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Photography exhibition and stories puts focus on living life with cancer

Photography exhibition and stories puts focus on living life with cancer

Ahead of World Cancer Day (February 4) a cancer patient who is still receiving treatment at Southend Hospital is hosting a unique photography and story exhibition to put the focus on exploring how the experience of cancer has impacted people.

The show, entitled The Raw Face of Cancer, takes place at The Ironworks in Southend High Street and is curated by Mia Davies, 32, a professional photographer.

She wanted to use intimate and unflinching portraits to show how empowered 21 patients are, herself included, who have all had cancer treatment at Southend and Basildon hospitals, both part of Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust.

The Westcliff mum of two was diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer in January 2022, which resulted in a double mastectomy, and although she is now cancer free is still having preventative treatment.

Mia said: “When I was confronted with my own battle against breast cancer, photography became my solace, a compelling outlet that aided me through the emotional ebbs and flows, like it always does.

“People are scared to talk openly about cancer, these very personal, truthful, honest and realistic portraits and the stories that go with them help create a different way of addressing the impact of cancer and raises awareness about the need to be aware of the early signs and get checked as soon as possible.

“My granddad died of breast cancer 15 years ago, so I know how very important that is and if this eye-opening exhibition means one person gets checked sooner than it has been a success.”

And Mia explained how the men and women featured as part of the unique photography project have all had very difference cancer and experiences along their cancer journeys.

She said: “Our common bond is that we have all experienced having cancer, it is almost like a members club no one wants to be a part of but you know what others have been through without the need for it to be explained, so there is a shared camaraderie and understanding.

“This project simply wouldn’t have worked if I hadn’t had cancer myself, and I hope all those who come and experience it will just not come away with a greater awareness and that cancer does not have to be a big scary subject. This aim of this collection of work is to shed light on the resilience, vulnerability and unwavering spirit of those touched by cancer.”

The Raw Face of Cancer – which has only been made possible thanks to a grant by Macmillan Cancer Support - can be seen at The Ironworks, 90 High Street, in Southend, with its Private View on Saturday 3 February and it is running until Saturday 24 February, entry is free.

Friederike Englund, who helped secure funding for the project and the events surrounding it, is Macmillan Integrated Cancer Care Lead at the Macmillan Information Centre at Southend Hospital. She said: “I have seen that people who have been through cancer find it difficult to talk about their experience to their families, friends and clinicians; it is often a hidden trauma and experience.

“Photography and creative writing, like in this exhibition, are powerful ways to bring the experience of cancer to a wider audience, giving us a real opportunity to share the experience of cancer through art to as wide an audience as possible, especially as the impact of cancer is relevant to every one of us.”

As well as the exhibition, a series of helpful workshops are also being hosted, covering everything from how young families can cope with cancer, to life drawing workshops and weekly patient led cancer support groups which are meeting at The Ironworks every Tuesday throughout February.

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