Brave Woman Bares All. {Nudity}

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Warning: Adult.

If I saw Beth Whaanga at a cocktail party I would think, “Wow, there’s a pretty mom who’s got it all.”

Of course, appearances can be deceiving.

Whaanga is, in fact a pretty mom who’s got a lot (maybe “all”, depending on your definition), but who also has valiantly battled several kinds of cancer.

When she chose to reveal her scars in a nude photo shoot on Facebook, it ignited a predictable firestorm of controversy. People are notoriously uncomfortable with nudity, especially if it isn’t gratuitous or reflective of cultural beauty norms.

Whaanga, with the help of photographer Nadia Mascot, took part in the project “Under the Red Dress”, which was designed to bring awareness to breast cancer through photographs of women who have experienced it. After her photo session, she posted her pictures on Facebook.

She was promptly reported and de-friended by over 100 “friends”.

I struggle to imagine seeing these images and having a hostile reaction. Fortunately, Facebook took up Whaanga’s cause and assured her her posts will remain in place despite anyone’s discomfort, and Whaanga herself has maintained her equanimity saying that it’s okay if some people are offended as long as she gets just one individual to self check for cancer.

Well, she just got one.

Among the numerous effects of her illness which Whaanga has revealed are: hair loss, total bilateral mastectomy scars, tram flap for breast reconstruction, Bellovac drain scars, naval reconstruction, bilateral tram flap for reconstruction, sagging skin from rapid weight loss and a total hysterectomy scars.

No, hers is not the kind of body we see in Yoga Journal or in any major magazine—it is not the body of a “beautiful person”—but she is beautiful.

This is a woman whose physical being became a battleground, who entered the battle and won, and these scars and her character are the spoils. She is no longer a simple woman—she is a Warrior Goddess.

It is women like Beth Whaanga who inspire me and shine a light on the path for all women who are aging, fighting, living passionately and refusing to be silenced or shunned.

Would that we could all be so brave.

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To see the full the story, click here.

Relephant:

“Cancer Took My Breasts But Will Never Take My Dignity.” {Nudity}

The Cancer Family.

An Open Letter to Cancer. 

~

Bonus: Detoxing our Bodies to Prevent Cancer. 

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Editor: Bryonie Wise

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Erica Leibrandt

Erica Leibrandt is a licensed mental health clinician, certified yoga instructor, and mother to six heathens who masquerade as innocent children. If she occasionally finds herself with a fried egg on her plate or dancing until dawn, she asks that you not judge her. Life is short, she knows the chicken that laid the egg, and we can never dance too much. Connect with Erica on Facebook and Twitter. And visit her website.

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anonymous Sep 11, 2015 10:31pm

she looks very spiritual. there is no vulgarity, but beauty. she has won the battle! god bless such great souls!!

anonymous Apr 4, 2015 8:17pm

Power to her for being such a strong woman. People are so quick to judge rather than looking at the bigger picture. Anyone who doesn’t see that should be ashamed of themselves. I admire this woman for her strength, beauty and bravery.

anonymous Apr 4, 2015 1:15pm

She is beautiful. Not because of her scars, but because she is a pretty human being. A tough one indeed. To me, scars just show how “magical” and strong a human body can be, they show our history, where we have failed and where we fixed those problems. But I can’t help thinking “poor lady, she has been butchered” 🙁

anonymous Apr 4, 2015 1:50am

Gorgeous and gutsy. It shocks and saddens me that any of this lady's Facebook 'friends' would de-friend her because of her photos. Yes they are confronting but I think that was the whole point of why she did it. Cancer isn't pretty but raising awareness and early detection saves lives and, as she said, if she saves just one it will have been worth it. I hope the lovely Beth lives a long and – from this point – healthy life surrounded by supportive family and friends.

anonymous Mar 1, 2015 5:48am

You are a beautiful woman. It is a real woman who embraces herself & knows the real meaning of beauty. I give you a standing ovation my dear!

anonymous Jan 31, 2015 8:31am

I see strength. I see bravery. I see experience and wisdom. She is TRULY stunning. Thank you for this.

anonymous Sep 5, 2014 12:52pm

It really is an awesome and beautiful story of a warrior woman.

