Our bodies aren’t perfect but who cares? We meet two women who posed with their scars for an inspirational projectJanuary 31, 2021
IT'S often criticised as a platform packed with unrealistic images, but scratch the surface of Instagram and you’ll find a growing number of posts promoting the reality of women’s bodies.
One account is @Behindthescars_– a campaign by photographer Sophie Mayanne.
Since 2017, Sophie has photographed 400 subjects and amassed more than 58,000 followers.
Here, we meet two women who posed for her inspirational project and find out about their journeys to self-acceptance.
‘Life Is Too Short To Worry About Looking Different’
Laura Lambert, 29, is a graphic designer and lives in Widnes, Cheshire, with her husband Charlie, 29.
“Waking from surgery, groggy and sore, I stared at the bandaged stump where my lower left leg had been.
"The amputation had saved my life – but it was so hard to accept part of my body was gone forever.
"Before my amputation, I was an active 25 year old with a busy, happy life.
"I volunteered with the Scouts, kept fit and loved hill walking with my husband Charlie, who I married in 2015.
"Then, in February 2017, I went to Planet Ice in Widnes with Charlie to watch an ice-hockey game.
"I felt shivery and developed a headache, and when we got home, I spent the night throwing up.
"In the morning Charlie took one look at me and the purple rash spreading rapidly over my chest and face, and immediately called 999.
"I was rushed to hospital and barely remember being transferred from A&E to ICU.
"A terrified Charlie and my parents were told I had pneumococcal septicaemia – a potentially fatal blood infection.
"I was put in an induced coma for a fortnight and when I woke up the doctors told me my left leg was dying.
"The infection in my blood had led to sepsis, which stops blood flow and causes tissue death. Despite intravenous pain relief, I was in agony.
"A few weeks later, doctors told me they needed to remove the lower half of the leg to save my life. I knew there was no choice, but I was terrified I’d never walk again.
"There was little time to come to terms with the fact I was going to be disabled and that Charlie might need to care for me instead of simply being my husband.
"In March 2017, my lower leg was amputated, then a few weeks later I was back in theatre to have the fingers on my right hand shortened, due to more tissue death.
"In May 2017, parts of my right leg were cut away, too.
"I wept when I woke up – it was like something from a horror movie, stapled and stitched.
"It affected me more emotionally than losing my other leg, perhaps because it looked so shocking.
"But I also knew the surgeons had worked so hard to give me the best chance of walking again, and I was so grateful to them.
"I had some very low moments when I felt hopeless about the future, but Charlie was my rock, reassuring me I’d find a way back to my old life.
I was transferred to a residential rehab facility where I was fitted with a prosthetic leg and learned to walk again
"In July 2017, after five months in hospital, I was transferred to a residential rehab facility where I was fitted with a prosthetic leg and learned to walk again.
"I also had psychological support to help me come to terms with it. I didn’t recognise myself – this weak, gaunt woman with a stump instead of a leg.
"I walked out of the rehab centre that September – I’d set myself the goal of that date, and I felt proud to have achieved it. Back at home, a stairlift and bath lift were installed.
"At first, I was anxious about Charlie seeing my body. I felt self-conscious knowing how different I looked.
"I wasn’t the same woman he’d married, but he always reassured me he saw past the changes, and my anxiety gradually faded.
"In December, I returned to work, and over the next few months I took up Zumba and volunteering again.
"I was determined to get back to feeling like ‘me’, but I wasn’t oblivious to the stares when people noticed my hand or prosthetic, and that made me feel self-conscious.
I was determined to get back to feeling like ‘me’, but I wasn’t oblivious to the stares when people noticed my hand or prosthetic, and that made me feel self-conscious
"For a long time, I found it hard to believe this was my body. But I came to realise how fortunate I was – my body had fought for me and I should appreciate it.
"So many people, both in hospital and rehab, had not only saved my life but helped to rebuild it, and I owed it to them to celebrate my body.
"In the summer of 2019, I wore a bikini on holiday for the first time in years. Once I got over my initial nerves, I didn’t care if people stared and I just relaxed in the sunshine.
"When I came across the Behind The Scars project on Instagram, I felt so inspired. I hoped taking part would further boost my own self-confidence. The old me would never have done it, but I’m braver now.
"Posing for Sophie in November 2019, I was nervous but excited. When I saw the images, I was blown away.
"They were so powerful and people’s comments online were really supportive. I felt proud to have inspired other women to celebrate their bodies.
"This is who I am, and life is too short to spend it worrying about looking different.”
