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.
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.