anonymous Apr 21, 2014 7:41pm

That was so beautiful to read..Thank you

anonymous Apr 9, 2014 5:26pm

I lost my girlfriend to stage 4 lung, liver and bone cancer last May. she beat breast cancer before that. this woman is lovely and brave. To focus on body parts is a bit sad, but most men seem to need to have breasts that fit their ideal. Juvenile? sure. I for one love legs and pretty feet. I dated a woman who had mastectomy and reconstruction. I loved her. she was beautiful to me. She died of skin cancer. I admire the people who struggle against this and wish there was some way to detect out of control cells before they metastasize. I am at risk too. We all are, given the poisoning of our air and water and food chain. God help us all.

anonymous Apr 8, 2014 6:07pm

Beautiful woman! Wear your scars proudly. I do 🙂 you won the battle

anonymous Mar 23, 2014 9:27am

I am proud of her as a human being. For being real, while the superficial airbrushing of our medical, medical, and physical selves, continues to stifle the consciousness the positive growth of so many people around us. Because life and evolvement are about what is real not about how it all seems. Life is not a dog show. If you look close the depth, quality and beauty of this person are all portrayed soulfully within the expression of her eyes. Nice job by the way, the photos and the article offer a profound message. Thank You

anonymous Mar 23, 2014 7:09am

Thank you

anonymous Feb 19, 2014 12:37pm

This article I believe was originally in an article in a newspaper in Australia. This gorgeous woman decided to brave it all and show photos of her naked after all of the surgeries
she has had with Cancer. If you saw her in a dress or just her face, your first instinct would be to say "she's so pretty". But when you scroll down and see her naked she is
challenging you to take all of your preconceived judgements of women's bodies to tell you life doesn't work that way. We all don't have these perfecto bodies, and life can hit us hard even when we are young and have to deal with Cancer. It's not only women that constantly get hit with the perfect body image but men as well, and it sucks. It sucks for all of us. Because it takes us away from dealing with reality, and doesn't help us to have meaningful relationships with one another and our bodies.

With all of the photoshopping and our worship of movie stars, musicians, we lose sight of what is real and then we as men and women look in the mirror and say "why don't I look
like that?" (whomever you worship that's famous.) Yeah, there are some people on the outside looking in that seem like they have it all like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, but do we really know, because they just look beautiful-they and their rainbow family. Ironically enough Angelina Jolie just recently went through the removal of her 2 breasts and having breast augmentation surgery.

A few years ago I was working with a photographer on creating a book of photos of nude women over 50 and the book was to be called "Ripe: Aging with Authenticity and Grace", and the photographer only wanted to work in black and white, which I said yes to. She also was what they call a "street photographer" spontaneously shooting experiences in the street as they happened. So this was a different experience for her. It had to be organized with each women, time and place, and working with each one indoors and working with some who had breast Cancer and had their breasts surgically removed or breast augmentation. She took many photos of many different women, and when she showed me the photos she took of the woman who had breast augmentation surgery after a mastectomy, I was shocked. Not because of the photo, but of the lack of talent this photographer had in taking indoor planned photos. She just made this woman who had the mastectomy look like she was in so much pain, and she wasn't. If you saw the black and white photo you would see the subect matter was totally proud of her body, but something was lacking from the eye of the photographer. It felt as though the photographer when shooting this subject was totally repulsed by what she was shooting. I hadn't been happy with any of the other photos of other women she had taken photos of, but when I saw this one I knew she was the wrong photographer for this project. She and I both spoke about it and she finally admitted to me that she wasn't happy with her work and no longer wanted to be involved.

I still haven't found a photographer to work on this project. I still want to create the book, but now after seeing the photos of the woman who showed herself all dressed up with her beautiful face and nice figure, and then showed us what it looks like to go through Cancer surgeries and what it does to your body, I believe I want to create a book of women
just like her. Again, life can hit you hard with unexpected challenges, and it's what we do with these challenges that can either help us or destroy us.

So next time you admire a gorgeous man or woman with all of the perfect body parts, take a moment to look in the mirror at yourself and please love what you see or practice loving what you see, because it will eventually come true-you will love and appreciate what you see and be grateful. Please be grateful if you have good health. It's such a gift.

anonymous Feb 17, 2014 11:25pm

I see nothing but pure beauty when I look at this photo! Just gorgeous…my grandfather passed away in May 2013 with cancer and it's awful the change it makes to the persons body. I really admire her for doing this. Keep staying strong Beth!!!

anonymous Feb 17, 2014 10:14pm

I think she is brave and beautiful.

