Cancer, Health
Breast cancer survivor

She Is Beautiful – Nerralea’s Story

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Like most women, Nerralea Van Der Merwe is not a fan of having her photograph taken. But, after a breast cancer diagnosis at only 32, she made the courageous decision to not only have a double mastectomy but to allow a friend to photograph her scarred, post mastectomy chest.

“Body image is something that most women deal with from early on, regardless of what happens in their lives. It’s something that I’ve never been entirely confident with myself. But, when I was pregnant with my third child at 32, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.”

“I had to make some decisions as to where I was going with my treatment and I chose to have a double mastectomy. I struggled a lot because I felt I looked horrible. I didn’t look like a woman anymore. Here I was with all these horrendous scars. It was difficult to look at myself in the mirror.”

“A friend of mine is a photographer and she talked me into having some photos taken because I wasn’t in a great place at the time. But, once we had taken the photos, to be able to see myself in that picture … the scars meant that I was alive.”

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“I look at the photos most days. You’re so critical of yourself but, through the photos, I saw myself in a different light. It was probably the first time in a long time that I could look at myself and think, ‘I actually do look beautiful’. I remember a friend commenting about the photos & saying ‘Wow, looking at these it just reminds me of that verse in Song of Songs 4:7.’ I went home that afternoon and looked up the verse, it read,

“You are altogether beautiful, my darling, beautiful in every way”

“It suddenly made me realize that God had made me perfectly – it didn’t matter that I no longer had breasts.  I was still perfect in Gods eyes, and more importantly I was still alive.  If he could see me this way then I knew I had to see myself the same way. It didn’t matter that I was scarred because I was going to defeat the cancer. The longer I’ve gone through the journey, the easier it’s become.”

“My husband was very supportive. As a woman, you worry, ‘What’s he going to think?’ But he said, ‘I didn’t marry you for your boobs’. He’s been great. He’s never once made me feel like less of a woman for it.”

961838_10201376815011079_564013920_n“I think society has a lot to answer for with Photoshop-ing and digitally altering pictures because we always have this altered view of what we should be and should look like. If we, as women, viewed ourselves differently, we wouldn’t be so hard on ourselves and we wouldn’t be so hard on each other. We’ve got another generation coming up that are looking to us as examples.”

“Before my surgery, I wish I could have seen some more photos of people that have gone through what I’ve gone through. I’ve had a lot of people, even people I don’t know, message me and thank me for sharing my photos because they’re going through similar things. It makes my journey a bit more worthwhile. I haven’t gone through it for nothing. If I can help someone else, then that’s even better.”

Facebook: Nezz Tackleberry

Instagram: @Nerralea

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