Stylewatch Style News Now
02/09/2013 at 02:30 PM ET
Jill Brzezinski-Conley twirls in front of the Eiffel Tower wearing a frothy tulle gown as the photographer snaps away. But Brzezinski-Conley isn’t just another model: She’s a 35-year-old woman with terminal stage-four breast cancer, which has metastasized to her bone.
At 31, Brzezinski-Conley underwent a double mastectomy. Three years later, the woman, who lives with her husband in Kentucky, is battling stage-four incurable bone cancer. But Brzezinski-Conley is determined to turn her pain into something positive by raising awareness about breast cancer.
Brzezinski-Conley asked her friend and wedding photographer, Nikki Closser, to take photos of her post-surgery breasts to send to Sue Bryce, a famed Australian photographer, for breast cancer awareness month. “[The media] never shows what breast cancer looks like,” Brzezinski-Conley tells The Huffington Post.
Bryce was inspired by Brzezinski-Conley’s story and invited her to participate in a five-day photo shoot in Paris. “For the first time, in those five days, I felt like Cinderella. I didn’t feel like a cancer patient,” she says. “They made me feel like a supermodel, and it was the nicest feeling … I didn’t want to go back home.”
Along with the photographs, videographer Hailey Bartholomew documented the trip in a 15-minute video that tells Brzezinski-Conley’s story, showing both vulnerable moments and their giddy trip to film in Paris.
Brzezinski-Conley hopes to inspire young women battling cancer to feel good about their bodies. “I wanted the photo shoot to be for women who look like me, [to show them that] they can still feel sexy and beautiful,” she says. But above all, she hopes this will encourage every woman to take action, saying, “Be educated, learn your body, learn the signs of breast cancer.”
Watch Brzezinski-Conley’s documentary above, and head over to Huffingtonpost.com to see her photos from the Paris shoot.