anonymous Feb 17, 2014 9:07pm

A picture is worth a thousand words

anonymous Feb 17, 2014 9:01pm

I’m the mom of a 20 yr old that’s 4 1/2 yrs in remission. She has horrible scars both physically and mentally. She is the most anazing woman I have ever known. She wears those scars with pride. She doesn’t forget who she is and what she beat . She is anazing!!!! And she has the scars to prove it !!!

anonymous Feb 17, 2014 6:38pm

Beth, we are sisters, as I too have had breast cancer and all the same surgeries as you.
I call myself a cancer traveler…it hasn't been an easy road, but we are tough! Sending hugs for your continued healing!

anonymous Feb 17, 2014 5:27pm

God bless you. You are the epitome of beauty

anonymous Feb 17, 2014 2:46pm

My heart goes out to her and those who have been through the trauma caused to their bodies. People are not perfect and she is so brave to show that.

anonymous Feb 17, 2014 12:14pm

the naked truth

anonymous Feb 17, 2014 9:03am

I have always had a distaste for facebook, I have read too many articles on Narcissism and how facebook is a Narc's dream. I think it's telling how she had so many so called 'friends' unfriend her. I really think there are two kinds of people on this planet. Those who think they know it all, and those who don't but continue to live life the best way they can, and to learn when they can. We are not all perfect. A real person has flaws, warts and all, and this is ok. I'm so sad that this strong lady had to come under attack for being so real, so human. I feel disgust and shame for those who profess to live in glass houses and throw stones. God bless her for speaking and showing her truth. What strength and determination. She is the real role model, not the Kardashians or the idiots that are continually being made famous for really doing NOTHING.

anonymous Feb 17, 2014 8:42am

Obviously the 100 people were never true friends to begin with…..true friends are there for each other through thick and thin. This beautiful lady is sending a very powerful message to everyone to realize we are all fighting a battle of some sort or another and judging someone we know little or nothing about and what they have been through is totally absurd. Wake up people !

anonymous Feb 16, 2014 7:56pm

So very Beautiful and so very courageous. Thank you for sharing her battle and all of her beauty.

anonymous Feb 16, 2014 5:01pm

Valiant and beautiful lady

anonymous Feb 16, 2014 1:50pm

Your indomitable spirit speaks volumes that wounded warriors even can relate to. No it really isn't about the outward appearance is truly the essence of the person from which the true beauty emanates. Stand tall fro all to see and know that your statement is "Forward ever and Backwards never!" I only hope the people who control the progress in research see this and get back on track to do the right thing before more Cancer-war ravaged bodies start showing up in numbers.

You Rock!!

anonymous Feb 16, 2014 1:19pm

What a brave brave woman!…in so many ways..the trauma of cancer treatment in itself..and then so many times..and then to publicly expose what we generally want to cover up…Thank you endlessly and so much love sent your way..

anonymous Feb 16, 2014 12:54pm

WOW!!!! Now there is a true definition of strength and wisdom.

anonymous Feb 16, 2014 12:50pm

People aren’t “notoriously uncomfortable” with nudity, it’s just that the press and bloggers always say we are. We’re not. It’s okay at the right places and times & cheers to the woman depicted here.

anonymous Feb 16, 2014 12:15pm

Absolutely beautiful! It’s so sad that she lost so many of her friends for taking these pictures, but honestly, who would want to keep those kind of friends anyway. Who in the world could ever be offended by this? If anything, people should se the beauty that she truly is! Makes me think twice about being so insecure from having my son. I absolutely admire her!

anonymous Feb 16, 2014 11:56am

Wow, this woman had been through hell. I have not gone through the battle of cancer but I know people who have. I do struggle with my self esteem and when I see a beautiful woman, such as her, bare all I feel foolish for thinking my body was ruined due to having children. I have major respect for this woman and I will pray that God will keep her strong. She is a remarkable lady.

anonymous Feb 16, 2014 11:46am

Similarly, I cannot imagine seeing this picture and having a hostile reaction! My heart goes out to Beth, the fortitude it must have taken to get through this… wow. It's daunting to even think about.

