Dec 23, 2012 4:54 PM by Marnee Banks (

2012 Highlights: Montana photographer helps breast cancer survivors

We're highlighting some of the stories that were popular with our viewers in 2012; this one from reporter Marnee Banks aired in June.

Breast cancer survivors often times struggle to feel whole after they have undergone treatment, but Helena photographer Jana Suchy is encouraging survivors one click at a time

Suchy hopes that each photograph will bring healing and confidence for the women she photographs.

One of them is Doris Copenhaver, a 70 year old breast cancer survivor, who said, "I think it's probably every woman's fantasy at some point, most of the time it's not acted upon, but I think most women would love to see themselves photographed in sexy clothes, sexy positions."

Copenhaver recalled, "I remember saying to the doctor, 'Can't you just do a lumpectomy and save my breasts?' He said, 'Well, I'm not here to save your breast. I'm here to save your life.'"

Now as part of her healing she is dressing up and posing for Suchy's project called Pink Ribbon Boudoir.

Suchy said, "One woman told me a few days later, 'You know Jana, when I was diagnosed and treated, they take your breast and they probe it and they auger it, and they drill it, and they cut it and finally they take it off.' She said, 'I really lost the sense of intimacy with my body.' She said, 'Dressing up and being beautiful and sexy, it brought it back.'"

Copenhaver noted, "I think it does an awful lot for the person themselves to be able to view themselves as beautiful and desirable, if not to anyone but yourself. It's a validation that you are whole and attractive and desirable."

Survivor Jo Eschler says some might find it too risque but she says posing for the camera makes her feel alive: "I feel pretty, yeah, and probably sexy and I have good legs because I was a runner for about 20 years. I have all these doctors and medical students staring at me, so what's a bunch of women?"

Suchy has already held her first Pink Ribbon Boudoir event and is hoping to expand it to survivors all over the nation.

Suchy stated, "The women's responses were so self-affirming, 'Oh my god I'm beautiful, I didn't know I was beautiful.' It just gave them such a better self image and more confidence."

So with each click the women see and feel their own beauty; in the words of Copenhaver, "It just makes one feel very very fortunate to be alive."


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