How she's reclaiming her femininity after losing breasts
COURAGEOUS cancer survivor Lana Rhodes is claiming back her femininity.
The Gladstone woman who once lost her breasts and hair to the disease is using her experience to raise awareness about cancer among young women.
She is one of 12 breast cancer survivors in Australia featured in the So Brave Project's 2017 calendar.
Ms Rhodes spent eight hours being painted head to toe before she posed for photos at iconic locations in Brisbane to become the calendar's "Miss March".
She said the whole experience was "phenomenal".
After going through torturous rounds of chemotherapy doctors were forced to remove both of Ms Rhodes breasts in a bilateral mastectomy.
She has had breast reconstruction surgery this year; giving the young, strong woman a huge boost to her self-esteem and confidence.
"I'm very cagey about my (mastectomy) scars, but this project showed me and all of the other women involved that there can be beauty after it all," the 29-year-old said.
"I think the loss of my sense of self and a woman epitomised what (cancer) did to me.
"I would go to bed in a shirt and shorts and I would look at my concave chest and I would feel like I was a man.
"To actually loose the feeling of being a woman is something I struggle to put in to words ... to lose that is just horrific."
The calendar project, which is in its first year, raises awareness that young women can be diagnosed with breast cancer too.
All 12 breast cancer survivors featured in the calendar are under the age of 40.
"This project has been a turning point in my life to move forward," Ms Rhodes said.
"I have gained so much confidence and to watch the others go through it too has been inspiring because they're all amazing women."
Ms Rhodes has taken it upon herself to educate her friends and family that breast cancer is not a disease for middle-aged or older women.
At the start of each month, she shares a post on Facebook about why people, men and women, should check their breasts.
"I was 26 at diagnosis and I am not the youngest woman to be diagnosed," she said.
"I don't want women to be scared, but they do need to know their bodies and the symptoms.
"Early intervention can mean the difference between life and death.
"I think this should be taught in schools, why it's taboo I have no idea because women need to be aware of how to check their breasts."
While Ms Rhodes has returned to work at ITT Corporation, her cancer journey is not over yet.
Every three months she visits her oncologist for a blood test to make sure the cancer is remains at bay.
"I am happy and I am settled in life; I don't see my journey as a negative thing," she said.
"I hope we can raise awareness, teach women and hopefully find a cure."
So Brave is founded by cancer survivor Rachelle Panitz .
She teamed up with internationally-renowned bodypaint artist Wendy Fantasia for the project.
Visit here to purchase a calendar.