Warrior Women: their strength in and through turmoil.
This last summer I wanted to create a project that could make a difference. I wanted to create something life changing, that could possibly even save a life! I wanted to do that through my passion for empowering women!
Working in a middle school I saw a lot of drama, pain and depression. I saw young women struggling with so much and feeling so alone! So I wanted to do a photo shoot to show them they are not alone, and not only that, but they can get through it! I started posting about this dream of mine and had the hopes to maybe find one or two women brave enough to share some of their story, but was overwhelmed to have over 50 women email me!! I did not have the volunteer power to capture each of them and took those who could commit to a date first.
I started contacting Hair and Makeup artists as well as local stores to collaborate and volunteer for this beautiful project. So many people in the community trusted my crazy vision and helped me on the day of the shoot and I will be forever grateful!
Just because I only shared some of their stories does not mean any of them are of any leaser value!! Each women is going through their own storm that can make them feel like they are drowning and if any of these ladies stories can connect with another women’s storm, and let them know they are not alone then all the work is worth it!
All who helped:
Hair Dressers: Celena Robichaud & Juanita Wiebe
Make Up Artists: @Angela Angela Moody Makeup Artistry, Kara Merik, @Michaela Michaela Wood Makeup Artist, Michaela Wood
Weapons: Backcountry - Fort St John
Furs: Betty Sowden
Awesome Assistants: Whitney Armstrong & Sarah Truscott
Photographer: Tyra Eklund Tyra E Photography
Now I could go on and on about the work that went into this and the tears I cried reading all of these stories but I will let them speak for themselves. Each women was to be dressed as a warrior to portray the strength she is filled with. Each amazing women agreed to speak with each and ever young and old women out there that may be going through something similar and take comfort to know they aren’t alone and can get through it.
Please take a moment to read through each women’s story:
For years my parents marriage had been falling apart. My Dad was an alcoholic and the fighting between
them was horrible. Countless times my Mom would have a family member come over late at night to get
us. My older half-brother and I would be lifted through a bedroom window onto the carport, then
helped down into their arms and taken over to sleep elsewhere that night. By the time I was in Grade 1
my Mom began having an affair with an older man. This man was a monster in disguise; and he taught
me how to keep a secret; one no child should ever have to keep.
I cannot recall if it was before or after my parents separated that the abuse began. At first my Mom’s
boyfriend seemed nice and I fell in love with his dog immediately. He would tuck me in the spare bed
and help me learn the Capital Cities of each Province on the map in the room; and tickle my face until I
drifted off to sleep. But one night he returned and I awoke to my hand on his penis. He was making me
stroke him. That was the beginning of what is termed “grooming” which is used to describe what
offenders do to prepare an individual for sexual abuse.
He continued to visit my room, how frequently I can not recall. For the first while it was after I fell asleep
and I would awake to him making me stroke him. Over the years I was taught how to please him through
his verbal guidance, through watching porn with him and through his guided touch. It was not confined
to my room, but took place in the living room, the room my Mom shared with him, the bathroom, trips
he took me on to Vancouver, hunting trips in the mountains, and perhaps more I have thankfully
forgotten. On a few occasions he had me wear my Mom’s lingerie and do strip teases for him. I was told
he could not resist his urges to touch me, that if I was not so beautiful he would not call on me. I felt
ugly, dirty, scared and violated. I did not understand why he touched me this way and made me touch
him in ways I understood to be intimate between two adults.
Over the 7 years I was abused I thought about telling someone, but it was like he knew what I was
thinking and he would say no one would believe me. He said my Mom would hate me and it would rip
my family apart. I wanted to running away, but didn’t know where I was going to go. When I was 13 I
began cutting myself with razors. I cut lines, I cut words....I just wanted to bleed out every disgusting
touch, every disgusting comment, every moment I replayed in my mind and all the ones I knew were still
to come. I hated my body, so I hid it in baggy clothes. I liked boys and liked their attention but had no
boundaries. I let them touch me but when the topic of sex came up, I stopped seeing them.
