Cancer survivor Kristi reunites with self love after surgery
The following is a Q&A with an amazingly resilient woman, Kristi.
OSB: Tell us about your motivation for doing a session.
My motivation for doing a boudoir shoot was purely selfish. I wanted to feel whole again. In 2020, I was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer. For an entire year I was poked and prodded. I lost my hair, my confidence, and my positive self image. When I thought that I couldn’t get any lower, it was all compounded by the double mastectomy that I then had to face. There is just simply no book that will ever prepare you for the emotional and physical impact that something like that has on a person, especially someone already so low.
What a makes a woman, a woman? Many people would answer that question very differently, but, take away a woman’s health, take her hair, take her pretty skin, take her muscle definition, and then take away her breasts that are definitely celebrated as a symbol of femininity — besides being a shell of her former self — what’s she left with? She’s left with questions of how anyone will ever view her as beautiful or sexy again, how she will move on from this, but most of all, how she will ever feel like a woman again. The fear and anxiety of thinking about how you will ever do the basic things in life, like wear a bathing suit or a dress, is almost crippling on some days.
Many people chose to do a shoot for many reasons, but for me, I hoped that it would allow me to see myself in a positive light once again. I needed a way that I could see past the scars and the trauma, in order to see the woman that had been up against the biggest challenge of her life, only to take it down with such determination, and come out even better in the end. My boudoir shoot was my phoenix rising from the ashes moment. I might of gone into it with a shattered self image, but I emerged with an incredible sense of self confidence that no one could take away.
What was going on in your mind? What feelings were you having?
My entire experience was very transitional. At first, I was full of so much anxiety that I almost completely canceled the night before. I messaged Jill and just broke down. The items that I had purchased just didn’t fit right. And if I am being completely honest, they might of looked perfect, but my anxiety would never let me see that. My anxiety absolutely had me believing any excuse, in order to just simply cancel. But after talking to Jill and my husband, I put my big girl panties on & went anyways. I am so glad that I did. I would of utterly regretted allowing myself to let the negativity win.
During the shoot itself, I was a ball of nerves. All of my fears of being exposed and someone “seeing” me in that tattered form, instantly came to life when David was explaining the first shot. I stood there frozen in fear, as I tried to carefully listen. I truly wondered if there was a gigantic neon sign over my head that exposed how nervous I was. But Jill and David have this incredible way of putting you completely at ease. By the second and third shot, I was so comfortable that I didn’t even notice how much clothing I was wearing… or lack thereof. 😉
What do you recall about those first few minutes, and what were you feeling right then?
Within the first few minutes of walking in, I couldn’t decide what my biggest reaction was. I had the incredible urge to run, to throw up, and to hide, but on the other hand, I was so excited at the possibilities that I wanted to dive right in and get started. I was having a reaction identity crisis. 😉
I was so incredibly nervous that when David asked me if I wanted a glass of wine, I could’ve screamed! I am not a wine drinker, but it was like he was throwing me a life line! As I looked around, I saw that I was surrounded by such beautiful rooms and it renewed my faith in the possibilities. They sat me down at first and asked me what my insecurities were and I must admit, there were tears welling, but I knew that it would ruin the gorgeous makeup that had been applied. As we went through that day though, all of my fears just melted away.
What was that like for you? How did you feel afterward?
The hair and makeup session was one of my favorite parts! Who doesn’t like to look their absolute best? It was amazing to be pampered!
After chemo, my hair just did not return like it should of. I have very short hair now so I was very curious what she would do with it, but I was pleasantly surprised! To me, she perfected the old school Hollywood vibe. I felt glamorous and unstoppable.
How nervous or ready were you? What was that whole shoot experience like for you?
I will admit, before my shoot, I searched, (for what seemed like foreverrrr), for the perfect poses, how I should hold my body, and even exercises to try & get myself ready. The moment I went in, I realized that all of that went right out the window! I didn’t need to do any of that. Internally, I was laughing at myself because Jill and David had me covered.
When the shoot first started, David was explaining the differences between A and B lighting, the different lighting effects, angles, and all sorts of stuff that I was completely clueless about. I was like crap! I knew that I needed to take notes!! I was a little panicked, until he said that I didn’t need to know a single bit of it and there would be no test. We all laughed and the anxiety just melted away. But full disclosure, the whole process was truly fascinating and to see how the little tweaks here & there affected the end result, was simply incredible.
And it was over like that, right? So what was going through your head on the way home?
The whole experience was over in a “flash”! 😉 The hours flew by as minutes. I walked out of that studio, into a crowd of people below, and I fully expected someone to ask me for my autograph. I felt glamorous, captivating and sexy, but most of all, I felt empowered. I felt like there was not a single challenge in my way, because I could tackle the world.
If there would of been a soundtrack to my ride home it probably would of included a power ballad by Beyonce about running the world or some upbeat Tik Tok song about being Savage! I felt a full range of emotions but not a single one included any negativity.
How did the experience as a whole compare to what you’d imagined? What was harder or easier about it?
I feel like I had so many preconceived notions about what my experience would be like and I honestly didn’t have a clue! There is no book, website or magazine that can fully prepare you for the awesomeness that is a boudoir experience. Each one is incredibly unique and has its own flair. No matter how many hours of “research” you do, you’ll quickly realize that the experience takes on a life of its own. The vibe changes from shot to shot, depending on the intricate detail or desired effect. One minute you are trying to hold a pose, so you don’t fall and the next you can’t control your laughter.
My advice to someone thinking about taking the plunge, don’t overthink it. A good photographer will coach you in all aspects, even down to the softness of your fingertips. You don’t need to stress about the details. Just let go and enjoy yourself, the beauty will come naturally.
Then came the pictures! Tell us how they compared to what you’d expected and how they influenced the way you see yourself.
The reveal itself brought on its own unique questions of ‘what if’, because I would be forced to see myself on the big screen. My husband would be there and what if he didn’t like what he saw? What if I didn’t like what I saw? What if I saw my flaws and insecurities so clearly that I couldn’t see anything else? But what resulted, evoked the exact opposite. I don’t know how other reveals go, but mine was completely silent for the most part. I sat there in complete awe of what I saw on the screen! I even wondered who that person was! I saw such power. I saw such radiance. I saw a complete badass! What I didn’t see, was the horrified girl that I walked in as.
Last question: what would you say to a woman who’s on the fence about doing a boudoir session?
What if you took that plunge? What if you transformed into your own unstoppable force? What if one single photo shoot could absolutely change your whole outlook on the way you view yourself? Isn’t Isn’t worth a shot for something that life changing?