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Baring All For Breast Cancer

Breast cancer treatment - mastectomies or lumpectomies along with radiation and chemotherapy - can certainly save lives.

But along with the cure can come disfigurement. Now, some breast cancer survivors are choosing to celebrate their new bodies by baring it all! The Early Show's national correspondent Hattie Kauffman reports.

Ever since the middle-aged British "Ladies of Rylstone" bared it all for charity a few years ago, many non-profit organizations have followed their lead. The Rylstone ladies from England were 45-60 years old, and posed to raise money for leukemia research.

Most of the spin-off calendars are fundraisers for medical research or civic projects. They feature women (or men) of all ages and sizes.

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The latest calendar idea features 12 women who live near Seattle, Wash., and who are all breast cancer survivors. They range in age from 35-70 and are all volunteers for an organization called the Angel Care Breast Cancer Foundation.

Flip thru the Angel Care calendar, you'll see 12 months of beauty and bravery.

"One lady didn't have the strength to look at her body. And she hadn't seen herself in a year. And so I thought about that, and I thought, 'You know, we need to do something to give these women the strength to go on,'" says Miss July Diana Beaumont of Mill Creek.

And so, she disrobed along with 11 other breast-cancer survivors. It wasn't easy, but it wasn't as hard as what they'd already gone through.

"I felt that I have gone through breast cancer, I can do anything," says Beaumont.

Every woman who posed in the calendar has had a lumpectomy or mastectomy.

"I was very afraid, and the doctor just said, 'Don't, don't worry, it's not as bad as you think,'" says Miss April, Leanne Yanda. It was hard for her to look herself at the mirror. "It takes a while to get used to it," she says.

Jan Harris, Angel Care founder and Miss June, says she has learned to move on. "But there's those other people that don't move on, and they're still kind of stuck there at that time of surgery, when you first see the scar or the loss of a breast. It's, it's devastating," she says.

"I know that for myself, when I first had to go back to bed with my husband, that was the most difficult thing in the whole world," says Beaumont. "That was just terrible. I wanted to wear a big puffy ski parka to bed and I used to just agonize for what seemed like hours before going to bed. And then finally what got me over that is one day I just decided this is my badge of courage."

Along with their courage, they brought a sense of humor to the photo shoot.

"I have three boys, and they were all outside with their friends, so, you know, I was worried about children popping into the house," says Miss August, Suzanne Leavitt.

"My photo shoot was outside, and I think my neighbors were home for the first time in 10 years," adds Renee Olson with a laugh.

"We were filming and I wear a prosthesis because I've had a mastectomy. And it's the kind that sticks on. And I just left it stuck on, and halfway through the filming, it just plop, fell right off. And I felt more embarrassed for the photographer. She didn't know what to say. She said, "Oh, your thing fell off,'" recalls Beaumont laughing.

Some had to convince their families that taking it all off was a good idea.

"My 12-year-old son, he was, um, pretty mortified," says Miss May, Renee Olson.

"Forty eight year old sons also are, you know? They say, 'I don't want to see my mother naked!' And I still haven't told my father. This has been the big thing. When is Bobbie going to tell her father? And I haven't done it yet. But he's getting a calendar for Christmas," says Bobbie DeCoster.

As Miss December, DeCoster holds a Christmas present at a strategic angle! As Miss September, African American Kimberly Carhee had her own reasons for posing.

"I feel that it's important for the minority community to know and learn about the breast cancer disease, and that you can survive from it," says Carhee.

The calendar has already led to an avalanche of letters from around the country. A woman who had a double mastectomy in July ends her letter saying, "Keep up the good work and tell all my fellow survivors, God bless us all."

Calendar sales raise money for "Angel Care," a support group that pairs breast cancer survivors with women who are newly diagnosed so they can provide emotional support.

"To me, it was as important as the medicines that I received," says Heidi Trott.

Now, these women share a double bond, not only as cancer survivors, but also as calendar girls.

The 2003 calendar is called "No Ordinary Angels" with the women tastefully posed. The idea was not to show scars (most had mastectomies or lumpectomies) but to celebrate their well-being.

It is available by mail order through:
Angel Care Breast Cancer Foundation,
17125 N.E. 98th Court,
Redmond, WA 98052.
Or by calling: (425) 861-5655.
On the Web at: angelcarefoundation.org

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