I used music, drawing and writing to escape. My dog was my confidant. I told her the secrets I couldn’t
tell anyone else. When she passed away from cancer, I was devastated. I had made some close friends
over the years and I began confiding in them what I was enduring. They did not know how to help me
except to encourage me to tell an adult.
When I was 14 my Mom’s Dad, my Grandpa was going through Cancer treatments and my parents
announced we were moving to Northern BC. Before school ended I was moved to a highway
maintenance camp along the Alaska Hwy, and my Mom stayed to care for her Dad. Grandpa passed a
little over a month later; and my Mom joined us in our new home. My brother had remained in our old
home to finish his Grade 12 year. My Mom and I made the trip back that June to see his Graduation
ceremony. During a visit with my school friends they convinced me I could not go back up North. They
told me the abuse would never end, and being in such a secluded location I would have a harder time
than ever leaving. I stayed awake all night and in the morning I asked to speak to my friend’s Mom. I told
her about the abuse and she assured me I was doing the right thing. She said she would help me confide
in my Mom when she arrived to pick me up. We sat in their living room and told my Mom my deepest,
longest, darkest secret. My Mom cried, and told me everything would be ok. Within a few hours
everything changed. My Mom began questioning me in an accusatory tone; I knew this was different
than her trying to grasp what I had told her. My Mom made calls to family and to the police. We went to
her Mom’s house to stay the night. I was told to put in writing what I was saying happened. The
following morning my Mom told me she was going to spend the day with my brother because he was
having such a hard time with my “story”. My Mom drove away and never came back. A few days later
we received word that my Mom had drove back North to confront her boyfriend. It goes without saying
he denied the accusations and my Mom believed I was lying. The following week I met with the Police
and gave my statement. I stayed with my Grandma for a few months while the police charged my Mom
with Abandonment and Neglect. I became a Ward of the Government and was sent to live with my
Mom’s sister. I remained in my Aunt’s care for several months. I was instructed to take Sexual Abuse
Counselling on a weekly basis while I awaited the Preliminary Court Hearing. My Aunt took me to
counselling periodically but said it was too expensive to drive me an hour away for the appointment. I
called Social Services and complained about my living conditions and how I was being “treated”.
By this time my Dad had been located and Social Services informed him of my situation. My Dad began
the process of applying for custody of me. Apparently my own Father had to prove he could afford to
care for me. My Dad reached out to his parents. My Grandparents contacted Social Services and applied
to be my caregivers for the interim. I moved in with my Grandparents and lived there while going
through my court cases. I attended counselling through out this time. I continued to deal with
reoccurring memories of what I had been through. I grieved for my Mom as though she had died and at
times I wished she had. I worked through the abuse I had gone through; learned ways to process my
feelings and memories. The hardest part was trying to understand my Mom’s choice to abandon me. I
thought I must have been a pretty awful child to be so easy to walk away from. I wondered if she had
ever loved me. There were years I could not remember a single happy moment with my Mom; a time
she said she loved me. There was only hurt and it ran so deep. The court case did not go well. After I had
spent 3 days on the stand, followed by 2 of my friend’s testifying, the Crown Council announced he was
pulling the case without continuing to prosecute. I was told there were conflicting stories between
myself and my friends and it would not result in the conviction he needed. I was in disbelief. I demanded
to make a statement in court. I wanted the jury to know I was not lying and wanted to move forward
with the case. I was denied the opportunity to speak.
For many years I carried a chip on my shoulder. I felt I was owed something – by whom, I don’t know. I
just knew my Mom’s boyfriend was right, he’d won. He said my Mom would not believe me and she left
me, just like he’d said. He had everyone fooled. He was the amazing man who brought happiness into
my Mom’s life and I was just a selfish teen that made up a horrible story.
The abuse left me unable to trust people in a healthy way. I drank, I took drugs, I got into one unhealthy
relationship after another. The abuse began when I was 7 years old and ended at age 14. The toll it took
on my life took years to work through. I had to decide to move on from it. As an adult I went through
more counselling and slowly began to heal from it. I did not want it to define who I was or the future
ahead of me. I wanted to take control and become a healthy woman. I did not want to remain a victim
forever. He may have took my innocence and altered my childhood; but no way in hell was he going to
take anything more from me.
