By Melissa Keogh
A South Australian mother of four will have her full body painted and photographed for an empowering breast cancer awareness campaign.
Michelle Bradley, 42, will have her body painted from head to toe by renowned artist Wendy Fantasia, formerly of Adelaide, this month and photographed for the 2019 So Brave calendar.
She is one of 12 breast cancer survivors and So Brave Ambassadors from across the country to feature in the calendar, and will share her story and raise awareness that young women can also be at risk of the disease.
Michelle was only 39 when she visited her local GP after noticing something didn’t look and feel right with one of her breasts.
She was eventually diagnosed with invasive lobular breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy and four months of chemotherapy before later having a breast reconstruction.
She had no family history of breast cancer and was under the age of concern for the disease which usually occurs in women aged over 50.
“Losing one breast was quite hard and very emotional but I have four kids and I needed to look at the bigger picture,” she says.
“They needed me and I needed to be here for them and my friends and family. We had this motto which was ‘I’ve got this’.”
Around the same time of her diagnosis, Michelle had just launched her own home décor and indoor plant business, Vintage Earth.
“When I finished my treatment, I threw myself back into it and it was the best thing I did,” she says.
Three years on and six surgeries down, Michelle is raising awareness of the disease which will affect the lives of one in 11 South Australian women before they turn 75.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimates that more than 3100 Australian women will die of breast cancer in 2018.
Chosen as a first So Brave ambassador, Michelle will not only be snapped for the 2019 calendar, but will take part in a year-long program of empowerment, host fundraising events and share her experiences with other young women.
So Brave is a national young women’s breast cancer charity founded by Rachelle Panitz, who was touched by the disease at the age of 32.
The charity’s centrepiece is the annual calendar, with the first one launched in 2016 and raising $70,000.
While Michelle is the first Adelaidean to take part, she joins fellow South Australians Rebecca Kolpondinos of Port Lincoln and Ana Ackland of Coffin Bay, who are both 2018 ambassadors.
Michelle’s shoot will take place in Adelaide’s CBD.
She will strip down to her underwear for the six-eight hour body painting session which she says will be no comparison to the vulnerability of having breast cancer.
“It’s been almost three years since my diagnosis and when you have seen so many doctors and surgeons, it (baring all) will just be another process,” Michelle says.
“For me, my breasts aren’t mine – I joke with my family that they’re my foobs (fake boobs).”
Fundraising from the 2019 calendar, to be launched later this year, will support So Brave’s research grants program while $1 from every calendar sold will be donated to the McGrath Foundation.
Michelle says although many people have called her ‘brave’ over the years, it’s a title she struggles to accept.
“Bravery to me is jumping out of a plane, stepping off a cliff, bungee jumping or a firefighter walking into a burning building,” she says.
“It’s a choice you make to be brave, you don’t get to choose cancer, it chooses you.”
Michelle encourages young SA women – even those in their 20s and 30s – to regularly check their breasts and visit their GP if something is unusual.
Michelle is hosting a So Brave fundraising event at Plant 4 Bowden on Friday, March 16 from 6.30–9.30pm.
Renowned Adelaide foodie and Brand SA News contributor Jessie Spiby will create a gourmet grazing table while SA blogger and breast cancer survivor Jenni Eyles will be a guest speaker.
For tickets visit www.sobrave.com.au/adelaide
Visit the I Choose SA for Industry website to learn more stories about key industry leaders, why they’ve chosen SA as a base and how the state is enabling them to succeed.