Nope Sisters release special campaign in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and social enterprise Nope Sisters have released a new pink MastectoTee and Mastecto-Hoodie along with a special campaign to help raise funds for the Breast Cancer Foundation of New Zealand. Sisters Brittany and Johanna Cosgrove founded Nope Sisters in 2016 after creating their first Mastectotee to support their mother who was diagnosed with breast cancer. Since then they’ve gone on to create other clothing that carries a strong message and supports the charities they believe in.

The imagery that accompanies their new breast cancer awareness campaign features breast cancer survivors styled in the new tees and hoodies and pink clothing from other New Zealand brands as well as thrifted finds. The Nope Sisters got each woman to answer some questions on their diagnosis and how it’s changed their lives and their relationships with their bodies.

“I wanted to do this pink shoot because I’ve been doing photoshoots and fashion photography of a range of people in our mastectotees over the years but I wanted to make this October special,” says Brittany Cosgrove. “As many of our charities have experienced donation losses from not being able to street collect or host fundraisers due to Covid, I wanted to do something special online, and I wanted the models to be survivors themselves. Breast cancer survivors are often portrayed through a sad and emotional lense, which is important, but for me I wanted to have these amazing women looking strong and beautiful and fashion forward. I wanted to basically encapsulate everything Nope Sisters is about which is, Fashion for a cause.”

NopeSisters Breast Cancer Campaign Survivors

Jenny McDougall

What was your first thought when you were diagnosed? 
My first thought really was just, how I was going to get through it and what had to happen next? I was pretty pragmatic actually. I was surprisingly quite cool at the time and was just thinking about what we were going to do next.

Were there any programs or services offered to you that would help with your treatment?
Yes. Pink  & Steel Pilates was great, the Cancer Society had quite a lot of things: support groups, books to borrow and lymphoedema massages, programs like that. Some of these don’t really exist anymore, which is a bit of a shame. I personally found there was really good support.

Did your relationship with your body change after your diagnosis? If so, how?
Yes , well I also managed to get free menopause because of my treatment, which was really sudden.

So not having oestrogen suddenly, and all the changes that come along with that, and having a breast cut off, my torso is pretty much a mess of scars.

So my body is looking a bit different.

What advice would you give to other people in terms of being aware of or dealing with the procedures pre or post treatment?
What I would say to people is don’t try to tough it out. Accept every offer of help. Your job is to get better.

NopeSisters Breast Cancer Campaign Survivors

Marlene Soloman

What was your first thought when you were diagnosed?
Absolute fear of dying, leaving my children and my husband. I was 41 when I was first diagnosed.

Were there any programs or services offered to you that would help with your treatment?
No, there weren’t, because my first breast cancer was diagnosed when I was 41, and that was 1987, so there wasn’t a great deal of help and support around at that time.

Did your relationship with your body change after your diagnosis? If so, how?
The first breast cancer no, it wasn’t so bad, but the second breast cancer 10 years later at age 51 I had my breast removed and re-constructed which was really quite scary, and so I did think about how I felt about myself. Down the track it certainly has improved and I feel happy with who I am and how I look these days.

NopeSisters Breast Cancer Campaign Survivors

Angela Morgan

What was your first thought when you were diagnosed?
Agh, I’m gonna die and leave my child without a mother.

Were there any programs or services offered to you that would help with your treatment?
Because of my young age when I was diagnosed, I was offered the genetic counselling and it turned out I carry the BRCA1 gene so my journey was a little different than most because of that path and the extra treatment that was required for me, but the knowledge that was passed on and the access to information I had because of that was amazing.

Did your relationship with your body change after your diagnosis? If so, how?
Yeah, I had so many surgeries and so many bits removed and chopped off, even now I still struggle with that and in particular I think, doing it as a single mother can be more challenging.

What advice would you give to other people in terms of being aware or dealing with the procedures pre or post treatment?
Trust yourself, ask for help, be kind to yourself and keep fighting it will hopefully come right at the end, positivity is absolutely key.

NopeSisters Breast Cancer Campaign Survivors

Jess Elwood-Smith (Daughter of a survivor)

How did you first feel when you heard about your Mum’s diagnosis?
I was about 13 at the time, I was really scared for her, but 13 years olds are really selfish so my first thought was – how does this affect me, but also you don’t really understand at that age, so my behaviour was not fully supportive at the time, but everyone responds in different ways.

Just do what you can to support them.

Iona Elwood-Smith

Were there any programs or services offered to you that would help with your treatment?
The service that I got was absolutely phenomenal, when I had my mammogram, I went to the breast clinic and they told me straight away that they thought it was cancer. But when they took a biopsy the test results came back negative, but my doctor saw the results and said ‘I don’t believe it‘ and she went in and dug deeper and found the cancer behind a lump I already had.

I consider myself very blessed for the service, and how I was looked after.

Did your relationship with your body change after your diagnosis? If so, how?
It brought into the picture that our bodies are fallible, and we’re not as bullet proof as we thought we might be.

I didn’t spend much time worrying, our bodies are what they are.