In 2015 my Mom died of cancer. I had not seen in her more than 15 years. I had spoken with her
periodically over the phone but it felt fake. We were both skirting around the truth never speaking of it.
I was angry when she died. I had always hoped a day would come that she would apologize for
abandoning me and for not believing me. I would never get that chance and she would never meet her
Grandchildren. I realized I had spent years afraid to be anything like her. Afraid I would fail my children
as she had failed me. In that moment I became aware of a new reality, I would never know how I was
like my Mom. Before the abuse, before the truth came out, I had a Mom who must have loved me. A
Mom who baked with me, bandaged my boo-boos and tucked me in at night. A Mom that had a great
laugh and had once been the most beautiful woman in the world to me. She had been my hero before
she became my heartbreak.
I have spent a few months as of late learning to let go of the hurt I held on to for far too long. I cant
undo the past, and I am amazingly strong from all I have gone through. I protect my children with a
fierce love and commitment to them. I found love that I only dreamed existed; unconditional and
The truth is monsters don’t have horns, jagged teeth, red eyes and hide under your bed at night. My
monster was a smart man who owned his own company and was the neighbor who always gave a
helping hand. He didn’t hide under my bed, but in the darkness of my room my nightmares came to life.
I fought those nightmares and not only did I survive, I became a Warrior.
Model Dawn Gray
Makeup: Angela Moody, Angela Moody Makeup Artistry
Hair: Celena Robichaud
— withDawn Gray.
| PAIGE WILDE |
"Around the age of 12 I began to struggle with my body, to accept myself for who I was, and how I looked. I was hospitalized at 13 for self-harm triggered by becoming a victim of sexual assault multiple times at a younger age. These incidents made me feel worthless and more self-conscious about my body. By 14 I was so self-conscious I refused to eat in front of anyone including friends. I then developed what professionals call pseudoseizures, which are classified as paroxysmal episodes that often resemble and are misdiagnosed as epileptic seizures; however, PNES are psychological (i.e., emotional, stress-related) in origin. These pseudoseizures began happening more often, and at a certain point I was having more than eight a day. The seizures drastically worsened my self-image as I had become someone to whisper about in school which made me feel like an outcast. It seemed as though everyone was talking about me but rarely talking to me. A year later I tried to commit suicide multiple times. I was sent to APAU in Prince George where I worked closely with counselors to overcome my emotional trauma which aided in ending my pseudoseizures. At 18 my self-image was still poor, I felt lost and as though I did not deserve to be here. I found myself trying to commit suicide again, this time I told no one but thankfully I did not succeed. Not long after, I became pregnant with my son. My body went through more changes than I could have ever imagined including developing severe psoriasis. This set me back to a point in which I would only wear pants to cover my legs so no one could see my skin, even in the heat of summer.
I am now proud to say that I am happy with my body, with who I am, and I have come to terms with my past. I’ve learned that the things that have happened to me do not define me, they merely helped to shape who I have become. My body has not gotten any “better” since I hated it-I still have next-to-no boobs, a mom pouch, stretch marks on my thighs, and acne on my face. What has changed is my perspective, now I believe all these things are amazing! Today I am happy to be alive and I am proud of myself for overcoming the battles I have faced! I am grateful to have all the things I used to be so scared to show, because these things I used to hate, are what actually make me beautiful in my own, unique way."
Makup by Kara Merik
Hair by Celena Robichaud
Model- Paige Wilde
"I have always been a bigger girl. Throughout my childhood and youth I was bullied very
badly because of it. I never told anybody what was happening to me because the one
time that I did I was told where is my proof. Well I didn't have any proof because I wasn't
being physically bullied just verbally so I had no cuts or bruises to show. The bullying
continued in to middle school. I became so depressed that my body physically started to
shut down and I got very ill. The bullying got worse as I got older. In the middle of grade
7 I got so depressed that I tried to commit suicide. I was admitted into the hospital
where I was given a medication that made me gain 60 lbs in 3 months. After this my
body got sicker with reasons we couldn't figure out and I just kept gaining more weight
no matter what diet or how much I exercised I just couldn't seem to keep it off or keep it
down. I started to go to therapy to see if I could get help for the depression and anxiety
but it didn't seem to work so well. They were able to teach me skills that I didn't have
before to help deal with it but of the time and the place I was in talking to someone
wasn't helping me. In grade 8 I dropped out of school and started to do homeschooling.
