Survivor finds 'there’s beauty after breast cancer'
by HANNA LAUKKANEN
Published - 04/19/16 - 03:27 PM | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Photographer Erena Shimoda photographed Juanita Williams underwater in San Diego.
Photographer Erena Shimoda photographed Juanita Williams underwater in San Diego.
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San Diego resident Juanita Williams is one of the cancer survivors Erena Shimoda photographed underwater March 13. Shimoda had seen Juanita’s tattoo photographs and contacted her. For Juanita the experience was healing, and there was peace in the water.

“The photographs,” Juanita says, “are more for the people who have been through some kind of tragedy, any kind of breast cancer. The photographs bring peace back into their soul.”

Juanita had breast cancer the first time in 1987, when she was 25 and pregnant. The doctors thought it was just a problem with her milk ducts, because she was pregnant for the third time. After they did a biopsy, they found out it was cancer. Juanita had to go through mastectomy when she was seven months pregnant, but all the lymph nodes were clean, so she didn’t have to go through chemo.

Twenty-four years later, in 2010, cancer came back on her right breast.

“When I found a tumor in my right breast, I did have to go through chemo, and it really took me down,” Juanita says. “I survived. I just thank God I’m still here to raise my grandson.”

In 2003, doctors made her a new breast out of her back muscle. After the surgery, she felt terrible about being a woman having her breast look unnatural.

Two years ago, Juanita found a tattoo shop in Pacific Beach, Garnet Tattoo, which does mastectomy and nipple tattoos. Last year in March, she got her tattoos done at the shop and wanted to show people there’s beauty after breast cancer.

“I felt so proud to wear this tattoo; it makes me feel better as a woman to cover all those scars I had. I have no problem showing my tattoo, because it’s so beautiful,” she says.

After two cancers, Juanita appreciates life more and doesn’t take things for granted. She wants people to make sure they make their mammogram appointments, that they do they monthly check-ups and that they make sure they do their physicals. Juanita notes that when girls are young, their breasts are firm, so it’s hard to detect cell changes with mammograms, but sonograms are more likely to pick up what mammogram won’t.

“Our body is like a car,” Juanita says. “You have to get tuned up every once in a while. Only you can take care of yourself and make sure everything is okay with your body.”

To cancer survivors and patients, she says: “Keep on surviving, stay strong, stay positive and don’t give up the fight.”

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