May 5, 2011

Introducing SCAR Project SuperSURVIVORmodel Vanessa Tiemeier

Vanessa was diagnosed when she was only 25 years old. Yes, young women get breast cancer. That’s a point The SCAR Project is out to make. The stats are out there for anyone to clearly see, but everyone knows a picture is worth a 1000 words.

Vanessa Tiemeier with husband Billy
at The SCAR Project exhibition opening night.
October 2010, NYC.

Dedicated to the more than 10,000 women under the age of 40 who will be diagnosed this year alone The SCAR Project is an exercise in awareness, hope, reflection and healing. The mission is three-fold: Raise public consciousness of early-onset breast cancer, raise funds for breast cancer research/outreach programs and help young survivors see their scars, faces, figures and experiences through a new, honest and ultimately empowering lens.

"I think sometimes I am so good at
putting on a pretty face and acting all
put-together that some people don't
realize the extent of everything that
breast cancer survivors go through."

I heard about The SCAR Project through a post made on the Young Survival Coalition online survivor forums. David Jay put a call out for breast cancer survivors willing to travel to NYC to be photographed. I was intrigued but hesitant. I kept wondering if I would really want to or be able to show my scars to strangers, and expose myself like that. But after I emailed another young woman who had already participated and she urged me to go for it, I was excited to make the trek!

I took a 16-hour Greyhound bus ride from Cincinnati to New York City with my husband and younger sister. I was nervous meeting David in a city I had never been. My husband and family shared my nervousness, but supported my decision to want to take part in the project. My motive being that I don’t want to be part of the mold that breast cancer survivors have been confined to. It’s not always pink ribbons and charity runs. Breast cancer oftentimes is glamorized and commercialized.
I think sometimes I am so good at putting on a pretty face and acting all put-together, that some people don’t realize the extent of everything that breast cancer survivors go through. My outward scars and spoken words are only half of the story. They don’t show the emotional and private struggles that are continuously present. They don’t show the burden that my family has willingly endured. They don’t show the lifestyle changes and limitations that come with breast cancer.
David Jay embraces the everyday, personal, true happenings of life, and through his photographs, beautifully portrays every woman’s unique situation. As part of The SCAR Project, I can “just be me”. No covering up or masking the truth. No pretending that everything is fine.
I am so glad I had the opportunity to be a part of this project, and am honored that my photo is one of the ones selected to be in the exhibition. I am excited to represent Cincinnati when the exhibition comes here on September 29th, and look forward to sharing this ground-breaking exhibit with my home-town. After all, breast cancer is a part of my life but it does not define me. It will never be ALL that I am or ALL that I do. I can’t wait for my friends, my co-workers, my community, and the world to see me…as I really am.
—Vanessa Tiemeier, in her own words.

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