CANCER sufferer Sandra Lowe has told how treating the disease hit her badly — but this photoshoot helped to get her confidence back.
The mum of one was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after the birth of her daughter in 2007.
Surgery and radiotherapy left her confidence shattered — but she got her groove back with a saucy photoshoot.
Sandra, 35, recalled her diagnosis saying: “It was startling. I was very lucky it was in the early stages.
“The tumour was between two and three centimetres, it wasn’t too big and there were irregular cells in the surrounding tissue, but it hadn’t progressed, and thank God there was no metastasis.”
The mum, from Clondalkin, Dublin, underwent a segmental mastectomy, where a third of her breast tissue was removed, followed by six weeks’ chemo.
She said: “When I look at it now it’s not that big, but I do have a scar on the side of my breast under my arm.
“But because of the cancer I felt very protective of my body and very paranoid. I wouldn’t even get undressed in front of anyone. I just didn’t feel feminine.
“I was really having a bad time with self-confidence.”
Then she met photographer Hector Heathwood and was intrigued as he told her about his portraiture work.
Sandra said: “I never intended to do it, to be honest, I just wasn’t confident enough. But when I looked at his photos and the other work he did, it was just incredible, they’re just beautiful.”
On the day of her appointment, Sandra nearly bolted. She said: “I can’t tell you how much he reassured me because at first I wanted to run out.
“But he was so good. He just puts you at ease. He’s very into what you would like, how you see your body, what angles you’re happy with. It’s very personalised.”
Sandra was so at ease she completely stripped off for the camera — the first time she got undressed in front of someone since she had cancer.
She said: “That was huge for me. I felt that comfortable mid-shoot to be able to do it. I hadn’t the confidence to do it before then, that empowerment.
“I literally cried when I got my photos. I never saw myself that way. You have all these conceptions about your body, but then when you see yourself, it’s extraordinary.
“When I saw them it was empowering, like someone had lifted something from me. I couldn’t believe how sexy and feminine I felt.”
Hector said of his subjects: “What I enjoy most is letting them express this one element of their character in a way that makes them feel good about themselves.
“I get a lot out of meeting the challenges of overcoming each individual’s perception of how they look and producing images that make them feel good.”
He added: “The words that come back to me time and again are ‘confidence, empowerment, happiness’. Unfortunately most women I work with have no idea they can look like that, and that’s a shame, but many have told me it’s meant so much to themselves and their partners when the results are viewed.”
VISIT Hector’s work at hectorheathwoodundercover.ie.@fionafellis