“My experience with Beauty Reboot helped me realize that cancer cannot take away an individual’s beauty, externally or internally.”

I am so honored to introduce Sandhya to you.  She has been in remission from breast cancer for two years.  She is strong but also reserved, she has a sweet and easy going demeanor.  It was such a pleasure to meet and work with her.  She is the kind of person that brings light and love wherever she goes and I am so humbled to have been able to photograph her and tell her story.

Sandhya seemed slightly reserved and unsure of herself in front of the camera (as most women are), but she truly blossomed in front of my lens.  I took a chance and asked her if she would be willing to show her scars or “beauty marks” because I wanted to celebrate every part of her and help her see herself and her scars in a new light.  To be honest I thought she’d say no, but I was beyond delighted and frankly honored when she said yes and entrusted me with capturing such a raw and intimate part of herself.  This led to capturing Sharon and Megan’s “beauty marks” as well.  I will share these beautiful and intimate portraits in their own post at the end of the series.

For now I want to tell you all about Sandhya and her cancer journey and experience with the Beauty Reboot project. But I will let her tell you in her own words for they will mean far more than mine ever could.

“I’ve never been fully comfortable with my physical appearance. I was either my stomach was too flabby or my nose was too big or my forehead was too wide. Whatever the case, I never once thought of myself as “beautiful” in the conventional sense. Then, a few years ago, I found out that cancer decided to invade my breast (the one part of my body I actually didn’t mind about myself!) Obviously, when I first heard the devastating three words “you have cancer,” my immediate reaction was “get this thing out of me and make sure it never comes back.” But, when the dust settled and the treatments and surgeries were all over, I was left looking at my burnt nippleless breasts, and all those insecurities I had about myself came flooding back with an even greater intensity. People would try and lend support and reiterate that scars were a badge of honor or that people would love me no matter what I looked like (not helpful by the way!) But, no matter how much I would tell myself that these scars told a story of a battle won, a part of me couldn’t get past the fact that my body just wasn’t normal anymore. These physical scars had morphed into emotional ones.

Then, one day, I was browsing through a Facebook page of this support group I had joined for young cancer survivors, and I stumbled across an advertisement for the Beauty Reboot campaign. Intrigued, I reached out to Lucia and Sharon and, within a few days I was suddenly part of this photo shoot aimed to give a voice to cancer survivors both through photography and storytelling. Never having modeled for anything before, it definitely was an enlightening one of a kind experience, from getting dolled up to dressed up to posing for photos with my scars showing in all their glory. Even though I had never met any of the individuals involved in the campaign prior to this experience, I felt such a strong sense of support- from the two other beautiful survivors to the makeup artists and videographers and photographer, I felt encouraged, and, in turn, my inhibitions about my body image seemed to dwindle. It was amazing to have these photos be an expression of my physical self and all the more empowering that I could share the story of my cancer journey. In the past, cancer at times made me want to feel invisible and sometimes even ashamed. But, my experience with Beauty Reboot helped me realize that cancer cannot take away an individual’s beauty, externally or internally.”