'If you're offended by this you're missing the point'

By Antonia Molloy

Beth Whaanga shows her scars. Photo / Nadia Mascot
Beth Whaanga shows her scars. Photo / Nadia Mascot

A young woman who posted graphic images on her Facebook wall, detailing the ravaging effects of cancer surgery on her body, has said that those who complained about the photographs "missed the point".

Beth Whaanga, 32, from Brisbane, Australia, posted the series of candid pictures on Sunday as part of a cancer awareness project.

But she said she has been de-friended by more than 100 people since publicising the images on the social networking website.

The mother-of-four had to have a double mastectomy, breast reconstruction and a hysterectomy after cellular changes were detected in her left breast, and she was found to carry the BRCA2 gene.

In a bid to highlight the importance of regular self-checks, Ms Whaanga worked with photographer Nadia Masot to produce the photographs for their joint project "Under the Red Dress".

Describing the venture, Ms Whaanga said: "These images are confronting and contain topless material. They are not in any way meant to be sexual. The aim of this project is to raise awareness for breast cancer. If you find these images offensive please hide them from your feed.

"Each day we walk past people. These individuals appear normal but under their clothing sometimes their bodies tell a different story.

"Nadia Masot and I aim to find others who are willing to participate in our project so that we might show others that cancer affects everyone. The old and the young, age does not matter, self-examination is vital. It can happen to you."

However, the images were perceived to be too explicit by some and were reported to Facebook, which has not removed them from its site.

Photo / Nadia Mascot
Photo / Nadia Mascot

The pictures also sparked an animated discussion on Ms Whaanga's Facebook wall.

Writing in defence of Ms Whaanga, her sister Emma Rayner said: "Seriously... I cannot believe how immature people are to delete you off Facebook.

"If you can't personally distinguish the difference between porn and awareness then you obviously have issues within yourself."

However, Ms Whaanga's brother-in-law, Andrew Young, suggested that the social networking site was not an appropriate platform.

He said: "I think everyone should be understanding of everyone's differing values and beliefs.

Photo / Nadia Mascot
Photo / Nadia Mascot

"I personally do not agree with posting confronting pictures on a site where people do not get a choice wether they wish to view it, as happened to me when scrolling through my news feed."

But he added: "I'm very supportive of Beth."

Ms Whaanga said: "The aim of the photo shoot was to make women and men aware. Aware of any changes to their body, to show that cancer does not discriminate between gender, race, or age.

"It affects all of us. For those of us who have been lucky enough to prevent their condition from continuing or occurring we have a responsibility to make others aware.

"Check your breasts/ pectorals under your arms and neck. If you find anything don't brush it off, better to be safe and alive."

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