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‘Owners manual’ calendar sure to start conversations

The Guelph Mercury, Wednesday, September 26, 2001 A3

Part of proceeds go to breast cancer support

By KATHLEEN ELLIOTT

Tova Davidson hadn’t intended to bare her breasts for the world when she went for a photo shoot to document her pregnancy last year.

Now a picture of her husband's hands clutching her breasts as she holds onto her bulging belly will grace the walls of many homes and offices next April.

Davidson's photo is one of a dozen that are part of Art Jams latest project, Breast of Canada, a calendar that features, well, breasts.

"We're thinking of this as a breast owners manual," laughed Sue Richards, the brains behind the project. "It has all the models - the late models, the early models, the stretch models."

The calendar, which features the images of Guelph photographer Melanie Gillis, highlights ordinary women of varying ages, backgrounds, shapes and sizes. It is intended to make women aware of the necessity of breast self-examinations and to help them see the beauty in their breasts and bodies.

"My goal in image making is to make beautiful images of everyday people," said Gillis. "Too many of us undress in the dark and avoid looking at ourselves in the mirror on the way to the shower." Gillis suspects women who look at the calendar will see themselves in one or more of the photos. "Looking at your own body is not only normal but you should do it with a smile on your face," she said. 

After participating in the photo shoot with Gillis, Davidson now has a new appreciation for her body. "The experience of being in the calendar has made me more proud," she said, holding her eight-month-old son, Lachlan, who has been breast fed since he was born in January. "Breasts are nurturing and life-giving and comforting."

Breast of Canada is aimed at creating a positive body image in women and focusing the dialogue on their health. Richards thinks it's impossible not to have something to say about the images - it's a definite conversation starter.

She came up with the idea in January, just days after realizing she hadn't been' doing her own breast self-examinations correctly. "There would have been no chance that I would have discovered anything the way I was doing my breast self-examinations," she said.

As a result, the 43-year-old founder of Art Jam was instantly tuned into an idea that could potentially help other women and give her an outlet for her creative energy.

Breast of Canada was born. It includes not only photographs but written and pictorial instructions on how to do a monthly breast self-examination, as well as helpful information each month.

But Richards couldn't just stop there. She has agreed to donate 40 per cent of the net profits of the calendar to Breast Cancer Support Services in Burlington, an organization that offers breast health workshops for women in a number of communities, including Guelph.

Adrienne Winslow, the organizations outreach and -education co-ordinator, is a two-time breast cancer survivor herself and has gone through radiation, chemotherapy, a lumpectomy and a mastectomy.

She has also created a manual so each community can have access to the information and run its own workshop. She said many women don’t do self-examinations because they don't know how, or are afraid of what they'll find. She also said in 80 per cent of cases lumps found are benign, and that it's better to find one early than to ignore it.

Calendars will be available in every province. Starting in October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, kiosks located in selected malls will carry the calendars, as will other outlets, including a number in Guelph.

or more information and to order a calendar, visit the Breast of Canada Web site at www.breastofcanada.com. The calendar will be officially released tomorrow during a celebration at the River Run Centre. The event takes place from 4:30-6:30p.m. All are welcome.