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The Arts and Medicine
February 13, 2018

In Shadow and Light—Images of Transformation Through Breast Cancer

Author Affiliations
  • 1Petrie Institute of Western American Art, Denver Art Museum, Denver, Colorado
JAMA. 2018;319(6):532-534. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.21752

As an inevitable part of being human, illness challenges us to confront the truth of our vulnerability and strength. The collaborative exhibition Edges of Light: Images of Breast Transformation immerses the viewer in various stages of breast cancer and reconstructive surgery. When Dr Kimberly Myers, professor of English literature and medical humanities, received a diagnosis of stage I invasive ductal carcinoma of the breast, she asked photographer Wendy Palmer to record the appearance of her body prior to a double mastectomy. Surprised by the beauty of the images they created, the 2 worked together to document her transformation through breast reconstruction and recovery. Myers later wrote brief verbal reflections to accompany the photographic prints and began to see the series as a way to support other women with breast cancer facing similar uncertainties. Myers and Palmer created a traveling exhibit that celebrates the possibilities of modern medicine and the compassionate power of word and image.