JUPITER, Fla. — When a woman is battling breast cancer, she may not feel beautiful.
A Jupiter photographer is trying to change that by taking intimate photos of the survivors, and now researchers at Florida Atlantic University are studying what boudoir photography can do for breast cancer survivors.
In Palm Beach County, 32 breast cancer survivors are taking part in the luxury photography sessions. The photographer is taking the pictures for free because she believes a breast cancer diagnosis does not define the women or how they see themselves.
"They're so nervous about the scars. It's not about the scars. It's about celebrating the beautiful women they are on the inside," said photographer Rhea Lewis.
Shannon Burrows was 45 years old when she was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer.
"I was angry. I was confused. I didn't believe it," said Burrows.
"I'm not done. I'm not done being a mom. I'm not done helping change the world. I'm not done being a wife. There's way too much. My daughter was 9."
The mother has always led a healthy lifestyle.
She's a fitness trainer, but cancer changed her physically and emotionally.
Shannon had a double mastectomy a few months after she was diagnosed.
Months later she had breast reconstruction surgery. Rhea then convinced Shannon to come in for a luxury photography session.
Researchers at Florida Atlantic University now want to study the survivors' photo journey. They have applied for a grant.
"What would be the hope here is this could be an alternative therapy," said Dr. Teresa Sakraida.
"Perhaps it will bring restoration of self-esteem, perhaps greater self-confidence, perhaps who they are as a woman to become a whole person and they're not seeing themselves like that now."
"You can see how they've changed, when they put the lingerie on, the therapy and feeling beautiful again has started," said Lewis.
The pictures are not airbrushed. They're not photoshopped.
Rhea believes the photography sessions are about seeing through the scars so the women can feel as beautiful as they appear in these photos.