Cancer survivor shares story through body art

Cancer survivor shares story through body art

CREATIVE SIDE: Long Plains resident Tracy Starr was transformed with colourful paintings by renowned artist Wendy Fantasia last week.

CREATIVE SIDE: Long Plains resident Tracy Starr was transformed with colourful paintings by renowned artist Wendy Fantasia last week.

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Long Plains resident Tracy Starr tapped into her creative side during a time of darkness and uncertainty to help create awareness about breast cancer in young women.

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Long Plains resident Tracy Starr tapped into her creative side during a time of darkness and uncertainty to help create awareness about breast cancer in young women. 

As a mother of five children, including three daughters aged 28,16 and 12, Tracy used her breast cancer diagnosis to "open a tough conversation for my daughters". 

At just 38 Tracy was diagnosed with breast cancer and four years ago, it returned. 

"It returned in my sternum and now it is a 'monitor' situation," she said. 

"I am still receiving treatment and that made me begin to think, what if something happened to me?"

So after seeing So Brave's annual breast cancer fundraising calendar a few years ago, Tracy decided that she wanted to send her own message through the young women's breast cancer charity.

"I wondered how my girls would react and cope if something happened to me so I decided to submit my story to So Brave and be a part of the calendar," she said. 

On Thursday last week, Tracy was transformed by renowned bodypaint artist Wendy Fantasia, at Wendy's family farm at Mallala, with the results appearing in the 2020 So Brave calendar. 

"When I was first diagnosed I was the type of person who kept my feelings close to my chest and I did not really talk about my cancer with my children," Tracy said. 

"Sharing my story through the calendar is a way to help raise awareness, connect with other people and help my daughters, too."

After Wendy dug deep into the life story and likes and dislikes of Tracy, she painted the calendar model with colourful designs that depicted her story. 

"It was an emotional day but the support was overwhelming," Tracy said. 

"The body art was revealed to me in a mirror and then I was photographed in a series of locations - to see it come together in the calendar that will be launched in mid September will be fantastic." 

The 2020 calendar will feature 12 young women from SA, Vic, Qld and WA who are breast cancer survivors. 

This is also the first time the calendar has represented Long Plains and Tailem Bend. 

So Brave has so far transformed 48 young breast cancer survivors who were diagnosed before they turned 40. 

So Brave founder Rachelle Panitz said the calendar signified the beauty, strength and bravery of these young women.

"We hope to continue to raise awareness across Australia and fund vital research and education to ensure the next generation has better diagnosis, prevention, treatment and monitoring for breast cancer," she said.

MORE ACCESS TO SERVICES NEEDED

ADDITIONAL support for women who are battling cancer in rural communities needs to become a priority, Tracy Starr says.

After growing up in the small Lower North town of Dublin, and then building a life in Long Plains, Tracy has lived most of her life in rural communities.

She said after being dealt a breast cancer diagnosis at just 38, having access to nearby services was vital for cancer sufferers in regional areas.

"I had a family to raise and a house to run so I just had to get on with it," Tracy said.

"So I know if simple services were available such as nurse visits or additional help from people to help with meals, clean the bathroom and do some dishes, it would have been easier," she said.

Tracy travelled to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Adelaide for her treatment and she said it was "a shame" more larger regional centres did not have breast cancer nurses or treatment services available.

"If you are on your own and you are having to drive yourself to treatment it can be stressful," she said.

"Services to visit you in your home instead of having to travel to the city would make a difference."

Tracy said raising cancer awareness was important because it brought women together.

"I attended a luncheon at Balaklava - I could not believe the amount of women that had breast cancer in the community," she said.

"It showed me that there were people to help, have a chat and who were happy to include you in everyday life."

- VANESSA BINKS

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