A former Venezuelan beauty queen's candid photographic diary showing her bald and recovering from cancer was credited with a surge in the number of women in the South American country seeking breast examinations, The Guardian reported Monday.
Eva Ekvall, a 28-year-old Miss Universe finalist and TV news anchor, was urged to chronicle her battle against the disease after being diagnosed with advanced cancer in February a year ago.
Prominent Venezuelan photographer Roberto Mata suggested keeping a record of the treatment and domestic life with her husband and newborn daughter.
"In the beginning, I wasn't sure if I looked good or not. Then I realized that wasn't the point. I wasn't supposed to look good, I had cancer," said Ekvall, who completed treatment in October and is now in recovery.
She continued her TV work, wearing a wig and heavy makeup to disguise her private battle. But she said she was distressed by her dramatic physical changes.
"It's painful to look at yourself in the mirror," she said. "Your face gets swollen. You lose every single hair in your body, your eyebrows, your eyelashes. You become some weird animal or something. You don't recognize yourself. That was scary, especially because my job has to do with my looks. I had to look decent and not appear sick."
But now her stark images, released in a book, were said to be helping to push the nation's women to deal with a subject that was traditionally swept under the rug.
"There's a huge taboo around breast cancer," Ekvall said. "But in this country, people get their boobs done every day, so I don't understand how breast cancer can be a problem when everybody's showing their breasts."
She added, "The pictures were very shocking because nobody had ever seen me that way. Nobody had seen me bald, without makeup. So I knew they would be shocking."