I’m very lucky that my breast cancer waited to make an appearance until I was 52. I have a friend who was diagnosed in her 30s and is currently battling a stage 4 reoccurrence. When it was my turn to join the pink ribbon tribe, I remember wondering what it would have felt like to be diagnosed when I was Pam’s age. I’m grateful I had a 20-year reprieve.
Since then, I have met other valiant young women who were diagnosed in their 30s and even their 20s. Jessica Dietze is one of them. A mastectomy veteran at 23, she contacted me after one of the essays I wrote about my experience for the Omaha World-Herald, and we struck up an e-mail friendship.
For Jessica and so many others to go through breast cancer at such a young age is wrong on too many levels to count. But something beautiful has come from it, thanks to photographer David Jay and The Scar Project. Jessica volunteered to be photographed and flew to New York from Nebraska for a photo shoot. She learned about the project at breastcancer.org, where they put out a call for survivors under the age of 30. She said she wanted to take part to help show the young face of cancer.
The black and white images are arresting. The women look right at you, compelling you to look back. When I look at them, I see beauty and defiance, dignity and strength. I see young, vital, sensual women. Who happen to have scars, and wear them like a badge of honor. They are warriors, and they are beautiful.