me, my photographer, Jen Van der Vecht (www.jensphotos.com) and 11 other women as we build the calendar and raise some huge funds for Southlake Regional Health Center - Regional Cancer Program.
The goal is to raise $40,000 (to start!) which will go directly to the Regional Cancer Program.
Stay tuned as we start the photo shoots!


  1. The Era in Newmarket wrote an article about the calendar creation. You can view it at http://www.yorkregion.com/article/96506

    If you are a breast cancer survivor and interested in being in the calendar, please post on the blog so I can get in touch with you! I still have a few spots left!

    Time is tight with 2 little kiddies at home but I am organizing someone to volunteer to do hair and makeup for the photoshoots and next will be a meeting of all the models and photographer so stay tuned!

  2. Although I lost my wife at age 42yrs to breast cancer on January 2, 2009. She left behind our 2 sons aged 8yrs and 22yrs old. She battled hard for over 4 1/2 years I believe she was the most beautiful and strongest woman in the world. I know that she is no longer with us in body and therefore cannot be photographed, but if it was possible, I would love to have her in the calendar as I have some phenomenal pictures of her before and during her battle. She too had a modified radical mastectomy and had to go to Sunnybrook for her rounds of radiation but had terrific care and support at Southlake's Cancer Clinic where all the nurses are ANGELS...
    I am so hosting an annual Cruise for the Cure (www.cruiseforthecure.ca) in her memory.

    Barry Foot
    Newmarket, Ontario

  3. Hi Jen,
    There aren't many young BC survivors around, so I'm glad to have stumbled across your blog! I was diagnosed in July 2006; one week before my 30th birthday and five weeks before my wedding (I think it was those events that kept me sane during the difficult diagnoses and decision making process).
    I live in Sutton, and am currently happily unemployed, so if I can be of any assistance just let me know. Truthfully, I'm not sure what you still require (model, errand runner, whatever), but I am up for anything.
    You can contact me at fionathom@gmail.com
    All the best with the calendar and I look forward to the updates on your progress!

  4. Oh no! I just noticed that I addressed my previous note to Jen....sorry about that, Julie!! It really was meant for you :)

  5. Hi Julie,
    I am 40 years old and was diagnosed with IDC about a month after you.
    I just finished reading the article about you in the Era Banner and knew I had to contact you - our stories are very similar.
    I too will be making the trek down to Princess Margaret for radiation and was extremely dissappointed to learn that Southlake wouldn't be ready in time. I have an 18 month old daughter who I have to take care of but fortunately I have a very supportive extended family to help me.
    I would love to be a part of your amazing undertaking if you are still looking for people. You can reach me at robinmacmillan@sympatico.ca.
    I still haven't gone back to work since my maternity leave/BC diagnosis but used to work in film and know a make-up artist that would volunteer her time in a second if you still need one.
    I look forward to hearing from you and helping out in any way I can.


    Robin Macmillan
    Newmarket, Ontario

  6. Hi Julie,
    I am 46 years old, married with three children ages 21,19 and 17.I too was diagnosed with multi focal invasive ductal carcinoma.I went through 2 surgeries, a lumpectomy then 2 weeks later a mastectomy,then followed by the 6 rounds of chemo.Initially ,the way I coped with my disease was to be in denial.Not a good thing!With the support of many friends at the Doane House, I have learned to live with my disease and be to be happy. After going through all this , I would not have traded my experience for anything. Cancer teaches you that you must make whatever changes necessary to enable you to live each day to the fullest and keep smiling.

  7. Hello to everyone interested in this very important project.

    I am Jen van der Vecht, the photographer of the Faces of Courage 2011 Calendar. I am looking forward to meeting all our models and together creating compelling portraits of each of you. My aim is to first and foremost capture your spirit, your strength and the battle that you have won against this heartbreaking disease.

    Peace and Love to all our sistas',


  8. Hello Everyone,
    I am so thrilled to see so much response to this project! I was flooded with phone calls after the story hit the Erabanner this week and in just a few short hours, I had all of the calendar spots filled. We are now ready to proceed with the photoshoots!

    Here is my update:
    - I now have a few names to contact regarding hair and makeup artists who are willing to volunteer their time so I should have that secured in a few days. We can start scheduling the photos in the next couple of weeks.

    - I will be starting radiation treatments on Oct 5th for 25 sessions (5 weeks) so that will make it difficult to meet with people during the day but while I travel ont eh shuttle bus to PMH, I can work on other tasks. I still plan to stay on top of the blog and emails in the evenings.

    - By the time I start those treatments, I will have the hair and makeup details worked out so that all of the models can arrange their photo sessions with Jen directly.

    - I am still gathering quotes on printing costs and will be preparing letters for sponsors (looking for donations to pay the printing costs) over the coming weeks.

    Stay tuned for more updates...


  9. Barry, I am so very sorry for your loss. I cannot imagine the impact this has had on your family. Your wife sounds like a very brave and courageous woman.
    While the calendar spots are all filled, I would love to honour her on this blog if that is ok with you. Do you have a photo you can send me that I can add to this site?

    Thank you for sharing your story.

  10. Fiona, thank you so much for your offer to help. I will send you an email shortly! :-)