The reason my husband’s brother took naked pictures of me – and it’s not what you think!
Charli Crow, 28, Norwich, told us how she asked her photographer brother in law to take pictures of her body pre and pst mastectomy to raise awareness of breast cancer
KNEELING proactively in my best lace bra, I felt a flutter of nerves as my brother-in-law Richard joined me on the bed.
‘Sorry, I think I’m almost ready,’ he said, as he fiddled with his equipment. ‘Guess I’m a bit nervous too.’
Giggling awkwardly, I took another gulp of the glass wine on my bedside table. Dutch courage and all that…
I wasn’t completely against the idea when Gary first suggested asking his brother if he could help me out, but I was a bit taken aback.
‘Don’t be daft, it’s a great idea!’ he said. ‘He’s really good at it.’
‘I suppose so,’ I said. ‘But he might feel a bit uncomfortable.’
Only Richard was well up for it when I asked him. ‘I’d be honoured,’ he said.
And so we’d agreed he’d come over to the flat a week on Saturday and Gary would look after our two youngest, Summer-Rose, four, and Lillie-Mae, two-and-a-half, along with Richard’s son Jude, two, while we got down to it in the bedroom.
Only now, as I could hear him and the kids giggling in the room next door, for a moment I wondered if I was doing the right thing. Stop it, I told myself. This is your last chance; you’ll regret it if you don’t.
‘Let’s go for it!’ I smiled. And slipping out of my size 34B bra and rolling semi- naked on the bed I soon felt my confidence soar….Let me explain.
I was in the shower when I first felt a lump in my left breast. With history of cancer on my mother’s side I saw my GP straight away who immediately referred me to hospital.
The consultant examined me, detected five masses and even before the results of my biopsies came through, I was warned it was likely that I had cancer. ‘ I’m 90 per cent sure and I want you to prepare yourself,’ the consultant said.
But I clung to the hope they were wrong. I was only 28, surely I was too young?
But a week later the tests confirmed my worst fears: I needed urgent surgery to remove my left breast in order to save my life.
‘I can’t believe it,’ I sobbed to Gary.
‘We’ll get through this,’ he supported.
Meanwhile MRI and bone scans were organised to see if it had spread, which thankfully came back clear.
My mastectomy was booked to take place on 18 December. Knowing time with my body as I knew it was scarce I wanted a permanent reminder of it before it was changed forever.
Now just for me, but for Gary too.
I knew what I wanted, some sexy, tasteful pics that I could be proud of. I just needed a photographer willing to take the snaps for me – and quickly.
Richard seemed the obvious choice. A seasoned wedding photography, he was great at capturing memories. Even better we were good mates and he only lived round the corner.
But still, posing topless for my brother-in-law… Wouldn’t that be a bit awkward? I was unsure at first but the more I thought about it, the more I thought, why not? Why not have some tasteful topless photos to look back at when times were tough?
They would also show me how far I had come.
So we set a date. And although it felt really weird to start with, showing my brother in law my naked boobs wasn’t a situation I’d ever imagined, but once the nerves had gone I started to really enjoy it.
‘Thank you so much,’ I said afterwards as I threw on a jumper and we went to have a cuppa with Gary and the kids. ‘I really appreciate what you’ve done for me.’
‘Any time,’ Richard joked. ‘It makes a change from kids and weddings!’
The following week, I held a special party for my friends and family to say their goodbyes to my boob.
In a plunging dress I handed out boobie cupcakes complete with sweetie nipples and pink ribbon badges as we partied into the small hours. It was a great night and helped raise awareness of breast cancer, too.
‘Celebrating a birthday?’ the restaurant manager asked, sensing the high spirits.
‘No,’ she’s having her boob cut off so we’re all out to say goodbye,’ yelled one of my best mates pointing at me.
At first the manager looked shocked, then sent over a round of drinks for us to do a toast.
By the time I went into hospital for my mastectomy six days later, I felt I had given my boob the send-off it deserved.
I was nervous as I was wheeled off to theatre but the op went well. I was relieved but still felt a feeling of loss. It made me even more glad that I’d found the courage to do the photoshoot.
A few days later, I was recovering at my Mum’s when an email from Richard pinged up on my mobile. As I opened the file and scrolled down through each beautiful image with Gary, I burst into tears.
‘They’re absolutely perfect!’ I sniffed down the phone to Richard. ‘You’ve done such a great job.’
‘I was thinking maybe we could do some post-op pics too,’ he suggested. ‘When you feel up to it, of course.’
It was a great idea. This time I felt much more at ease. I knew that Richard would make my scar look beautiful, and he did.
‘You look stunning,’ Gary said proudly. I’d started a facebook page to try and raise awareness of breast cancer in younger women like me.
I posted my pictures to show other women how proud I felt of my new body too.
Now, six weeks later, after a further surgery to remove some lymph nodes, doctors have told me I’m likely to make a full recovery.
I’ll have chemotherapy to reduce the chances of the cancer coming back.
I look at my little girls and feel so lucky.
It might have been unconventional, but I’m so grateful to Richard for the topless pictures he took. They definitely helped me to come to terms with my mastectomy and my new, healthy look.
And the great thing is, I actually feel sexier than ever.
To support Charli follow her at https://www.facebook.com/Charlisfight