In Grade 9 I was still doing home schooling well still attending a few classes like theater
at the middle school and I was still being bullied when I did show up for school. In Grade
9 I hit another really low point and tried to commit suicide again. At that point I came to
understand that suicide may end your pain but it gives everybody you love and
everybody you care about pain. And I never wanted to hurt anybody that I cared about.
so I decided that I no longer wanted to feel this way anymore. I didn't want to feel like
death was the only way out of these situations. So I learned skills to deal with them and
to help me ignore the bullies and realize my worth as a human being. In grade 10 I went
back school and tried that but by that point I was getting extremely sick constantly so I
ended up having to drop out of school at the end of grade 10 and start to homeschool
again. I found a great online school that was really understanding to my situation of
suffering from physical illnesses and mental illnesses. The bullying still continued for the
times that I did go to school cuz I went for theater but at that point I have learned to deal
with it in my own way. My health was something we could never figure out what was
going on while I couldn't eat anything without being sick, why I was getting sick so often
things like that. Earlier this year I finally got some answers I have a hiatal hernia that
makes it so everytime I eat I am not actually physically able to digest my food it pushes
everything back up. And there are treatments to fix this so we are now looking in to
doing those. Last december I graduated from high school a year later than everybody
else and at the end of August I will be heading off to university. I still fight anxiety and
depression and health issues everyday but I continue moving for the best I can.
Hair by Jauanita Wiebe
Makeup by Michaela Wood Makeup Artist,Michaela Wood
Model: Danae Rondeau
| MAUREEN SHARP |
"There is a difference between being a victim and being a survivor…...and I will always be a
survivor! Let me repeat, I will always be a survivor!
I have gone through my fair share of struggles, from growing up with an alcoholic father who
beat my mother, to losing my mother in a car accident at a young age.
I was taken by the ministry and given to my aunt and uncle after my mom’s death and my fathers
violence turned on to me, but my aunt, “didn’t know how to take on such an angry little
girl.” Really who could blame her!
I moved back in with my father soon after, but was 14-years-old trying to pay the bills.
The ministry took me again after my father nearly broke my larynx.
I met a boy, and although I continued to remember how my mother taught me that, “No means,
no.” He did not think so.
I was sexually assaulted by a “boyfriend” who didn’t let me say no, I was confused and lost, and
I reported to the police him.
Then I was severely bullied for reporting him to the police. Yet I still did not back down.
These are the early messages that were given to me as a 14-year-old I sadly remember. I learned
that you can’t say, ‘no,’ because they’ll just take it anyway.
After that realization I was on the fast track to self-destruction (Drugs, alcohol, partying.)
However, there was hope.
I was put in to my first and only foster family and I still thinks they are “absolutely amazing.”
Over years and years of counselling and their love, they planted new seeds of information that it
wasn’t men that were bad, it was the kind of men that I was choosing.
My role models weren’t positive, so I had to learn that it was me I had to work on. I was 17 when
I realized I needed to stop! I needed to stop what I was doing ...for my future children!
Even before my children were born, I decided to put them first, I needed to be a role model.
I remember when I was younger my father used to say things to my mother about her weight. It
affected how I looked at myself. My father would call her mother names like, “Chub-A-Lub”,
“Bumblebutt.” And diminish her intelligence on a regular bases.
I remember her being disrespected for her weight and her going through these emotions, I fought
to maintain my weight really hard knowing how she was treated and dismissed as a person. After
my mother had passed my father turned his cruel behaviour on to me with no other outlet
because my 2 sister had already moved out. I then went on to my failed marriage in my 20’s with
still needing so much to learn. Fortunately I met the love of my life in 1998 that has been by my
side ever since.
