We empower women with one or no breasts to feel good about their bodies through visibility and conversation at breast cancer events
- demonstrates the effects of treatment without shame or judgement in the setting of cancer awareness events
- let’s other women know that it’s okay to have one or no breasts
- counters the stigma that women with mastetctomies aren’t “whole”
- offers women suffering from “reconstructive burnout” a visible display of women thriving without breasts
- inspires body positivity which can be a path to healing, just take a look at our walks!
In 2019 a group of women without breasts took their shirts off to cross the finish line at a breast cancer awareness month (BCAM) walk. This vulnerable moment to embrace their bodies was met with cheers from walk participants and attention from the media. When the women applied to purchase an educational booth at the walk the following year, the breast cancer support organization declined their application and said they were not welcome at the event.
Advocates Renee Ridgeley and Stacey Sigman created Stand Tall AFC in response to the exclusion. In 2021, they placed a call to action for women with one or no breasts after mastectomy to walk at BCAM events, shirt on or shirt off. There was a resounding response from over 225 participants.
At the first Stand Tall AFC walk, a young woman came up to Renee and asked if her family could take a photo of them together. So they stood side by side, Renee breastless and shirtless, the young woman with breasts and a pink shirt. Then the young woman did something remarkable. She looked at her family, removed her shirt, unhooked her bra and let it fall to the ground along with the breast forms inside. She was flat, too. She put one arm around Renee and the other on her hip. She held her chin high as her family clapped, cheered and cried at her beauty and courage. Where she had been invisible, she was now seen and accepted.
This phenomenon of visibility as a catalyst for transformation repeats itself over and over again at breast cancer events. The vulnerable presence of Stand Tall AFC teams touches participants in a way that is unique and profound. In an instant, a woman can be set free of her shame. This is why we walk.
Stand Tall AFC FAQs
Q: Why a breast cancer awareness event?
A: Breast cancer awareness month (BCAM) in October brings tens of thousands of people together at public fundraising events. These ‘pink walks’ are opportunities to present AFC as a valid post-mastectomy option and destigmatize the loss of breasts. Over 100,000 women don’t replace their breasts after mastectomy every year or discontinue the process to reconstruct breasts.
Q: Is Stand Tall AFC a fundraiser?
A: STAFC does not encourage or discourage team members to donate to the event organizers (e.g. Komen, American Cancer Society, etc).
Q: Does everyone take their shirt off?
A: No. Breastless and one-breasted team members are visible in whatever way that feels right for them, shirts on or shirts off. Those with native or reconstructed breasts should not remove their shirts and one-breasted women should cover their remaining breast.
Q: Why do women choose AFC post-mastectomy?
A: AFC offers the lowest rates of complications, fastest recovery, no maintenance or surveillance of a foreign object (implant), no long term health risks, and makes wearing a breast prostheses more comfortable. Many women are not eligible for breast reconstruction, or may find it medically necessary to remove implants or failed tissue reconstruction.
Q: Do I need to have aesthetic flat closure to be on a team?
A: No, but all teams have at least one member that is flat and all members must be informed about AFC and support it as a valid option.
Q: Can I participate as a sole individual?
A: Yes, it only takes one person at a public awareness event to make a difference but we strongly encourage having at least 2 team members.
Q: Are there remote/online STAFC teams?
A: No. All teams participate at in-person events.
Q: Can I create a team for an event that is not during Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM)?
A: Yes. Even though most BCAM events occur during October, an event can be anytime of the year. All events needs to be first approved by Stand Tall AFC.
Q: How will Stand Tall AFC support my team?
A: STAFC volunteers send newsletters and host Zoom meetings. STAFC events are posted on the website and social media platforms to welcome those who wish to join a team.
Q: Can I buy Stand Tall t-shirts and posters?
A: No. Stand Tall AFC items are not for sale. Only team members who officially register & participate at the event receive free t-shirts.
Q: What if I can’t find a team or BCAM event near me?
A: If you don’t find a team near you, google “breast cancer events near me” and consider starting one. If you are unable to join a team, consider advocating by mail with sending free My Choice AFC brochures to local surgeons, oncologists and cancer support centers.
Scan the QR code for free resources about going flat
VISIBILITY — being seen as women without breast(s) helps destigmatize the effects of mastectomy.
EMPOWERMENT — being vulneable & accepted at breast cancer events can be healing for women without breast(s) and others impacted by breast cancer.
INFORMED CHOICE — patients should be presented post-mastectomy options with parity which includes using aesthetic flat closure (AFC) to replace “no reconstruction”.
DIGNITY — being whole is not dependent on breasts, hair or any body part lost to cancer or its prevention.
INCLUSION — STAFC members support patient rights to all post-mastectomy options including AFC, implants and tissue reconstruction.