Introducing SCAR Project SuperSURVIVORmodel Vanessa Tiemeier

I’d like to introduce my friend, local SCAR Project SuperSURVIVORmodel Vanessa. She and I are on the SCAR Project Cincinnati Exhibit Planning Committe to bring the SCAR Project Exhibit, which premiered in New York City last October. That’s the when and where I met Vanessa. SCAR Project photographer David Jay was giving a private gallery tour and as we approached Vanessa’s portrait she was standing right next to hers.

I was just about as beside myself as she was, literally, standing beside herself, to run into a fellow Cincinnati Survivor in the Big Apple.

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.

A picture also puts a face to the sad reality. I hope it also puts some traction in our race for a cure. Look at these pictures. Please, look at these pictures and I’m sure you’ll agree with me that we’ve had enough breast cancer. I know I’ve had too much breast cancer. And I have way too many friends living with breast cancer and way too many friends I’ve lost to breast cancer. Breast cancer is a bitch.

While I don’t feel like glorying in anyone’s death on this blog or in my life, the way I figure it, if we here in America can find Bin Ladin, I have to believe if we put some red, white, and blue behind all the PINK, we could do away with breast cancer and give the color pink back to little girls who won’t have to grow up and THINK PINK.

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.

And with that, I’ll just hand the mic over to Vanessa (who is #103 on my list of 1000 gifts, btw):

"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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