Annette’s Flower World owner, Annette Brotherson, meets Jan Lees, a Grafton woman who discovered she had breast cancer after seeing a painting in Ms Brotherson’s shop window. The painting, pictured in background, features a model with a dimpled texture on one breast – an indicator of breast cancer.
Annette’s Flower World owner, Annette Brotherson, meets Jan Lees, a Grafton woman who discovered she had breast cancer after seeing a painting in Ms Brotherson’s shop window. The painting, pictured in background, features a model with a dimpled texture on one breast – an indicator of breast cancer.

Nude painting a lifesaver

WHETHER you call it fate, divine intervention or just blind luck, Grafton woman Jan Lees certainly had something on her side in April when a bit of “sticky-beak” likely saved her life from breast cancer.

Ms Lees, a former Citizen of the Year, was waiting for a bus in Prince St outside Annette's Flower World, admiring the latest display put on monthly in the shop's window by owner Annette Brotherson. This display featured a poster of a painting by 19th century French artist William-Adolphe Bouguereau, called Evening Mood. The nude model in the painting was Bouguereau's wife, who died of breast cancer after it was completed.

In a strange twist, it seems Bouguereau had unknowingly diagnosed his wife's illness by painting an unusual dimpled texture on a breast – a dimpling that is now known as a possible indicator of breast cancer.

Ms Lees said the picture and the accompanying sign, which explained the dimpling, saved her life.

“I always stop and look in the window because she (the owner) does amazing things in there,” Ms Lees said.

“But looking at the painting that day I realised the dimpling on the model's breast looked like dimpling I had on my breast.

“When I first saw it on myself I just thought it was me getting old, but then I saw that picture and I got myself checked out.”

Only days later Ms Lees was told she had early stage breast cancer and has since had the growth surgically removed. She is now waiting to see what further treatment she will need.

Because the cancer was removed early, Ms Lees was told her chances of recovery were good, but she said she hated to think of what might have been if she hadn't looked through Ms Brotherson's window that day.

“If it wasn't for that picture I wouldn't have known, I wouldn't have done anything and I could be dead by now,” she said.

Yesterday Ms Lees and Ms Brotherson had an emotional meeting at the flower shop where Ms Lees thanked the florist dearly for “saving her life”.

“I'm so glad you looked through that window,” Ms Brotherson said, her eyes welling-up with tears as the pair hugged.

“The picture really did its job, that's the best news ever. Someone is certainly looking after you.”

Ms Brotherson said she was still coming to terms with the amazing story but was glad her display had helped Ms Lees.

Although only just beginning to face the prospect of treatment, Ms Lees was keeping optimistic. Her only regret was that she was too unwell to do what she loved, volunteer work.

“I've been through a lot in my past. I've been a survivor for a lot of years, so this is just another battle to survive,” she said.

For more information visit www.cancer.org.au.



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