CHESHIRE — Feeling comfortable in her own skin while undergoing chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer was something that Jamie Collins struggled with, especially when she started losing her hair, but a local photographer helped her feel beautiful again.
In early April, Collins, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in November, had a photo shoot with Meriden photographer Marisa Balletti-Lavoie, owner of Sassy Mouth Photography.
“I still felt horrible because I lost all my hair,” said Collins, a Meriden native and Cheshire resident. “I felt good, but I looked sick.”
Collins’ tumor has been responding well to the treatment and she is expected to be cancer free by the fall.
With a good prognosis, Collins embraced the idea of the photo shoot. She was a little reluctant at first but Balletti-Lavoie helped her unwind. Balletti-Lavoie had photographed Collins and her family before, but never photographed someone who was undergoing chemo treatment.
“When she got here for the glam she got the time to get adjusted. When she saw how beautiful her makeup was she felt great,” said Balletti-Lavoie. “I loved making her feel beautiful. I loved how happy she was with the previews.”
Collins posed for a series of closeup photos, one of her looking into a mirror at herself. She also appeared in photos with her husband and two children, Connor, 4, and Kelsey, 2.
Feeling comfortable in your own skin is one message Collins wants to get across to women. But she also encourages people to have genetic testing done for cancer if it runs in their family and to keep up with their health.
Collins was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 39 and also found out she was a carrier of a rare genetic mutation gene known as “chek2” which can increase the risk of breast cancer “up to threefold,” according to the Susan G Komen website.
“I never heard of it until I did the genetic testing and was diagnosed with breast cancer,” said Collins. “It turns out it runs pretty deep in my family. I just want to let people be aware that this is something.”
Because Collins carries this gene, she is more susceptible to having breast cancer again and has to get screened more frequently for the rest of her life.
By doctor’s recommendation, Collins also got a bilateral mastectomy because she had a higher chance of getting breast cancer again in the next five to 10 years.
The photo shoot was a boost of confidence for Collins. She is looking forward to seeing all the photos and having them printed.
“It looks beautiful,” said Balletti-Lavoie. “It’s wonderful that I was able to capture this time and those portraits will mean something to her and her family for years to come.”
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