I struggled with pain from about the age of 20 and then was diagnosed in 2008 with vulvodynia
(unprovoked), clitoraldynia (unprovocked), vaginismus, interstitial cystitis (IC), ridged pelvic
floor inflammatory disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), polycystic ovaries (PCOS) and
diverticulitis, as well ass my weight kept increasing.
I am in the hospital for bladder treatments, every other week, I would be a week in the hospital, a
week at home recovering, and then right back in the hospital again. But now I can go once a
month and be ok the next day.
Though I tried to prevent weight gain through yo-yo diets and Weight Watchers they never
worked for me, and I soon fell into a depression.
I went and spoke with a doctor, who convinced me to try out an antidepressant. However, I had
an allergic reaction to the medicine, which led to an episode where I lost control of my body and
the ONE pill did minor heart damage.
My heart medicine made me really, really slow. My family lost me for somewhere between one
and two years. I was a total zombie.
I was finally diagnosed with high-functioning Asperger’s Syndrome, and went off any
medication with serotonin.
Clear-headed I knew I had to get my weight back under control.
During the three years of compound problems, I was conducting research on weight loss surgery
and looking for the best surgeon and following their stats. My children were a main deciding
factor when I choose to become a bariatric patient topping out at 311 lbs and plathra of health
issues that made it so I couldn't get out of bed.
It wasn’t easy to convince my husband, to support my decision for weight loss surgery.
My daughter was my biggest supporter. She was 17 or 18 and told me she would get a job to
help me pay for the procedure.
On May 25, 2015, I became a bariatric patient with the Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy procedure.
My surgery wasn’t about getting skinny, it was about my health.
The procedure allowed me to lose weight and let my spine expand as a deviation from scoliosis.
I remembers that the hardest part of being heavy was, “Looking in the mirror thinking who is
that? I’m not a heavy person in my mind; I’m healthy and strong. But my body wasn’t. I couldn’t
do things without hurting myself.”
I have lost 130 lbs ran 3 marathons but we know how health things go they are back rearing
their ugly head putting me back out of “remission” with medical trips to edmonton every 6
weeks and hospital trips here every 2 weeks. On a strange turn of events i was on one of my
medical trips to edmonton and was meeting someone who I thought was a “friend” tried to take
away my dignity and right to say “no” like when i was a young girl. My brain was screaming
“how can this happen to me at 42 years old!!!” I have pressed charges and its in the process as
we speak. There is a quote that I hold close to my heart “ If you had to fight for your life
tomorrow, would it change how you train today?” Now I alway thought that meant physically
until this. When I went to fight back I quickly realize that was dangerous and used my training,
intellect and wit to thorut and survive. Who would have thought that my favorite quote protaint
to the brain not just the body.
I have a beautiful family, with a loving husband 3 wonderful children. A granddaughter who is
my shining light, soon to be son in law and the best friends a girl can ask for. I will forever be a
stronger outgoing women despite my health problem and my past. I am a survivor never a
Hair by: Juanita
Makeup by: Angela Moody Makeup Artistry
Model: Maureen Webster O'Flynn Sharp
"My story is an emotional one, it is unfortunately a story that oh so many of us have had to live through the other side of its tremendous weight. In 2008 I found out my mother had stage 4 terminal pancreatic cancer and she only had just weeks to live. At the time my boyfriend and I lived in Vancouver, while both of our families were in Ontario. Shortly after receiving this news we flew straight home and spent the last 7 weeks of her life right beside her, caring for her.
During our time home my boyfriend proposed to me and we decided to get married two weeks later so my mom would be there. We also found out we were pregnant with our first child. My mom was able to celebrate our wedding with us, but she passed away well before the birth of our daughter.
