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A photographer documents her personal journey with breast cancer

Eleonora Ghioldi's family photo sits next to a candle.
Eleonora Ghioldi
/
Breast Cancer Project
Eleonora Ghioldi's family photo sits next to a candle.

Editor's note: Warning the following story contains graphic images.

This project was created by Eleonora Ghioldi, describing her experience throughout her breast cancer treatment.

"We have been sad long enough to make this earth either weep or grow fertile."

— Audre Lorde, The Cancer Journals

"Breast cancer is the leading cause of death from tumors in women, causing 685,000 deaths per year in the world," I read. "In Argentina it is estimated that 1 in 8 women who have reached the age of 80 will have developed the disease at some point in their life." The number is shocking, but it is still just one more piece of information compared to passing the disease through the body.

All the women in Eleonora's family who had cancer. The numbers below each correspond to the woman's age when they were diagnosed. <strong>From left to right:</strong> María, Eleonora's mom's aunt, 70; Julia, Eleonora's grandmother, 79; Griselda, Eleonora's mom, 52; Coca, Eleonora's mom's cousin, 45; Mariana, Eleonora's mom's niece, 50; Eleonora, 44.
Eleonora Ghioldi / Breast Cancer Project
/
Breast Cancer Project
All the women in Eleonora's family who had cancer. The numbers below each correspond to the woman's age when they were diagnosed. From left to right: María, Eleonora's mom's aunt, 70; Julia, Eleonora's grandmother, 79; Griselda, Eleonora's mom, 52; Coca, Eleonora's mom's cousin, 45; Mariana, Eleonora's mom's niece, 50; Eleonora, 44.
Notes about the treatment that Eleonora collected during that time.
Eleonora Ghioldi / Breast Cancer Project
/
Breast Cancer Project
Notes about the treatment that Eleonora collected during that time.

I had cancer, yes. It's still hard for me to describe how it feels.

Eleonora at the beginning of her cancer treatment.
/ Eleonora Ghioldi
/
Eleonora Ghioldi
Eleonora at the beginning of her cancer treatment.
When we talk about breast cancer prevention, we talk about being able to touch ourselves, to know how, to break with that mandate imposed on us since childhood that says that girls should not touch themselves, that it is wrong, Eleonora writes. But prevention is also autonomy over one's own body.
Eleonora Ghioldi / Breast Cancer Project
/
Breast Cancer Project
When we talk about breast cancer prevention, we talk about being able to touch ourselves, to know how, to break with that mandate imposed on us since childhood that says that girls should not touch themselves, that it is wrong, Eleonora writes. But prevention is also autonomy over one's own body.

Suddenly, the world has an expiration date. The first advances. The setbacks. The fear of not being there for my children. Looking to the past, connecting through time with those who once preceded us in this pain.

Eleonora throughout her treatment.
/ Eleonora Ghioldi
/
Eleonora Ghioldi
Eleonora throughout her treatment.
Eleonora during regular check-ins.
Eleonora Ghioldi / Breast Cancer Project
/
Breast Cancer Project
Eleonora during regular check-ins.
There is a moment of silence, sometimes with a gesture of pity, sometimes with the taboo of cancer, Eleonora writes. The "not to be noticed" becomes pressure on the bodies that receive cancer treatment, often focusing on beauty mandates that have little to do with health.
Eleonora Ghioldi / Breast Cancer Project
/
Breast Cancer Project
There is a moment of silence, sometimes with a gesture of pity, sometimes with the taboo of cancer, Eleonora writes. The "not to be noticed" becomes pressure on the bodies that receive cancer treatment, often focusing on beauty mandates that have little to do with health.
The reasons why women get sick are many, Eleonora writes — sustaining a precarious life, the use of pesticides that poison our food, the difficulty to lead healthy lives, and many others we still do not know.
Eleonora Ghioldi / Breast Cancer Project
/
Breast Cancer Project
The reasons why women get sick are many, Eleonora writes — sustaining a precarious life, the use of pesticides that poison our food, the difficulty to lead healthy lives, and many others we still do not know.
The diagnosis of cancer does not always mean death, and a cancer treatment does not always have to be a place of suffering, Eleonora writes. The possibilities are many and that is why it is important to put into words what happens around this taboo disease.
Eleonora Ghioldi / Breast Cancer Project
/
Breast Cancer Project
The diagnosis of cancer does not always mean death, and a cancer treatment does not always have to be a place of suffering, Eleonora writes. The possibilities are many and that is why it is important to put into words what happens around this taboo disease.
Eleonora's recovery process after her mastectomy.
Eleonora Ghioldi / Breast Cancer Project
/
Breast Cancer Project
Eleonora's recovery process after her mastectomy.

Connect — (re)connect — with the body. Looking in the mirror, finding yourself in the scars (or not). Western medicine in general and oncology specifically, often become labyrinthine paths for most people. That directly affects decisions about our bodies and desires.

The word of the doctor (thus in masculine) becomes unique and indecipherable. The medical corporation, complacent with the patriarchal mandates, hurrying so that everything goes back to doing as before, to erase the gaps and marks, to return the body to the path of hegemonic desire. There is a blanket of silence, sometimes with a gesture of pity, other times with the taboo of cancer. The "not being noticed" becomes pressure on the bodies that receive cancer treatment, often focusing on beauty mandates that have little to do with health.

Flowers from Eleonora's family to show support during treatment.
Eleonora Ghioldi / Breast Cancer Project
/
Breast Cancer Project
Flowers from Eleonora's family to show support during treatment.

There is also the struggle, which is what always gives us meaning in the face of so much pain. When we talk about breast cancer prevention, we talk about being able to touch ourself, knowing how, breaking with that mandate imposed on us since childhood that says "Girls don't touch their own bodies — that's wrong." Prevention is also autonomy over one's own body.

There are not two equal paths with cancer, it is different for each woman. This was mine. My ground to reality was photographing my days; every moment in the hospital was meant to be documented. Clandestine, stolen images. That they shouldn't exist, like my cancer, but they do exist, they are real.

Cancer changed my life, photography saved me.

The possibilities are many and that is why it is important to put into words what happens around this taboo disease, Eleonora writes. The accompaniment and the way each one chooses to deal with the disease are the pillars of this scaffolding.
Eleonora Ghioldi / Breast Cancer Project
/
Breast Cancer Project
The possibilities are many and that is why it is important to put into words what happens around this taboo disease, Eleonora writes. The accompaniment and the way each one chooses to deal with the disease are the pillars of this scaffolding.

For more of Eleonora's projects, visit her social networks.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eleonora Ghioldi