Nfld. & Labrador

Breastless and beautiful: Calendar project will give cancer patients financial help

All proceeds from the sale of the 2019 calendar, which features photos of N.L. breast cancer survivors, will support a local patient and family fund.

2019 calendar proceeds will go to towards the Dr. H. Bliss Murphy patient and family fund

Kerry Churchill, second from left, poses with other models for the Breastless and Beautiful calendar, which will feature Newfoundland and Labrador breast cancer survivors. (Submitted by Dana Metcalfe)

For many patients, a cancer diagnosis often comes with financial struggles. 

Even in a country with government-funded health care, cancer can mean stepping away from work, dealing with travel for treatment, and other out-of-pocket costs.

Kerry Churchill knows about those costs first-hand — she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015.

"It was traumatic because my son had to give up university and work two jobs to keep us afloat financially," she said. 

If you're receiving EI or disability payments during your illness you are living on much less than normal, sometimes half of what you had before, she said. And cancer is a long illness, so that financial situation can last for quite some time. 

An upcoming calendar that began with Churchill and salon owner Dana Metcalfe will raise money to ease the financial burden of cancer for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians while celebrating life and loss.

'I just want to do something to help'

The Breastless and Beautiful calendar project is spearheaded by Metcalfe, owner of Salt Box Studio hair and beauty salon in Portugal Cove-St. Philip's.

Metcalfe and Churchill first met at her studio during one of her Karma Day events for cancer patients to be pampered with beauty services. 

When Churchill was diagnosed as metastatic — meaning her cancer had returned and spread to another part of the body — this January, she returned to Metcalfe's salon to cut her hair short before beginning chemo again.

Her re-diagnosis had spurred a desire to do something for other people in her position.

"When I was re-diagnosed in January I said, 'I just want to do something to help, there has to be a way to help people here in the province.'"

She began talking with Metcalfe, and the idea sprung from there.

"I lost my best friend to breast cancer two years ago, which inspired Karma Day, which inspired our relationship, and then she inspired us and we ended up here," Metcalfe said of her friendship and partnership with Churchill.

Calendar proceeds will support Dr. H. Bliss Murphy fund

Metcalfe created Women Into Networking Kindness — WINK — and decided to make the Breastless and Beautiful calendar its first project. 

"They're the team that's been helping me do all this," Churchill said.

"I couldn't do it without them."

The 2019 calendar will feature photos of breast cancer survivors from the province, and the first of many planned photo shoots for the calendar was held Monday.

The photo themes chosen for the calendar represent the different facets of cancer, Metcalfe said.

The nest photo, which features Churchill, represents rebirth; she is in remission, and her mother, who was not well enough to participate as planned, is in the final stages of her battle with terminal bone cancer.

"We thought that was very representative of where they were," Metcalfe said.

A tea party-themed photo features two sisters out of a family of four who are all either currently in remission or doing chemotherapy.

"The two ladies that we feature in our calendar are survivors," Metcalfe said. "We wanted to have a tea party in celebration of their achievement."

Proceeds donated to support fund

All sale proceeds will be donated to the Dr. H. Bliss Murphy Cancer Care Foundation's Patient and Family Support Fund, which helps cancer patients who experience financial hardship as a result of their diagnosis.

That fundraising aspect of the calendar is important, but Metcalfe and Churchill hope the mental and emotional boost to patients has an impact as well.

"I want women, breast cancer survivors, to realize that you're beautiful, with or without breasts, with or without hair," Churchill said.

With files from Here & Now