What advice would you give to other people in terms of being aware or dealing with the procedures pre or post treatment?
Just do what feels right, if something doesn’t feel right to you, step away, have some thoughts about it, you don’t have to agree to things straight away. You do have choices, and there is life after breast cancer and it’s pretty awesome, so don’t let that dictate your mindset.

NopeSisters Breast Cancer Campaign Survivors

Winnie Cleary

What was your first thought when you were diagnosed?
It was awful, after I was told, I started to cry so I didn’t hear much of what she said actually, it was just a big explosion – BOOM!

Were there any programs or services offered to you that would help with your treatment?
Occasionally if I needed a car park, the Cancer Society had one across the road from the hospital. Also the Cancer Society provided massages, it was very soothing and relaxing.

Did your relationship with your body change after your diagnosis? If so, how?
Yes and no, I think everyone’s relationship with their bodies is a bit love-hate, Not every woman is satisfied with how their body looks.

I had a mastectomy without reconstruction and sometimes I really loathed the way I look, but I’m a survivor, I’m still alive, I’m grateful for that.

What advice would you give to other people in terms of being aware or dealing with the procedures pre or post treatment?
When you go to that appointment whether you get a diagnosis or not, take someone with you.

 NopeSisters Breast Cancer Campaign Survivors

Bridget Hurley

What was your first thought when you were diagnosed?
My first thought was that, I’m too busy for this.

Were there any programs or services offered to you that would help with your treatment?
I’m now 5 years down the track and have just received my third diagnosis so I’m only just now looking into what organisations there are to support women with breast cancer.

Did your relationship with your body change after your diagnosis? If so, how?
To begin with – no, as time went on – yes. I had a mastectomy in 2015 and decided I was too young to not have breasts so I went forward with a reconstruction, when I was diagnosed the second time, I just wanted them taken off.

Now I’m a little bit more comfortable having no breasts, I prefer to have life over breasts.

What advice would you give to other people in terms of being aware or dealing with the procedures pre or post treatment?
To just be aware of your bodies and aware of what might not feel right, and only do in life what you feel comfortable doing.

Post diagnosis, be easy on yourself, be happy that you’re waking up every day, even though those days might be shitty, and live life to the fullest and look at the positive side of everything.

 NopeSisters Breast Cancer Campaign Survivors

Rose Beattie

What was your first thought when you were diagnosed?
I had a feeling I had breast cancer, so it wasn’t a huge shock, but I thought OMG I have three young kids – am I going to die?

Were there any programs or services offered to you that would help with your treatment?
The Cancer Society was wonderful. I went to the LOOK GOOD FEEL BETTER course when I lost my hair and their support was great.

Did your relationship with your body change after your diagnosis? If so, how?
I had a re-construction at the same time as my mastectomy so I never felt like I had nothing (no breasts). One good thing is that they took part of my stomach and put it in my breast so I got a tummy tuck. So apart from having a scar which I am very proud of, I got a flat tummy.

What advice would you give to other people in terms of being aware or dealing with the procedures pre or post treatment?
It’s not a death sentence and there is a lot out there you can do and places you can go for help, but the most important thing I did was to join the CanSurvive Dragon Boat team. When you’re all done with your treatment that sport is lots of fun.

NopeSisters Breast Cancer Campaign Survivors

Carolyn Stephens

What was your first thought when you were diagnosed?
My mother died of breast cancer so I just needed to know what I had wasn’t the same as hers.

Were there any programs or services offered to you that would help with your treatment?
The Cancer Society have been great along with CanSurvive Dragonboat Team, and the Pink and Steel physiotherapy which I found through the NZ Breast Cancer Foundation.

What advice would you give to other people in terms of being aware or dealing with the procedures pre or post treatment?
You have a better chance with an early diagnosis, so you have to be vigilant about checking for lumps and you need to be your best advocate.

Be as knowledgeable as you can be.

NopeSisters Breast Cancer Campaign Survivors

Bette Cosgrove

What was your first thought when you were diagnosed?
I was really surprised, I wasn’t actually afraid. I was pretty annoyed that  it was probably going to affect my life for a period of time, but I trusted my oncologist.

Were there any programs or services offered to you that would help with your treatment?
The Cancer Society was really amazing as they offer all kinds of support, and the NZ Breast Cancer Foundation also has great resources you can find online, when you need to look things up or find like-minded people, that’s what really helps.

Did your relationship with your body change after your diagnosis? If so, how?
I’ve always been fairly confident in my body, but losing a chunk of your breast is obviously something you have to cope with. Losing my nipple was pretty sad, but I have never been that concerned with how it changed my body.

What advice would you give to other people in terms of being aware or dealing with the procedures pre or post treatment?
Definitely do not do ‘Dr Google’ because everyone’s body or health, and everybody’s journey is completely different. But the best thing you can do is find like-minded people who have been through something like this and listen carefully to the experts.

You really need to understand and look after your own health and well being. You can do that best, by connecting with other people who have shared experiences. I discovered that breast cancer survivor dragonboating was a great activity for that.

Images by Devanga Walshe, styling by Augusta Buchannan and Makeup by Natasha Wood.

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