anonymous Feb 16, 2014 10:20am

A beautiful warrior … Pure strength and beauty. Praying for a cancer-free future for Beth

anonymous Feb 16, 2014 10:07am

She is the first woman I've seen who has experienced what I have. When people find out you have to have the mastectomy, they say, think of it this way, you'll be all young and perky looking. ah no… Breast implants are different when all the tissue is removed. Then, you have only the implant. Woman who have the augmentations have their breast and the implant under them. Yes, THEY are perky. I had half the size breasts I had, but I had all the skin that housed them. Breast skin goes all the way to the back..so you have this sagging skin. Emotional trauma just doesn't go away. Every day when your clothes don't fit right, you pass a mirror….it's there. This woman's courage is incredible. God Bless her

anonymous Feb 16, 2014 9:58am

Survivor!! That is what that shows! The people who ditched her are shallow and cowards. She didn't need them anyway. Rock on Beth!! You are beautiful!!

anonymous Feb 16, 2014 9:25am

We have a community wood fired sauna that we have been gathering at for over 30 years+ and it’s clothing optional (mostly all nude) and a woman who has double mastectomy, she is incredibly beautiful and completely loved and accepted without judgment, it’s awesome that we have a public space for that and I believe it’s probably helped her accept herself more and for others to be confronted with their own fears and feelings.. Thank you for sharing!

anonymous Feb 16, 2014 9:17am

I think she is beautiful and brave. I hope this gave her sense of peace.

anonymous Feb 16, 2014 8:57am

God Bless this woman! What an amazing soul to witness. LOVE it!

anonymous Feb 16, 2014 8:51am

I have been battling BC cancer since 2004 with no reconstruction because when I went for reconstruction (2007) I found my cancer spread to my bones. It has been a long painful battle but I’m still here hoping for the cure.

You would have never thought she was battling cancer by looking at her face would you? Not all of us look sick but we are. No cure for MBC which is very hard to swallow these days Just chemo after chemo trying to survive. So sad that those weak 100 people dropped or reported her for this. A pink ribbon is for beginners and a way to make money for research and make foundations richer. A pink ribbon only tells you to have a mammogram and have breast cancer awareness. The money should be used for MBC research because over 75% of of BC patients end up having MBC in 4-5 years. My breast cancer was not detected by a mammogram so don’t think your safe by having one. I was already stage III. You are safer doing your own exam at home and that is by knowing your breast and feeling for lumps or any changes. Then getting the doctor to do something about it. Don’t wait 6 months so they can take another look to see if it changes. Take care of it ASAP

I’m so glad she posted this picture for everyone to see. Don’t you think it is more effective than a pink ribbon. I do

anonymous Feb 16, 2014 7:48am

powerful. Thank you!

anonymous Feb 16, 2014 7:01am

Nudity is a tag made by man.so is fashionable outer wear. We came into the world wearing God’s design for us. CANCER WAS NOT HIS INTENTION. She is barring her soul which is much more intimate. It shows her battles , her strength to live actively and bravely by helping others to know KNOW this is how it is for so many. Beauty is within from birth. The judgement on this photo comes from confused fearful people. TRUTH IS NOT EASY AND SEEING IT RIGHT IN FRONT of you is tough, but the message in not about her about understanding for families and Doctors and government. FIGHT THE BATTLE ALL OVER OUR PLANET- FROM INSIDE OUT. It takes more people each hour than gangs, and military skirmishes in most of this world. Along with addiction to pain medicine it is curse because you are judged as being helpless and lost so the fact is people prefer to look the other way. IS THE WORLD TAKING AWAY THE MAJOR CAUSES OF CANCER? ARE THEY DISCONTINUING

prescription for patients of oxicot. Etc. Which leads to such ruination of individuals, familes,

Communities. FACE IT THEN NAKED TRUTH YOU CANNOT SEE IS WE THE PEOPLE HAVE TO FIGHT IT FROM WITHIN OURSELVES, FROM GROUND UP AND WITHOUT VIOLENCE. We have to have strength in numbers to push for the changes not in superficial fashions of prudishness and negative judgmental labeling but for peace, world health .

anonymous Feb 16, 2014 5:52am

Wow! That’s really amazing, and she is just beautiful <3

anonymous Feb 16, 2014 3:50am

honest, raw and true beauty

anonymous Feb 16, 2014 1:47am

Amazing person !!!!

I cannot imagin what kind of people would de friend her!!!

She is nothing but be admired!!