Imagine the emotional turmoil one goes through after experiencing all of this tradgedy and joy in a matter of weeks. I was only 20 years old when my mother passed away. I was now pregnant, newly married and soon moving back to Vancouver to go back to College. To say I struggled with emotional pain, self worth and confidence is a great understatement. My trauma was deep and strong and it affected my body, mind, soul and interactions with others every minute of every day. My unborn baby was suffering the effects of trauma too, I cried for both of us. I managed to trudge through my absolute darkest days following her passing. Grieving daily for her and for the loss of such a special person my baby will never get to know in person. I lost the only steady rock in my life; the one person I talked to daily, emailed photos of our life in Vancouver to, and discussed plans for my/our future with.
I was so lost ❤️ ; ❤️
On March 10, 2009 my daughter was born. Things didn’t get easier for me. My husband went back to work shortly after, and I had to try to raise our baby...I did not know what I was doing. So I made it work for us... but Shit it’s tough.
I could go on for days talking about this, if anyone relates to my story and you want to chat please contact me! I would be happy to vibe with you and share our stories and heal together!"
Model: Heather McIlmoyle
Hair by: Celena Robichaud
Makeup: Angela Moody Makeup Artistry
On June 13, 2006 I was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma - bone cancer in my right leg. That night my mom and I were flown from Dawson Creek to Vancouver to attend my first doctors doctor's appointment at BC Children's Hospital. I was terrified as we walked in. I knew I was sick, but I wasn't sure what having cancer really meant.
We met my oncologist and team of doctors and nurses. I had MRI’s, CT scans, bone scans, blood work, and all types of tests the first few days we were there to confirm the diagnosis. My doctors discussed the treatment plan with my mom and I and about a week after arriving, I had my first biopsy on the tumor in my femur. A CVC was also inserted into my chest - a tube that went from my jugular vein and came out the center of my chest to replace having an IV in my hand.
Chemotherapy was started immediately following. I was sick. I was in pain. I was miserable. I didn't want to get out of bed. When my mom and nurses finally convinced me to get up and go for a walk, I passed out in the bathroom from laying down for so many days. After that I made more of an effort to keep my body moving.
After that round of chemo, my mom and I went home to my grandma's in Vancouver. After a few days, i was very sick and very nauseous. I got an extremely high fever and my mom took me to emerge at BCCH. After that night, I was admitted into the hospital for over a month straight. The chemo had weakened my immune system so much that I contracted E Coli. That was the most sick I had ever been.
Once I began to recover, chemo was started again. My hair was falling out and I'd wake up with my pillow covered in my eye lashes. My weight went down to 65 lbs - at 11 years old.
After 4 months of treatment, i was able to take a break from chemotherapy and my leg was amputated. I remember sitting in my surgeon's office with my mom deciding on the type of amputation would be best for me. I was devastated. This was a decision that would last a lifetime and my mom let me decide on my own as I was the one would be living with it. I did gymnastics, I played soccer, I rode bikes, I ice skated. I was always a very active kid. But I thought you'd need two legs to do all of those things.
After a lot of laughing and crying, I decided to have a rotationplasty amputation. This meant removing the tumor, which went from inside my knee, three quarters of the way up my femur and reversing the lower half of my leg and re-attaching it. My calf is now where the front of my thigh would be and my ankle is used as my knee joint. Because I still have my toes and my nerve endings, I don't suffer from phantom pain. This option still gives me the mobility to do all the things that I loved without the fear of rejection from synthetic parts or repetitive surgeries.
A few months after my surgery, I was fitted for my first prosthetic. I had to learn how to walk again and adapt to simple everyday tasks.
I then continued treatment until March when it was finally declared that I was cancer free.
There were alot of bad days, but there were alot of good days too. My mom taught me to not to worry about the “what if’s" and we dealt with each day and each situation as it came. We didn't worry about what would happen an hour, a week, or a month from now.
It was always harder for me to keep up with my friends - and sometimes it still is. But now I've become confident and comfortable with who I am. I have an incredible family and group of friends who have always supported me and helped me to succeed.
I've learn to accept who I am and who I am becoming. Having cancer will always be a part of me, but it will never define who I am.
