An Australian breast cancer survivor who contributed to a photographer’s project to raise cancer awareness experienced a harsh backlash from her Facebook friends, who objected to the revealing pictures she posted.
Beth Whaanga was diagnosed with breast cancer on her 32nd birthday. She had to undergo a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction when doctors found she had the BRCA2 gene, which can cause breast cancer.
Photographer Nadia Masot, photographed Whaanga as part of the Under the Red Dress project, which aims to raise awareness of the realities of breast cancer. The black and white photos show Whaanga’s scarred post-surgery body.
Posting them on Facebook, Whaanga issued a warning to her friends.
“These images are confronting and contain topless material,” she wrote. “They are not in any way meant to be sexual. The aim of this project is to raise awareness for breast cancer. If you find these images offensive please hide them from your feed.”
She added that she wanted to bring their attention to the hidden stories of cancer survivors, adding that the illness can affect anyone.
“Each day we walk past people. These individuals appear normal but under their clothing sometimes their bodies tell a different story.”
“This is a preventative message,” she posted.
But that message was not well received by everyone. It wasn’t long before Whaanga had lost over 100 Facebook friends.
But Whaanga, who said she checked with her parents and husband before posting the photographs, said the reaction didn’t bother her.
“That’s OK, everyone is allowed their view – that’s what social media is,” she told The Courier-Mail.
“I have exposed myself to millions of people, and if that gets one person to check their body then that’s what I wanted,” she added.
Both Whaanga and Masot are thrilled with the results of the project, and may turn it into an exhibition or coffee table book, according to the Daily Mail.
And for its part, Facebook contacted Whaanga to tell her it would be keeping the images up.
You can view the images on Whaanga's Facebook page here.