Elaine Alden had her first boudoir photography session done years before she was diagnosed with breast cancer‐a boudoir shoot had been on her to-do list, so she went ahead and did it and felt beautiful and confident in her body. But as she journeyed through breast cancer, everything she thought she knew about what made her beautiful changed.
Elaine was working as an instructional math coach at Benjamin Franklin Elementary School in Yorktown Heights when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She found herself longing for that sense of confidence she’d felt at her first boudoir shoot, so she decided to return to Laura Boyd’s studio, Own Your Sexy.
“I realized the last time I felt good and smart and sexy and powerful was when I was with Laura, so I immediately sent her a message, and said, ‘Hey, document this journey with me,'” says Elaine.
With Laura’s help, Elaine documented her pre-treatment body, how she looked during chemotherapy without hair, and then how she looked after two rounds of treatment.
“It has really changed my whole outlook on myself and what it means to be beautiful,” says Elaine.
If you had asked her what beautiful meant four years ago, she says, she probably would have mentioned a size four body, flawless skin, and long eyelashes. But things have changed drastically since losing her hair to chemo and her breasts to a double mastectomy. Now she says beauty is more of a mental state.
“Beauty is strength, feeling comfortable in your own skin, having the mental fortitude and mindset that you can tackle anything that comes along the way,” she says. “I honor my body more. I put one of the harshest chemo regimens in, and my body withstood it, and I’m still here. It’s okay if I have a little bit of a muffin top. As awful as this journey has been, I feel like I found a really big part of myself 44 years in.”
Luckily, Elaine also has a supportive husband at home who loves her and believes she is beautiful no matter what her body looks like and has been trying to get her to do confidence-boosting exercises like a boudoir photo shoot for a very long time.
“It’s something that I have been trying to do for her for years, to help her see how beautiful she is and how special she is,” says Elaine’s husband, Chris. “And I know it sounds crazy that it took cancer for her to find this inner beauty and strength, but it’s there and these (boudoir) photos are a beautiful testament of who she is. She has absorbed this moniker of ‘Wonder Woman.’ I look at myself some days and I wonder where I can find that strength that she has.”
Check out the video below to see one of Elaine’s boudoir shoots and learn more about her story.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?