12 Women On What They Wish They’d Known Before Breast Cancer

Photo courtesy of Stella McCartney.
For Breast Cancer Awareness Month, British designer Stella McCartney has teamed up with Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Lynsey Addario to photograph women who have gone through, or are going through, a breast cancer diagnosis. The resulting series of beautiful and deeply moving portraits captures the intricacies of the scars – physical and emotional – that these courageous women bear. As part of the campaign, A Letter to My Loved Ones, Lynsey also joined forces with climate activist, documentary photographer and filmmaker Alice Aedy to create poignant short films in which the women wrote to their children or noted down their favourite recipes to pass on to their families.
Having lost her mother Linda to breast cancer in 1998, the cause is close to McCartney's heart and her eponymous label has run awareness and fundraising campaigns since 2014. "It pains me every day to have lost one of the most precious humans, my mum Linda, to this horrendous disease," says McCartney. "I have such a deep admiration and gratitude for these women — both those who shared their moving stories and for Lynsey and Alice, who brought these powerful narratives to life."
Alongside the stunning photography and short films, Stella McCartney has launched its traditional Breast Cancer Awareness lingerie set as well as the much-loved Louise Listening post-operative bra, with all proceeds going to the breast cancer charities. For the second year running, adidas by Stella McCartney has also launched a sports mastectomy bra, enabling women to engage in activity post-surgery at their own pace. The sustainable brand has given out over 10,000 mastectomy bras through the Stella McCartney Cares Foundation, with more set to be gifted to survivors this year.
Breast cancer is the UK's most common cancer, with over 55,000 women and 350 men diagnosed annually, but now, more than ever, raising awareness is key. UK charity Breast Cancer Now estimates that during lockdown, nearly 1 million British women missed their mammograms due to breast screening programmes being paused. Vitally, more attention is needed for BAME cancer patients, too, with the Cancer Strategy in England recognising that they often experience poorer levels of support than other groups after treatment.
Ahead, we asked the women photographed for the campaign what they wish they'd known before diagnosis, how their experience has changed their world view, and what they're hopeful for in 2021.

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