At Blackheath’s Night of Nights in April this year, the most exciting auction item was a collection of books produced by over 40 Blackheath residents, past and present.
This year alone, current Blackheath residents have already published at least three new books, including “Where Once Were Breasts: the inspirational journey of an astonishing body” by Deborah Wells.
Deborah’s memoir traces the journey of an extraordinary life on a number of levels. She describes her professional and creative achievements, but also the story of her physical body which has made her rich and diverse history possible.
Life leaves scars, physically and emotionally, but for those who’ve battled major health challenges like breast cancer, the scars are often more visible. Like all scars, they can be psychologically debilitating.
What makes Deb’s book and life so tansformative is that she found a way to turn her scars into art, and into a way to help and inspire other people to do the same.
After a double mastectomy Deb had to face the trauma of having lost an integral part of her identity, her ‘G-cup sized breasts’. In a Blue Mountains Gazette interview she related how, as a singer/performer, they’d been a big part of her persona … so much so that people often spoke about ‘Wellsy and the girls’!
Deborah Wells (image via her website)
In that interview she went on to say “My psychologist said it’s like having a limb removed and it is. It’s a whole chunk of your body that’s gone and, in my case, a large chunk.”
Dealing with the ugliness of the remaining scars was extremely challenging, she told Jennie Curtin: “They were so ugly. I couldn’t look at myself. I would dry them [after a shower] by feel.”
In 2018 she decided to transform her bi-lateral mastectomy scars into something beautiful. One of her passions is being a volunteer at the Campbell Rhododendron Gardens in Blackheath, so with a friend she designed a tattoo artwork that reflected her love of nature. It includes butterflies (rebirth), gladioli (strength) and Flanders poppies for remembrance.
She was so thrilled with the result that she photographically documented the process and it became the basis of “Where Once Were Breasts”
The story in her book begins at puberty and follows her career as a Musical Theatre performer in productions such as Into the Woods (Sydney Theatre Co.) and The Phantom of the Opera (Cameron Mcintosh Organisation). It also tells the story of her two episodes of breast cancer over a twenty year period.
Her inspirational message is that, “The loss of one’s breasts is definitely not the end.”
Deb will be telling this inspiring story at the dinner meeting of the Rotary Club of Blackheath on Thursday 27 June. The meeting is held at the Blackheath Golf and Community Club in Brightlands Avenue, and all are welcome. You can enjoy a meal from the bistro at 7pm (optional), followed by her presentation and book signing from 8pm.
Proceeds of all book sales go to Cancer Wellness Support. Copies are available online and at Cancer Wellness shops in Katoomba & Penrith as well as at both of their Treatment Centres. They’re also available at Megalong Books in Leura, Read on Books in Katoomba and Gleebooks in Blackheath.