Rebecca Baldwin from Narara has stepped out of her comfort zone, stripping off to be painted for the 2022 So Brave calendar to raise breast cancer awareness.
The calendar features stories and images of young Australian women diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 40 in an aim to communicate that young women get breast cancer too.
As a breast cancer survivor herself, Baldwin put her hand up to be one of 12 So Brave ambassadors to take part in the project, completing her photoshoot at Avoca Beach on March 14.
She said the photoshoot was a way for her to celebrate her body and see it as strong, brave, beautiful and resilient.
“The experience was incredible and like no other,” Baldwin said.
“It was a nice relaxing day, even if I was standing still for seven hours straight, the result was this really beautiful art piece across my body.
“Kyla Morgan, the artist, did a phenomenal job.”
At the age of 29, Baldwin was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer, turning her world upside down.
“Your cancer and its treatment become a full-time job with your life filled with doctor’s appointments, surgeons, oncologists, pathology tests, chemotherapy appointments, surgery, scans – not to mention the way that treatment affects you,” she said.
“To lose your hair, have both your breasts removed, fertility issues, going into menopause, having to question how long you will actually live, pausing your career … traumatising is the only way to explain that experience.
“The photoshoot was a positive event and a way for me to use my story to help other young women in Australia with breast cancer.
“It was also a way to raise funds for much-needed research, particularly for women with Stage IV breast cancer, and to raise awareness amongst my local community to be #breastaware #knowyournormal and get anything checked out by your local doctor as #earlydetectionsaveslives.”
So Brave was started by Founder, Rachelle Panitz, after her own breast cancer experience led to a desire to help others in her situation.
The idea of a calendar came after a chance meeting with internationally renowned bodypaint artist Wendy Fantasia.
In 2017, in partnership with the McGrath Foundation, So Brave travelled to meet, paint and photograph breast cancer survivors from around Australia.
Baldwin said being an ambassador for the charity gave a purpose to the pain she had gone through and a way she could make a difference from her experience.
“Only someone who has been diagnosed truly understands what this journey is like,” she said.
“Being able to connect with women who also had to make decisions regarding surgery, struggling with menopause, etc, was invaluable.
“I was able to raise $6,000 personally to go towards several different avenues for breast cancer, but one that is important to me is research.
“We need funding so that women with Stage IV breast cancer have more options for treatments.
“It is so incredibly important that every woman knows their body and is examining it regularly; there is no excuse not to be.
“Early detection is your best chance of survival.”
Bensville resident, Carol Smith, will also be representing the Central Coast in the 2022 So Brave calendar which will be released at the end of 2021.