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Women with terminal cancer captured in photos

Harriet McRae passed away from terminal breast cancer in September. Before her death she was photographed with her husband, Grant McRae.

Seven women facing incurable breast cancer have been captured in a moving series of photographs, but before these photos were released three of the women died.

New Zealand photographer Nigel Swinn photographed the women between June and September this year. They were pictured with their 'rock' - a person or group who have been supportive and loving throughout their journey with metastatic breast cancer.

The images were commissioned by Sweet Louise, New Zealand's only charity that raises awareness and provides support for those living with metastatic breast cancer. While primary breast cancer is treatable, metastatic breast cancer is terminal.

Metastatic breast cancer took Palmerston North woman Harriet McRae in August. The 53-year-old was a mother to two teenage children. Before her death Harriet chose to be photographed with greatest support person and husband, Grant McRae


When Palmerston North woman Tina Wright received her diagnosis in 2015 she was "utterly devastated".

"I remember going home and crying, but I wasn't crying because I was going to die from the cancer. I was crying because my girls were going to grow up without their mother."

Wright wanted to be pictured with her two daughters, eight-year-old Paige Pedersen and four-year-old Abbey Wright, because it's her girls who give her the determination to keep going.

"They and my husband are my life. They give me the motivation to keep fighting the disease and to try and be here as long as I can to watch them grow up." 

Wright is currently in a stable condition. She has received two rounds of chemotherapy since her diagnosis.

The 46-year-old Papakura mother was diagnosed with primary breast cancer in May 2012. Then, in November 2015 she was told it had metastasised to her bones. 

She says her oncologist, Dr Vernon Harvey, is a "very special person".

"I automatically had a very trusting relationship with him in who he is professionally, but he's also a really lovely person.

"He has a real personal touch and has this really cheeky smile. We always have a laugh."

Dr Harvey has "empowered" Rosie to make tough decisions about her treatment plan. 

Rosie's grandmother died of breast cancer at 48 and her mother has also battled the disease.

Considering her family history of breast cancer Rosie opted to have a bilateral mastectomy after the initial diagnosis in 2012. She's also undergone chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

Lower Hutt woman Mary Margaret Schuck took the Sweet Louise photo series as an opportunity to recognise the friendship she's received from her local church choir.

The 53-year-old mother of three, originally from Toronto, says she has always loved singing. "I've sung since I was a young child. For me it's something that nourishes me."

The choir's love of singing and their shared faith provides an intangible, yet invaluable help.

"The thing about metastatic breast cancer is you know it is going to take you in the end.

"So when I'm facing that knowing they are praying for me makes a meaningful difference."

​Schuck was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer in 2016 when it spread into her rib cage, affecting the nerves in her lungs. 

"It makes breathing and my ability to sing difficult. Sometimes I forget to breath and I feel like I'm choking."

She had a pre-emptive double mastectomy in 2008 and currently depends on a drug, called Ibrance to give her a better quality of life and more time with their loved ones.

For Aucklander Susan Clark her yoga teacher Nadine Simsar has given her the ability to handle her diagnosis. 

The 49-year-old took up yoga as a way of coping with the disease almost a decade ago. 

"I've got really great benefits from yoga and meditation. It helps me to relax. 

"Nadine has shown me how to focus on my body and how to practise mindfulness. She is an inspiration and a friend."

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