Cancer survivor Thelga Wratten and Logan-based photographer Sumiko Eyears who recorded one of the last images of Thelga before she died this year. Photo. Leon Eyears
Cancer survivor Thelga Wratten and Logan-based photographer Sumiko Eyears who recorded one of the last images of Thelga before she died this year. Photo. Leon Eyears

Inspirational photo shows beauty of survivors’ scars

Breast cancer survivor Thelga Wratten set herself four goals before she died earlier this year.

To see her great grandchildren in Cairns, to see her granddaughter marry in Melbourne, to attend a photo shoot with her daughter Kerry and to celebrate her 80th.

She did them all.

Now, during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a portrait taken at the photo shoot is helping to shine a light on the courage of survivors and lift the taboo many feel about mastectomy scars.

Image helping to raise awareness of families affected by breast cancer. Kerry Nolan (left) and her mother Thelga Wratten, who passed away earlier this year. Photo. Sumiko Eyears.
Image helping to raise awareness of families affected by breast cancer. Kerry Nolan (left) and her mother Thelga Wratten, who passed away earlier this year. Photo. Sumiko Eyears.

It was a split second, between clothing changes, when award-winning Logan-based photographer Sumiko Eyears noticed the artwork on Kerry Nolan's breasts, artwork Kerry had done after two battles with breast cancer and a double mastectomy and reconstruction.

"Sumi asked if she could take a photo of my artwork. I said of course you can," Kerry said.

"I removed my top and I was sitting on the bench seat and my Mum, she said if you can do that so can I and she ripped off her shirt.

"She just decided, in that moment, to put it out there so people could see the beauty of her scars."

"I'm very ostentatious so for me to rip my shirt off that's just who I am but to have my Mum take her shirt off and show her scars that was very strong and very powerful," Kerry said.

"I saw how strong my mother was and from her I took that strength and it helps me continue in my life without her."

Kerry Nolan, who has undergone reconstructive breast surgery, is raising awareness of the impacts of breast cancer
Kerry Nolan, who has undergone reconstructive breast surgery, is raising awareness of the impacts of breast cancer

Formerly of the Sunshine Coast, Thelga was diagnosed twice with breast cancer, had a mastectomy and then five years later was diagnosed with ovarian cancer - a 10cm tumour on her ovary had attached to her bowel. She went on to undergo surgery to remove large sections of her bowel.

Kerry, also based on the Sunshine Coast, has survived breast cancer multiple times and her sister also.

"There are four of us and they said there was a 50/50 chance of us carrying the BRCA 2 gene. It was 50/50," Kerry said.

"Two daughters yes. Two daughters no."

Madeline Nolan (left) and her grandmother Thelga Wratten (centre) and Kerry Nolan have all been affected by breast cancer. Photo. Sumiko Eyears.
Madeline Nolan (left) and her grandmother Thelga Wratten (centre) and Kerry Nolan have all been affected by breast cancer. Photo. Sumiko Eyears.

The image of Thelga and Kerry with their shirts off, was awarded a bronze in the Portrait Masters - International Portrait Awards, and was one of the images taken for Sumi Eyears' 50 over 50 exhibition showing this weekend at the Able Gallery in Loganlea.

"You can see the courage and sadness. I can see it in her and I can see it in me when we put our heads together … it's survival."

"She had so many hurdles in her life .. she was a very strong woman and she imparted that on us .. she was a very funny lady too."

Kerry said she hoped the picture "embodies a message of survival" for other women diagnosed with breast cancer.

"Don't let the cancer journey take away your woman .. it can do that very easily and I think these photos show that we have given the woman back, we're strong and we've beaten it and we're on the other side."

"Mum battled and she came through and she fought her time of active cancer by being in control of it - not it being in control of her. She lived life on her terms."

Sumiko said in memory of Thelga, who was also her husband's "favourite aunty', all proceeds from sales (excluding GST) at the 50 over 50 exhibition tomorrow (October 26, 3-5pm) will go to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

"I lost my mother from Pancreas cancer and it was my regret that I did not have a beautiful portrait with my mother and my sister and a whole family photo including my father and my brother, but never happened," Sumiko said.

"I took her (my mother's) portrait (herself only) a year before she passed away and it is my treasure. She is smiling at my desk everyday."

Sumiko said when she saw Kerry's artwork she knew she needed to take the photo.

"I took Kerry's photo and then Thelga wanted to be in the photo and she just took her shirt off," Sumiko said.

"I asked them to hug each other and took the shot."

"I could see their sadness but strength at the same time. It was beautiful moment."

"When I opened the photo to edit, I cried…"



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