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Women bare breasts for cancer:

The Ottawa Citizen

By Maria Cook, September 28

A Guelph entrepreneur has developed a provocative 'Breast of Canada' calendar to raise funds and awareness of the disease. Maria Cook reports.

A woman holds an apple in front of one of her breasts. Three naked women are posed as rowers with oars. A breast is reflected in a round mirror.

A Guelph entrepreneur has published a provocative and artistic calendar featuring black and white photographs of topless women, aged 18 - 57, to raise money for breast cancer services and to educate women about the disease and how best to prevent it.

"I think it's incredibly elegant and the photos are clean and fresh, says Sue Richards, 43. It's definitely an educational tool and a health product."

The cover of the first-ever 2002 Breast of Canada calendar, displays a pretty figure of a long-haired woman with a small maple leaf on her breast. Turn the pages and you'll see a photo of a pregnant woman's swollen belly and bosom, a woman standing beside a plaster cast of her chest and torso, a close-up of a baby's face suckling a breast.

"I wanted to make beautiful, positive images of ordinary people," says portrait photographer Melanie Gillis, 30, who collaborated on the project with Ms. Richards, along with graphic designer Gareth Lind, both of Guelph. " There is no ideal body type."

Included in the 28 pages are breast self-examination instructions, self-examination reminders, a breast cancer resource guide, and details of a photo contest on the theme of "breasts in action" for the 2003 calendar.

In Ottawa, the $24.95 calendar is available at Venus Envy at 110 Parent Ave. It will appear at Calendar Club of Canada mall kiosks next month.

"I've had absolute overwhelming gratitude to big cheesy grins," says Ms. Richards, describing people's reactions.

"I've had people say, 'That looks like me.' A couple of women found the images shocking at first, but later felt more comfortable. We don't see naked breasts on a daily basis."

One woman even approached her in the street to tell her she'd discovered a breast lump and was wondering what to do.

Ms. Richards got the idea last January after she learned from friends that she was doing (her) self-examination wrong.

"This was alarming and shocking to me," she said. " I was just sort of grabbing my breast in the shower and rubbing around."

She is vigilant about preventive health care because her mother died of heart disease when she was six and her father died when she was 12.

Also in January she was almost struck by a car.

"I was immediately filled with a very strong urge to do something significant with my life."

Ms. Richards, who calls herself a "cultural animator," has a company called Art Jam, which produces adult workshops in storytelling, drama and music-making. She has also been artistic director of a music festival, and an agent for musicians, writers and actors.

The 24 models in the calendar are friends of the creators, many of them members of Guelph's arts community.

Ms. Richards hopes the calendar will inspire conversation about breast health, the need for breast cancer research, and help women cultivate a positive body image.

The calendar hails from what she refers to "the birthplace of topless Ontario."

In 1991, Gwen Jacob was charged with indecency while walking home without a top on a hot day. She was found guilty and fined $75, but in 1996 the Ontario Appeal Court reversed the conviction. As a result, women can now go topless on beaches, in public parks or walking to the store.

Ms. Richards has invested about $65,000.00 in the project and 20,000 calendars have been printed. Forty per cent of the net profits will go to Breast Cancer Support Services, which provides support and education.

"Some of our older women in their 60s, it hasn't been their taste," says Adrienne Winslow, outreach and education coordinator for the agency. "They don't know where they would hang it. The young people think it is wonderful."

For more information visit www.breastofcanada.com.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The 10th annual CIBC Run for the Cure takes place Sunday at Lansdowne Park. For more information, visit cibcrunforthecure.com.

An estimated 19,500 Canadian women will develop breast cancer in 2001 and 5,500 will die of it.

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