Flat Friends have created a unique calendar of uplifting photographs of themselves, that celebrates their friendship and life after mastectomy without reconstruction, to raise awareness and funds for their charity.
When the women of Flat Friends started throwing fundraising ideas around, it was never going to stop at t-shirts and phone cases – in no time at all the indomitable Maxine Joyce in Scotland had tossed Calendar Girls into the mix and that was that – the seed was sown. Sarah Dow, lead photographer on the year-long project, picks up the story:
“If you’ve ever met a Flat Friend you’ll understand that this was never going to involve strategically-placed cupcakes, we were after something much more authentic. Most importantly we wanted to celebrate our friendship, and to show that it’s normal and fulfilling to live without reconstruction after mastectomy surgery.
So much ‘survivor’ photography focusses on scars and the kind of portraiture that doesn’t really reflect our everyday life or how we see ourselves. We wanted to show that life goes on, we still look fabulous, and focus on what we have gained, not what’s been lost.”
All the photographers and models involved with the calendar are members of Flat Friends living with either unilateral or bilateral mastectomy without reconstruction. Some use prosthesis when they feel like it, some never do and go flat all the time. Gilly Cant, who founded Flat Friends two years ago, continued:
“We wanted to show that survivorship is something that happens every day, and even though our experiences have changed us, friendship, love and understanding matter far more than body shape, and every one of us is still all woman.
Awareness of and respect for all the options involved with mastectomy surgery, and the choices right for each individual is still something sadly lacking in so many areas of cancer healthcare, media channels and society in general. It’s my sincere hope that these pictures will help to change that, and send a positive message to women facing breast cancer or preventative surgery in the future.”
Featuring fourteen images chosen by members of Flat Friends from the hundreds shortlisted, all profits from sales of the calendar go directly to the charity. Gilly was keen to emphasise that
“everyone has donated their own time, petrol, expertise and more to the project, and our amazing printers York Digital Imaging have done everything to keep print costs to the barest minimum, for which we are so grateful.”
Without doubt this is a unique project that flies in the face of the sort of so-called breast cancer awareness so prevalent at this time of year. In the words of some of those involved, it’s clearly been an incredible experience and one they are all proud to share with loved ones and the world.
Read the words of models and photographers here
Founded as a closed Facebook group in 2014, Flat Friends UK became a registered charity in 2016. It is still the only charity in the UK solely dedicated to the support of women facing or living with mastectomy surgery without breast reconstruction, due to either a breast cancer diagnosis or preventative surgery. The closed Facebook group currently has over 500 members and provides a safe, private, respectful and mutually supportive place for women to come together and talk about practical and emotional matters related to living flat, including clothing, cancer treatment and relationships in everyday life.
Web and social media channels:
www.facebook.com/flatfriendsUK (Public Facebook page)
For further information you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call
Gilly Cant, founder and trustee: 07463 150015
Sarah J Dow, trustee and photographer: 07870 909757
Sarah Coombes, trustee: 07915674863