Thank you for doing it for all of us

anonymous Feb 16, 2014 1:12am

Brave and beautiful.

anonymous Feb 16, 2014 12:13am

Your beauty shines from the inside out!! What an amazing woman you are. Such courage and as Erica said, a True Warrior Goddess!! Keep being the beautiful woman you are and keep on inspiring others to do the same!!

anonymous Feb 16, 2014 12:04am

I hope she looked into vegan diet juicing and raw foods, and Gerson Therapy. The cancer industry is large.

anonymous Feb 15, 2014 10:23am

Much respect and love for this woman.

anonymous Feb 14, 2014 4:23pm

To all those out there battling cancer Keep up the good fight and the best of luck to all of you. I would never un-friend a friend for showing her or his battle scars on facebook or in life. Erica has been through more than I could ever imagine how brave of her to help shed some light on survival.

    anonymous Feb 16, 2014 7:56am

    Liz, I agree! These images are not of me, however, but of Beth Whaagna. She is a true warrior! XOErica

anonymous Feb 13, 2014 10:26pm

God bless you Erica, keep up the fight you are an amazing lady

    anonymous Feb 16, 2014 8:31am

    Tina, thank you! I am merely the author bringing attention to this amazing lady– Beth Whaanga. The outpouring of love and support for her has been astonishing 🙂 XOErica

anonymous Feb 13, 2014 10:06pm

She is beautiful and tougher than I could ever be!

anonymous Feb 13, 2014 8:52pm

That took courage and I admire her!

anonymous Feb 13, 2014 7:07pm

I am LOVING all this positivity!!! Thank you all!!

anonymous Feb 13, 2014 6:11pm

Way to go!!

anonymous Feb 13, 2014 5:09pm

This is what true beauty looks like!!

anonymous Feb 13, 2014 4:41pm

Looks like Cancer won a few battles BUT Beth Won the War ! Stay Strong Pretty Lady !

anonymous Feb 13, 2014 2:29pm

Thank you for your courage. You are truly beautiful. Inside and out.

anonymous Feb 13, 2014 1:55pm

Wonderful article – thanks for sharing her journey. I don't understand how anyone would be "uncomfortable" with what she has experienced – I feel sad for how shallow these people appear to be, yet I don't want to pass judgement on them, either. She is a clearly a strong, powerful, remarkable woman. Her ability to be real with herself and the world must be too scary for some to handle.

anonymous Feb 13, 2014 1:40pm

"People are notoriously uncomfortable with nudity, especially if it isn’t gratuitous or reflective of cultural beauty norms." Great statement, so sadly true.

anonymous Feb 13, 2014 11:50am

good for her! i hope she's fighting and healthy.

anonymous Feb 13, 2014 11:16am

This woman is not only beautiful, she has courage and dignity. As the mother of a 17 year old cancer survivor who has some pretty amazing scars herself which she displays without emarassment (mainly on her back) I can only admire this amazing woman and wish her a long and happy future with her family.

anonymous Feb 13, 2014 10:50am

Nice. My body has been radically changed by cancer as well. No rectum, sigmoid colon or anus (flap of skin where that used to be); huge scar running from above my navel to my pubic bone; another huge scar in the back running from well above where my anus used to be into my scrotum; and a third huge scar running from the middle of my sternum down my right side to nearly my back so my liver could be removed, a tumor excised, and the remainder put back in; and the topper is the colostomy.

Cancer takes and it sucks, but the price is worth it every day because I get to be with my wife, two kids and be a person. Maybe, though, if people could see what it takes there may be more emphasis on finding a cure and people making changes in their own lives to prevent it.

    anonymous Apr 8, 2014 10:58pm

    Hi.Same as you,but kidney removed. I also have a urostomy,as well as a colostomy

anonymous Feb 13, 2014 9:51am

As a cancer patient I am so proud of Beth. I have been battling Stage 4b Metastatic Malignant Melanoma for just over 4 yrs. Beth shows everyone of what we physically loose but no one can see the emotional battle that she has gone through.
I've been told that I'm the best looking sick guy ever seen. I hear comments, oh you look so good. But what hides underneath the clothes and the façade of wellness we show to people.
Beth you are my new hero. Keep strong!!

anonymous Feb 12, 2014 9:38pm

Beautiful!

Frank Phiri Sep 4, 2018 2:49pm

Fighter! Big fighter!

Mark LaPorta Apr 27, 2018 2:43am

What is the issue?

Angie Bearl Apr 15, 2016 5:03pm

i love you beth your are amagnificempnt creature of beauty and i still if not moresoenvy you ...you do have it all coruage above all and it looks good on you. stay who you are always ....smile

Marianne Freeman Apr 13, 2016 2:23am

So brave and affirming to see her comfort in her battle scars. As someone who now shares many of the same scars her image is inspirational to me and a source of hope.