Model Lauren Pewarchuk
Makeup by : Michaela Wood
When I was sixteen, I had this unbearable pain in my side, it was the worst feeling I could ever imagine. I went to the emergency room and sat there for hours until I got to see a doctor. They had me pee in a cup, and said I probably have kidney stones, and told me I had to wait for them to pass. I waited. I had so much trouble holding any food or water down during that time, my skin sunk in and my face looked like a skeleton. I had gone down to 100lbs when my healthy weight at the time was 130. I spent endless hours sitting in the shower with the water turned on as hot as possible running down my back until the hot water tank was drained, because for some reason that seemed to be the only thing that helped with the pain even just a little. I spent most of Christmas Day just sitting in the shower hoping the pain would go away. With no progress being made, I went back to the ER and waited another 7 hours, same thing, they had me pee in a cup, but this time they told me I had a kidney infection. I was given pills and sent home. Hours later at 4am, the pain became even worse. It got to the point where I literally couldn't live through it anymore, I felt completely helpless, 3 weeks of non stop pain with hardly any food or sleep had gotten the best of me. I told my mom I didn't want to live anymore. She started crying because she said she could hear the seriousness in my voice. Not knowing what is wrong with your body is such an terrible feeling. I had so many people praying for me, and enough trips to the hospital with no change that I was almost positive that I wasn't going to make it past this part of my life, there was just this awful feeling of hopelessness, but acceptance. My parents rushed me to the ER. While on the way there every bump in the road shook my body, making it even more agonizing. Finally at the hospital my dad ended up being quite forceful and insisted they do blood work and an ultrasound of my abdomen. When I was getting the ultrasound done, the tech doing it looked incredibly concerned and left to get my doctor. They gave me as much morphine as they felt safe to do so and it barely took the edge off the pain. About an hour later the doctor came into my examining room and told my parents that I needed to go to Dawson creek immediately for emergency surgery. He said I had a massive cyst on my ovary that was in the process of rupturing, he said that I would need an operation when I arrived at the hospital in Dawson Creek. The chances of surviving after something so large rupturing was very low. He was shocked I had endured it so long. The specialist in Dawson found that the cyst was 13 inches around, and had grown so large that it had twisted my fallopian tube, restricting circulation for such a long time to my ovary that it had become gangrenous.
I had my left ovary and fallopian tube removed, and have been given hormone replacement to prevent another cyst from forming on my final ovary. I was told it was rare to see a cyst that size form on an ovary, let alone on someone so young. He stressed that if I didn't start to take the pills, I was at risk of losing my right ovary as well, and would be unable to have children.. to top it off I'd get to experience menopause in my early twenties. I was just at risk for some minor side effects such as weight gain, and a few other small things, which sucked.. but It was much better than those other possible outcomes or death that I was previously facing. Easy choice.
I now have a 6 inch vertical scar on my stomach, that I didn't really think anything of, even at sixteen. I had thought that the day I took off my hospital ID bracelet, just being humbled by the fragility of life, and the fact that I was able to take it off, was the end of my ordeal. Then one day I was going to the lake in a two piece bathing suit and someone said to me, "Aren't you going to cover that up?" As if it was something to be ashamed of. I started noticing people giving me weird looks once their eyes would meet this large fresh scar. I began getting a little self conscious about it when my shirt would rise up in gym class or anywhere else. It was proof that my own lady bits had betrayed me, and I really didn't feel like explaining it to people. It took a bit of time to realize that these were looks of curiosity, not judgment. People wanted to know the story behind my new skin accessory. Now anytime I get the chance to talk about my, "imperfection" I have no problem, I was blessed enough to survive a very painful ordeal, it's kind of like a badge of honor. I may not have "flawless" skin, but it's my skin. The human body is amazing, even after suffering a trauma it heals itself, so I'm going to celebrate my scar and not hide.
Model Maura Leigh Stedel
Makeup by Kara Merik
Hair by Juanita
Ok, as a child I was always around my cousins. As my mother protected me from as much as she could because of her own past, she could not protect me from everything. I was molested by my own cousin for multiple years From ages 5-9. I never knew exactly what had happened but I knew it was wrong. I couldn't deal with it and told no one. I dealt with it through eating. I gained a lot of weight and I was soon critcized by my father and other family members because of the massive weight gain. I was incredibly self conscious around my own family.
