The Warrior Project: Portrait of Bex
by Northern Life
Bex Calverley talks about her battle with breast cancer and how striking a pose helped her to fight back.
Lancashire photographer Donna Craddock loves to capture the perfection in everyone from behind her lens. Her warrior project is a series of stunning shots featuring people with a physical or mental illness or disability. In this issue, we meet our next incredible warrior, Bex Calverley.
After her confrontation with breast cancer Bex, 37 years old, discovered that life is too valuable to be consumed by worries and anxieties. Instead, it should be filled with as much joy and happiness as possible. For her, a photoshoot with Donna Craddock was the perfect way to celebrate her newfound lease on life.
While Bex admits to rarely getting glammed up, she exudes a natural confidence in front of the camera. “It was nice to get some pampering because I’m not one to wear makeup. I just wanted to get dolled up and have it be about me for once,” she laughs. But her decision to step in front of the lens was about more than just a photo shoot; it was about sharing her story and helping others through similar challenges. “I strive to try and help people. That’s what I’ve tried to do, and I’m proud of it,” Bex states.
“I just wanted to get dolled up and have it be about me for once.”
Despite her determination, Bex admits she was a nervous wreck the morning of the shoot. She even contemplated backing out.
With all her body changes, Bex felt overwhelmed and out of her depth, but having Donna bring her portable studio to Bex’s home created a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere. “I was so relaxed that I took most of my clothes off!” Bex laughs.
The photos from the shoot had a profound impact on Bex. “My photographs make me feel amazing, strong, and feminine,” she says. They helped her rediscover self-love and reaffirmed that she was still the same Bex despite the mastectomy and the physical effects of chemotherapy.
Her journey began in 2016 when she noticed a sizable lump in her left breast at 30. She was told it was a cluster of cysts and nothing to worry about. However, it wasn’t until her late mother was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in 2019 that she revisited her health concerns, leading to her diagnosis.
CT scans revealed a 3 ½ cm tumour, necessitating a skin-sparing mastectomy and breast reconstruction. Bex also endured six rounds of chemotherapy and another operation to remove affected lymph nodes. The journey was physically and emotionally challenging, made even more so by her mother’s passing while Bex was still undergoing treatment.
Before her cancer diagnosis, Bex had battled severe anxiety. Still, facing cancer and her mother’s passing made her realise that constant worry was counterproductive, and she embraced a more positive perspective on life.
Bex has come out the other side with more confidence and a desire to live each day to the full.
In her battle against cancer, she faced not only the physical challenges of her diagnosis but also life-altering decisions that changed the course of her future. To prevent the cancer from returning, Bex underwent hormone injections, then a hysterectomy that thrust her into early menopause, dashing her hopes of starting a family. There was another unexpected turn when she began experiencing pain in her lower back. What was initially assumed to be cysts turned out to be tumours. Fortunately, these tumours were benign, but the shock of the discovery lingered with Bex. She reflects, “That sticks with you a little bit.”
Despite her health journey’s unexpected twists and turns, Bex has adopted a resilient and optimistic outlook. She emphasises the importance of embracing each day as it comes and not dwelling on every minor ache and pain. “There’s no point worrying about every bit of discomfort,” she wisely states. “I like just to enjoy life; whatever happens, I will deal with it when it comes along.”
Navigating through menopause without the option of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has presented its own set of challenges for Bex. Her cancer was estrogen-based, making HRT a potential risk for increasing the chance of cancer in the other breast. Bex admits that the mood swings associated with menopause have been difficult to contend with. However, Bex is not one to back down from a challenge. In her own words, “You’ve just got to ‘crack on’ with it.”
For those beginning a similar journey, Bex offers heartfelt advice: “Be strong, be brave, and find the positives.” She firmly believes in the healing power of positivity and encourages others to trust their instincts and seek second opinions if necessary. Her story serves as a beacon of hope for those facing adversity, proving that even in the face of daunting challenges, it is possible to emerge stronger and more determined than ever before.
Bex quit her 20-year career as a caterer and shifted to an office job within the catering industry, allowing her more time to enjoy life and create lasting memories with loved ones. From attending friends’ weddings to being active in their lives, Bex relishes her newfound freedom. “It’s the best decision I ever made.”
Despite the cancer, Bex has come out the other side with more confidence and a desire to live each day to the full. Bex’s journey inspires all, a reminder that every day is a gift, and it’s up to us to make the most of it.
NorthernLife Nov/Dec 23