Behind Closed Doors
Embrace Award Recipient
Photographer: Alisha Simms
Model: Angel Miracle
Polycystic Ovarian Disease has affected me since my teen years. I was obese all my life. I had ovarian cysts several times a year requiring media. cal treatment. My periods were always sporadic yet I didn’t get my diagnosis until 22.
After three years of trying to become pregnant, my first pregnancy ended in miscarriage. Because of my PCOS, my body didn’t produce enough progesterone to sustain a pregnancy; I would always have to take injections to not miscarry. We finally conceived again after having IVF. I thought the infertility was the worst part of the disease, but it was the facial hair. My estrogen was decreasing and testosterone increasing.
Laser hair removal had no effect on me. The increased testosterone makes my hair thin, and my sex drive is higher than most women. The facial hair makes me feel so self-conscious. I hate when my husband touches my face when he kisses me; I wear my hair big trying to keep light off my face because my entire face has peach fuzz.
I am now a normal weight after gastric bypass 13 years ago, but 80 percent of women with PCOS are obese. I feel vulnerable in the photo because I have tried to never let anyone know I have to shave, wax or pluck facial hair. I feel less of a woman because of it, but I’m hoping by doing this photo shoot I gain some acceptance.
Vulnerability Award Recipient
Photographer: Alex Slitz
Model: Polly Gentry
My mom, her sister and my sister all died of breast cancer. It metastasized the same way in each of them. I had a BRCA test and the doctor recommended I see the oncologist. He said at my age, 43, having fibrous breast tissue and that I never had children, coupled with the positive BRCA GENE test, he highly suggested I get a simple bilateral mastectomy. I never thought I could get it until I sat down with the oncologist. I realized I was harboring anxiety of dying this particular way. Though it was not a popular move to do this in 2004, I searched my soul and knew I would get over this easier than if I was told I had breast cancer.
I never once regretted this decision. I like the fact that I am now 56, still happily married and comfortable with this particular decision I made for myself. I am OK that I didn’t pursue internal breasts because I still won’t feel a thing… who am I fooling? They still don’t even really look like breasts in my opinion.
Photographer: Randy Land
Model: Beth Weller
After 43 years, I finally am comfortable in my skin and like the way I look. When I look in the mirror, I see someone who likes themselves and is positive each day. In my photo I’m doing what makes me feel strongest — pushing my granddaughter while running. I wanted to show women and all my grandchildren that you can be whoever you set your mind to be.
No matter what someone says, always be you and believe in yourself. I also wanted women to know we can be strong, no matter what size you are. I push my granddaughter while training for a half-marathon and hope to see more women doing the same thing.
Photographer: Randy Land
Model: Frances Dumas-Hines
As I near the years of life that are considered the “sunset years,” I tend to reflect on my perceptions of body image throughout my life. In my teen years, I was teased for being too skinny. It seems ironic considering that as a nation we tend to worry about teen weight loss to the point of being unhealthy. But this was not the case for me as I was not “filling out” like my friends who were “more shapely” than me. Rounding out my teen years, my mother’s genes kicked in, and within a year I seemed to be “over-endowed” in the chest. Again, this would seem an ideal situation for a woman, but I felt so out of proportion that in years to come I would contemplate breast reduction. I went from being underweight to overweight, and then dieting became an issue.
My body image – too skinny, too fat, big chest, no butt; was there ever a time that I was happy with my body? Now in my 50s, I am more confident with how I look than at any other point in life. My weight, my body proportions, my entire body image IS JUST PERFECT!