Portraits Of Sarcoma Patients Challenge Body Image Perceptions After Cancer

'When I look at myself in the mirror it reminds me what I’ve been through.'

Around 10 people are diagnosed with sarcoma every day in the UK, but despite this, more than half (53%) of us have not heard of the disease.

Sarcoma is cancer of the soft bone or tissue and can occur anywhere in the body. Sadly, half of those diagnosed with the disease will not survive.

To mark Sarcoma Awareness Week 2016, a group of people affected by the disease posed for the portrait series 'Sarcoma and You', by photographer Alison Romanczuk.

The series aims to raise awareness of sarcoma while challenging "perceptions about sarcoma and body image".

Read some of the testimonials below or visit Sarcoma UK to view the full series and learn more about sarcoma.

Alison Romanczuk
“I don’t like swimming or showing off my body anymore. I have a colostomy bag, and they are just associated with old people. I also struggled when I first lost my hair, as people used to stare at me. Sometimes I miss being able to just run my fingers through it, too. Now, though, I feel it’s empowering, and when I look at myself in the mirror it reminds me what I’ve been through and I’m still here fighting. Some people choose to wear a wig, but I wanted to embrace being bald and that helped me deal with it."
Alison Romanczuk
“Having cancer and my scar never stopped me being who I am and wearing my lippy, as well as matching headscarves to outfits kept me feeling like me. All my girlfriends know me for my lippy and I love anything associated with lips or lipsticks! My hand has numbness and loss of sensation and I have a scar where the tumour was removed and skin damaged by radiotherapy, as well as weakness in the wrist and stiffness in the arm but hey, I have my arm so they are small things in comparison to the alternative.”
Alison Romanczuk
“I see only positivity in my future, and my next big goal is to complete a London to Paris cycle ride! I love seeing this image of my scar, as I never really get to see it. It used to be something I was ashamed of, but now I’m really proud of it, it’s like a badge of honour.”
Alison Romanczuk
“My life has changed phenomenally – I am a different person now, in a different place. I am a better (if a little sicker) human. There is a lot more honesty, not just in myself, but in the people around me too – and a lot less angst about the little things in life that we go around needlessly worrying about."
Alison Romanczuk
“I was once asked the question, 'Why do you think that your scar is your friend?' The answer to that is because, in my case, it is a symbol of success. It’s there because it’s from where they got the ‘nasty’ out. Patients must not be worried about scars – they are part of your life experience and remind you of the value of life. If people see my scar when I am wearing shorts then so be it, it’s part of who I am now."
Alison Romanczuk
"I see only positivity in my future, sarcoma is out of my control and so I live everyday to the full and get on with things I want to do. Since being diagnosed I feel very strongly about pushing myself to reach all my goals in life and I hope there will be many exciting times ahead."
Alison Romanczuk
“The hair loss wasn’t a huge challenge for me at first, the day I started to see some fall out was the day I had it shaved off. I already had a wig ready for me to wear, so I felt prepared. The hardest part was when it started growing back. I felt my anxiety building up – knowing that soon I would have to ditch the wigs and just show my own short hair. My confidence was at its lowest at this point and I felt miserable about my appearance. This all changed when I found someone who was able to put hair extensions into my short hair – it made the world of difference. I finally felt like me again, it was such a huge relief."
Alison Romanczuk
“I try to see the positive in everything. Sarcoma has shaped my life, and my views have changed because of it. I view my life in a very different way now. I am very fortunate compared to others, and now I never fret about the small stuff, what is the point in worrying?"