Women Who Had Double Mastectomies Pose For A “BRCA Babes” Calendar To Raise Money

When Angelina Jolie wrote an article in the New York Times in 2013 detailing her elective double mastectomy surgery because she was at risk of having breast cancer due to a specific gene her body carried, it set the health world on fire. Surgeries of the same kind increased all over the western word, and in essence it raised a very important discussion amongst women.

The BRAC-1 and BRCA-2 genes are human genes that produce tumor suppressor proteins. These proteins help repair damaged DNA and, therefore, play a role in ensuring the stability of the cell’s genetic material. When either of these genes is mutated, or altered, such that its protein product is not made or does not function correctly, DNA damage may not be repaired properly. As a result, cells are more likely to develop additional genetic alterations that can lead to cancer.

Specific inherited mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 increase the risk of female breast and ovarian cancers, and they have been associated with increased risks of several additional types of cancer. Angelina Jolie’s mother, Marcheline, died of breast cancer, which prompted her to get tested and take action.

It has been revolutionary for women and has sparked a wave of more awareness amongst others with the “faulty” gene, as it is commonly referred to. In fact women who carry this gene have an 80% higher risk of getting breast or ovarian cancer, which means awareness, check-ups, and preventative measures are vitally important.

A group of women in the UK, who have all had double mastectomy surgeries have come together to create a “BRCA Babes” calendar in order to raise funds for the National Hereditary Breast Cancer Helpline. The organization was founded in 1996 by a lady called Wendy Watson, who was the first woman to ever undergo a preventative mastectomy.

The women who posed nude for the calendar all have their own experience with the cancer and shared their stories with The Daily Mail. Here are a few of them:


Helen Smith, 49, from Essex is a learning support assistant for children with special needs. She is married with 4 children, and discovered she was BRCA positive 7 years ago.

“I wanted to take part in the calendar to prove to other women that while it might seem like your world is falling in when you discover you are BRCA positive, you can still have a good outcome.”

She said she feared for her life after hearing her diagnosis, but with the support of her family and the incredible medical staff, she knew it was the right thing to do.

“When I woke up from the op it was like a weight had been lifted from me. I love my body even more now than I did when I was younger, and crucially, I no longer have to fear it.”

32 year old Becky Measures is a radio presenter from Chesterfield, and is actually Wendy Watson’s daughter. In 2006 she became the youngest woman to ever have a mastectomy, at the age of 24.


Nine out of the twelve members of her family on her mother’s side had either breast or ovarian cancer, so for her to get checked was a necessity.

“Because mum had been through it, having a double mastectomy seemed the most logical step. My biggest fears were whether there would be a lot of pain after the operation and how I would look afterwards.

“I took part in the calendar because I wanted to support mum, and highlight the amazing work she does, but I also wanted to show that having a double mastectomy doesn’t have to stop you feeling like a woman.”

Carly Perkins, 29, from Crawley found out she had the faulty gene after giving birth to her daughter Tilly.

“What I love best about my photograph is that it actually shows one of my mastectomy scars beneath my left breast. It’s my battle scar, and I don’t want to hide it.


“Because everything happened so fast, I’m only just coming to terms with all the implications. Like the fact my daughter will have to be tested, and may also need to undergo the same operation. But I haven’t always felt this accepting about my body, or about having the BRCA1 gene,” she said.

Carly says the emotional repercussions were just as heavy upon her as the physical changes, knowing that her daughter will also have to be tested, and possibly elect to have the surgery, when she grows older. But she is glad for the opportunity to make decisions about her health so that she can be around for her family longer.

“As soon as I found out I was carrying the BRCA1 gene, it was a case of when I would have the op, not if. I had to do it to maximize my chances of being around for my daughter.”

Rachael Staff, 40, from Cornwall who is a married mother of two and a teacher’s assistant says she feels lucky to have had the surgery considering she was at such a high risk of getting cancer thanks to having the gene.


“It gave me the opportunity to take control of the situation, something that people who’ve already been diagnosed with the disease don’t have.” Rachael also chose to have her nipples removed as there’s a risk of developing cancer in the milk ducts.

“Before the shoot I felt really scared and self-conscious. I am not the sort of woman who would ever go topless on a beach, let alone pose for such intimate photos.”

“While I’m delighted with the outcome of my operation, losing your breasts does affect how you feel as a woman. This shoot has been a real confidence boost as it’s proved that despite having a double mastectomy – and no nipples – I can still look sexy.”

This calendar is a perfect example of women supporting other women, showing them it is OK to be going through something difficult, because there are others who support you. It is also a clever way to boost the confidence of cancer survivors whose bodies have had to undergo major changes so that they can live healthy lives. We also love that these 5 women are showing how beautiful a woman’s body can be no matter what shape, size or health condition.
You can find out more about the calendar by going to the website BRCAbabes.com, and check out the behind-the-scenes making of the calendar below:


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