Incredible photoshoot showcases the honest realities of living with cancer

Sixteen men and women who have been diagnosed with cancer have taken part in a stunning photoshoot for Stand Up To Cancer, giving an honest and unfiltered look at the disease.

The project, called ‘Defiance’, aims to showcase the gritty and raw realities of cancer.

The people in the pictures have all embraced scars and changes to their bodies, big or small, as a show of strength against the disease.

Shot by photographer Ami Barwell, the project is a follow up to her ‘Mastectomy’ series in 2017. This year, Ami has broadened this series beyond mastectomy scars, to reflect a diverse range of experiences.

‘To me, “Defiance” is an act of rebellion,’ explains Ami. ‘Cancer isn’t pretty, it can be dark, painful and destructive. But we aren’t playing to cancer’s rules. These people are strong, beautiful and, most of all, defiant.’

Ami’s mastectomy series was inspired by her mum who had breast cancer twice – so it is a subject that it very close to her heart.

‘I wanted to raise as much awareness for breast cancer as possible, showing women baring their scars in a series of gritty and honest portraits,’ she explains.

‘I received an overwhelmingly positive response, with emails from women worldwide explaining how my photographs had inspired them and given them strength. For many, these were the first photographs they’d seen showing women post-mastectomy as beautiful, sexy, strong and amazing.

‘I knew I had to carry on raising awareness with Stand Up To Cancer and empowering people through my photographs.’

Deborah James, from London, featured in the shoot. Deborah has stage 4 bowel cancer and is known on social media as ‘Bowel Babe’.

‘I’m living with stage 4 cancer, but you wouldn’t know it if you saw me walking down the street,’ says Deborah. ‘For me, it’s about not being defined by my cancer – I want to be seen as the woman I was before and yes, sometimes I do still want to look sexy.

‘Doing this shoot for Stand Up To Cancer has been so empowering. My scars have affected my confidence at times, but I’ve learnt to appreciate my body for what it is – strong and resilient.’

27-year-old Tasha Jilka,  from Leicester, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma in 2010, and it has affected her face and nose.

‘I was diagnosed with cancer just before my 18th birthday and this massively impacted my confidence. My cancer has completely changed my face, so it’s not something I can hide away from,’ she explains.

‘I’ve had to build a thick skin over the past nine years and now I use my face as a symbol of strength, something that shows everything I’ve been through. I’m standing up to cancer by embracing my new normal every day, which is why I was so pleased to be a part of the “Defiance” series.’

Mark Douglas (Doug), from London, is living with thyroid cancer said.

‘I was diagnosed with cancer when I was 30 and the psychological impact it had on me and my family was huge,’ says Doug. ‘I have a scar on my neck from surgery, but the main physical change for me has been how it’s altered my voice, which is almost like an invisible scar.

‘I was thrilled to be a part of this project for Stand Up To Cancer, because this disease comes in all shapes and sizes and I want show others that we can all be defiant in our own way.’

Stand Up To Cancer funds life-saving cancer research. To date, the campaign has raised more than £62 million, funding 52 clinical trials and projects, involving over 11,000 patients.

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