Amazon Elder-Breast Cancer Survivor-Mastectomy Photo

Laurie says:

Since I finished Women of Japan, I’ve had time to think about and look at some of my non-project images. I took this photograph of June Gladney at the Masquerade at the World Science Fiction Convention at San Jose in 2002. She looked fabulous and her performance was courageous, dramatic and literally breathtaking for the audience. June called the costume “Amazon Elder”.

She had discussed her costume idea with me several months before. I know that it took real bravery for her to do a Greek Amazon costume that bared her left side with her mastectomy scar. And she was presenting in front of an audience of several thousand people.

I photographed her immediately after the masquerade as a gift and thank you. This is the first time I’ve shown the photograph publicly.

Taken at the Masquerade at the ConJose World Science Fiction Convention, San Jose, California, September 2002

The costume and presentation involved lots of time and work, and much help and support from her family. Her daughters both worked with her on the costume. The dragon “tattoo” on her left side was done by her daughter Beckett. Her daughter Leslie’s on-line DJ friends recorded facts about breast cancer and mixed eight to ten voices over the music “Stand By Me.” It was sung by another DJ who was also a cancer survivor.

June said: *

“At the approximate center back of the stage, I turned full-face toward the audience… My daughters tell me that the roar erupted as a wave across the auditorium as I turned … and they caught sight of the scar and the dragon “tattooed” across my left side. … it seemed that the whole audience was on their feet, cheering, applauding, screaming, some in tears. The back-stage crew was applauding – lots of tears and hugs.

“I was overwhelmed. I had never expected anything like that!

“Many people came up to me later during the convention to thank me for my bravery in doing such a daring presentation. Some told me they needed to see a real-life scar which wasn’t that bad. Most promised to get the necessary tests done. Several had been putting it off for years, dreading what they might hear.

“One man and his wife talked to me at a later convention. It turned out that he had been worried about a lump in his breast and he finally went to his doctor. He ended up having surgery. His wife was in tears, she thanked me repeatedly for the voice-over in the program that said 8% of men get breast cancer. …

“A number of people–mostly women, and some husbands–have seen me at later conventions. They stop to tell me their stories. Some women had to have mastectomies; some have not; some were still on chemo and radiation; but they all thanked me for “shocking” them into taking action because of my stage presentation. Some did not need intervention, but as they all said, they did not have to keep worrying and they still had their yearly check-ups. I still run into people who were at the convention who thank me for my presentation.

“My sister Jeanne started going for mammograms again. Breast cancer turned up three years ago, she needed a mastectomy. My daughter Beckett developed pre-cancerous cells about two years ago. She is still in chemo. Both had fast-moving types. They say that without my example their cancers probably would not have been caught in time.

“I have to say this masquerade experience and its results are some of the major highlights of my life. I was able to help so many people because I got up on stage for two minutes. I could tell people how they should help themselves, and I could show them a real-life example of a good result.”

*The quotes are from a longer piece that June wrote and sent to me.

breast cancer survivor, mastectomy, breast cancer, costuming, masquerade, disability, photography, body image, Body Impolitic

9 thoughts on “Amazon Elder-Breast Cancer Survivor-Mastectomy Photo

  1. I thank you again, Laurie, for taking this picture of an amazing time in my mom’s life, and for encouraging her in the process of developing how it could be accomplished. I must thank you again for giving her the chance to reflect on it now, and express the perspective she has on it now. Given that she is neither a stage or theater person, the idea itself was an extraordinary gift that seemed to appear almost from thin air, like a Tarot card showing the Ace. It grew from her experience, and her desire to bring other to get the care they need.

  2. Thanks for all the appreciation of June and the photo. I’m hoping that the image gets out enough on the web to do some of the same kind of good as June’s Masquerade presentation.


    I’m glad you wrote to give a closer perspective on the experience.

  3. One of the many reasons I am proud of my mom is this moment. It took a lot of chutzpah to even think of the idea and so much more to follow through.

    My mom is a shy woman and not given to exhibitions, but she felt strongly about the presentation and what it could accomplish, so she pushed aside her fears and stood up there.

    She bared more than her scar that evening, she showed herself to be her own sort of warrior. And isn’t that what we all need to become? Our own sort of person, unique and beautiful, not in spite of scars but because of the lessons learned from them.

    She has made me proud of *my* scars, proud to be a woman and definitely proud to be her daughter.

  4. Oh, brava! Bravissima! To Ms. Gladney for doing this and to you for sharing it with those of us who were not there. And what a powerful photo it is, against such a perfectly inappropriate backdrop that somehow makes the image stronger. I’m gushing, I’ll shut up.

  5. Leslie,

    Thanks for telling us more about June and about you.


    Thanks, that’s a great compliment.

    The background was indeed a challenge.

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