I developed physically young and I became sexually harassed and cat called as young as 10 because of my body. Being hit on and sexualized by older men who thought I was much older. While I was still innocent and did not know of anything. I was use to men asking my about my boobs and "What that tongue do?"
Throughout the years I slowly learned to love my body, especially once out of high school. However on September 3rd in 2017 I was raped. I went into a deep depression and had major anxiety problems. I couldn't function. I met with a counselor and was diagnosed with PTSD and am waiting for a diagnoses for bi polar 1. My walls came up higher than ever, my grades dropped I was no longer the happy go lucky woman I once was. Months later I finally told my parents. which surprisingly went well, however my father is having some troubles dealing with it today. I don't blame him though. I am his baby girl and still have him in the dark of many things.
I went to the police, with little help because of the type of rape. Recently I received a call from a new officer who took over my case. He told me he was going to tell the man who raped me that he was going to speak with him. Although I wanted no charges pressed, I didn't not want him to be spoken too. But being a social worker I understood why. I asked what he would say to him. He said "I will tell him that you were confused". My heart dropped. I could not believe I was being victim blamed by a detective. I broke down crying. I was out of town and out for dinner. I could not stop crying, and freaking out. He even came to my work to help a guest and had no clue who I was. It was so hard not to cry or scream at him. I have lost partners due to my rape because it's much for them to handle. It destroys you when someone can't be with you because of your trauma.
Lastly, I went out a few weeks ago and was drugged. Someone kissed me and someone took me out back and tried to get me into their truck. Luckily my friend found me and took me away and took me home safe and sound. I am so scared to go out and about. However I'm keeping a brave face on with the help of my dog I cannot go an hour without her anymore. I am not damaged goods. I am my own person and ready to be happy with myself and one day share my life with another person. However, until people realize that just because you have trauma, and may not to be able to deal with everything the same, doesn't mean I'm less of a human, and deserve to be respected and treated like someone without trauma. My body is still mine. It is not broken or damaged.
Thank you for letting me speak freely.
Model: Sarah McAleney
Makeup: Kara Merik
Hair: Celena Robichaud
I have always loved pictures but never really tried going out of manual mode and attempt to edit the image or really pursue photography. So when my family and husband gifted me my first used DSLR camera I was hooked. I never put it down and I invested so much money and time into learning it and learning about how to take proper photos and how to edit, and the business side to things ect. One thing I knew was that I didn’t ever want to just take photos. I wanted to create stories, and tell stories through the images I took. Yes that might sound cheesy and maybe it is, but that's my dream. So after lots of courses and practice, and getting my business license, I started to see my page grow and my business grow. That's when I knew I could be a platform for more then just a pretty picture. So I decided to focus on something I had already began, helping women see their strength and showing the world that vulnerability and pain shouldn’t be something to be ashamed of. I put some feelers out and explained my heart behind it, and I had an over whelming response. I truly have cried so much over this project and it's been so beautiful to see women who have gone through such crazy times, all come together and share about their lives in hopes of letting women out there know that they aren’t alone. That there might be hard times but you can get through them. I have been blessed with an amazing family, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t encountered hard times and scary times, or felt used and objectified or depressed. I have been lucky to have my best friend by my side, so I have never been alone and who has kept me from ever sinking and is a vital role in all I do, yay Jesus! But sadly there are so many people who feel alone and I hope this project has opened up your eyes to realize that some of your closest friends may have some deep scars. We all need to stand up and let everyone know they aren’t alone and they don’t need to fight alone. We are all warriors in some way or another and I know all of these ladies would happily be there for anyone who is going through something at this time. Please don’t be afraid to talk to someone if you need help, and please don’t feel ashamed of who you are, because the things that have happened to you, don’t define you.
Grainy Cell Phone pic by Whittney
Quick warrior makeup done by Kara
Thank you ladies for all being a part of this! I will be posting an online gallery soon where you can download and see all the images :)
Here are some more photos from this days shoot!