When Chiara D’Agostino, of Montclair, New Jersey, was diagnosed with stage III triple-negative breast cancer in 2014, she was about to turn 43.
“I was terrified of seeing myself after my mastectomy,” she says. “It made me question what makes me feel like a woman and what makes me feel sexy.”
Chiara isn’t alone. After a breast cancer diagnosis of any stage or type, many women question what their bodies mean to them physically, socially and romantically. Though it can be hard to accept how breast cancer changes your body, just as many women feel positive changes to their “bodytude” — the attitude they have toward their bodies and how they express that attitude to the world.
July 6-14, LBBC brought bodytude to Instagram by asking you to share your body image stories through photo diaries and selfies posted using the hashtag #MyBodyTude. Seven users’ stories were also shared on LBBC’s blog. Anyone who submitted had the chance to win a $100 gift card.
The photo contest ended July 14, the same day LBBC hosted our Breast Cancer 360, YWI Presents Love, Sex and Relationships: Body Acceptance After Diagnosis, funded by a cooperative agreement through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The program was moderated by Lu Ann Cahn, a journalist who experienced breast cancer and the author of the memoir I Dare Me. A panel of breast cancer and body image experts, along with four women diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age, joined her. Together they explored how young women cope with body image in the modern age of social media, especially when they have breast cancer.
Chiara attended the 360 and also submitted photos to the campaign. A blogger who was also recently diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, she regularly shares her story online. But it wasn’t always that way.
“I realized I needed [to share] as a way to help me process what was going on,” she says. A friend suggested she start an online journal, which has since grown into her blog, Beauty Through the Beast. Once she began, she realized she was building a “great army” through the social media channels she used.
“I think social media is fantastic,” she says. “I’ve connected with so many people through Facebook groups and Twitter. We send each other links to resources, doctors’ names, and advice.”
When she heard about the #MyBodyTude campaign, Chiara felt she had to submit. She already had a collection of photos of herself post-reconstruction on Instagram, and saw LBBC’s campaign as another avenue to get her message out there.
“I wanted to give a visual to everyone that cancer is not the stick-thin woman with tubes and wires [who people imagine],” she says. “I wanted to give hope to others, especially those with triple-negative breast cancer, that you can still get dressed up and go out in Manhattan.”
During the campaign, 50 women contributed 231 photos that show them in situations ranging from a typical day out to the day they shaved their heads or had their reconstruction surgery. You’ll find them all, including the entry from contest winner Ann Marie Otis (@stupiddumbbreastcancer), by checking out the hashtag #MyBodyTude on Instagram.