Beauty in even the most tragic situations

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What would you do if you knew you had an incurable cancer? Would you pack your things, go to Paris and make a fashion photo shoot?… What?!

Yes, that’s what Jill Brzesinski-Conley did! Read the article from Daily News, that a friend, who’s a doctor and researches cancer, sent to me:

“A Kentucky woman with incurable stage-4 breast cancer has gone in front of the camera to show others that there is beauty even in the most tragic of situations.

“Magazines always talk about breast cancer, but they never show it,” Jill Brzezinski-Conley of Louisville told the Daily News. “I want to be able to show men and women that you can still be beautiful or sexy with cancer.”

Brzezinski-Conley, a double mastectomy patient, starred in a magical fashion shoot by photographer Sue Bryce last August that took her to the iconic sites of Paris.

The shoot was a well-deserved week of escape in the 35-year-old’s harrowing ordeal, which began several years earlier on July 15, 2009, when she was diagnosed with cancer the day before her 32nd birthday.

“I’ll never forget that day,” Brzezinski-Conley said. “I fell to the floor. I was by myself and I couldn’t stop crying.”

Brzezinski-Conley went into remission following her double mastectomy and harsh rounds of chemotherapy and radiation. A year later, she learned that the aggressive cancer had come back – and this time, had spread to her bones.

“They also told me I couldn’t have children,” she said. “That was the most devastating.”

After coming to terms with her terminal diagnosis, Brzezinski-Conley turned to her friend, wedding photographer Nikki Closser, hoping she would take photos of her that she could send to magazines for Breast Cancer Awareness month.

“I wanted them look sexy and intimate, but classy,” Brzezinski-Conley said.

Closser forwarded the images along to photographer Sue Bryce, Australia’s portrait photographer of 2012 and 2011, who immediately took notice. Bryce reached out to Brzezinski-Conley and asked her to join in a CreativeLive workshop.

“All of sudden I just saw this beautiful young woman, who is dying of cancer, and just wants to tell her story,” Bryce told the News. “And I have this incredible platform.”

During the workshop, Bryce invited Brzezinski-Conley on a whirlwind trip to the City of Lights and photographed her for 5-days with 7 other models. “It was honestly the best five days of my life,” Brzezinski-Conley said of the trip, her first to Paris. “I didn’t feel like a cancer patient. I felt like a supermodel.”

Brzezinski-Conley said she hopes the photos and her story, detailed in a documentary by filmmaker Hailey Bartholomew, will inspire other women to be more educated about breast cancer. Brzezinski-Conley, who had an inverted nipple before she was diagnosed, delayed going to the doctor because she never linked it to cancer.

“You’re always told that it starts with a lump,” she said. “Never in a million years did I think it was cancer.”

Brzezinski-Conley also hopes she can help women with cancer find their sense of confidence and self-worth.

“I feel like god gave this to me for a reason, and I’m so glad he gave it to me and not my family members or my friends,” she said. “One day I just woke up and I was like, I can’t get mad anymore.”

Wow!!! That’s a model for us, girls!

Thanks Daily News for the article, and Mary B. Moritz for sharing 🙂



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