‘I Wanted To Be A Good Role Model For My Daughters’
Holly Stairs, 35, is a chef and lives in Yateley, Hampshire, with her partner Pete, 40, also a chef, and her daughters Harriet, seven, and Eda, five.
“When I was six, a rare tumour the size of a football – called a teratoma – was discovered on my right ovary. Usually they’re benign, but mine was cancerous.
"My mum had been taking me to the GP for a year, because I was lethargic and struggling to concentrate at school.
"One evening she and my dad were giving me a bath and realised my tummy was rock hard. They took me to hospital where a scan revealed a huge mass in my abdomen.
"Doctors explained it had to be removed, but because it was so large my ovary had to come out, too. I was too young to understand the impact on my future fertility.
"However, when I became a teenager, I was very self-conscious of the 20cm scar the operation left. Getting changed for PE, other girls would make snide comments that my stomach looked like a bum.
"When I was 18, I was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in my remaining ovary after suffering terrible stomach pain and being admitted to hospital.
"Although I wasn’t ready for children at that point, it was the first time I properly realised the odds of becoming a mum were stacked against me.
"I’d already known it might be harder for me to conceive if I wanted children, as my mum had explained things as I’d got older, but now I was told it was going to be doubly difficult – and maybe even impossible.
"I felt very emotional about having no control over my future.
"In 2005, aged 20, I married my then-boyfriend and we tried for two years to conceive.
"We’d just been referred for IVF when, against all odds, I discovered I was pregnant with twins naturally.
"Sadly, I lost both babies. But four months later, I became pregnant again and Harriet was born in May 2013.
"When Harriet was a year old, doctors discovered a second tumour – although this time thankfully it was benign.
"I was on holiday in Cornwall and my stomach felt bloated and I was constipated.
"I instinctively knew what it was, especially as my doctors had told me there was a 25% chance of me having tumours in both ovaries.
"Back home, my GP referred me for a scan, which confirmed my fears.
"Then the surgeon told me I might not only lose my left ovary, but also my womb if the tumour was too entwined with them, and I’d be plunged into early menopause.
"My emotions were very mixed. I had Harriet, my miracle baby, and was so grateful. But I was only 27 and I really wanted another child.
"Being wheeled into theatre in the summer of 2014, I wasn’t thinking about the second big scar I was about to be left with from hip-bone to hip-bone, I just wanted to wake up with my fertility intact.
"And I did – my ovary and womb were saved. I was overjoyed when my second miracle daughter, Eda, was born in June 2015.
"My marriage ended later the same year and I became a single mum of two small kids.
"As much as I wanted to look to the future, my tummy was a constant reminder of my past and everything I’d been through.
"I was grateful for my body and the children it had given me, but that didn’t stop me hating my stomach.
"Social media fuelled my loathing – I’d see shots of other women in bikinis or influencers in cropped tops and it exacerbated my negative feelings.
"I worked out, ate healthily, and felt frustrated that I could control how the rest of my body looked, but not my stomach.
"I felt guilty and selfish for feeling that way.
"Without my scars, I could be dead.
"Without my stretch marks and loose skin, I wouldn’t be a mother to my girls.
"I met my partner Pete in 2018, but never felt confident enough to let him see my stomach, always hiding it with a towel or a vest top in bed.
Without my scars, I could be dead
"I’d followed the Behind The Scars project for a long time, after coming across it on Instagram, before I plucked up the courage to apply to take part in it. A big motivation was my daughters.
"I didn’t want to be a poor role model to them, and for them to grow up hating their bodies if they didn’t conform to what’s accepted as beautiful.
"Pete was really supportive but recently told me he thought I’d pull out at the last minute because I was so nervous.
"When I saw the photos, I cried.
"I’d been expecting to hate them, but I loved them.
"Posing for them has changed me in so many ways.
"I no longer look at my tummy with frustration and disgust, I am proud of all it has endured, being cut open twice and carrying two babies for me.
"I don’t hide my stomach from Pete any more, and when I tell my daughters everyone is beautiful in their own way, I finally believe my own words.
"The photos have helped me see my imperfections in a different light. Now, I don’t just accept them – I celebrate them.”
For more Insta accounts that celebrate real bodies check out:
@gammy_tit Mum-of-four Vicky Saynor’s account about living with breast cancer and its impact on her body.
@mamacax Model and blogger Cacsmy Brutus posts about life as an amputee after losing a leg to bone cancer aged 14.
@bodyposipanda Megan Crabbe, who has recovered from anorexia, celebrates her body post-eating-disorder.
@honeykinny Honey Ross, daughter of Jonathan, is a plus-size activist who wears her curves with pride.
- To see more of Sophie’s work follow @Behindthescars_
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