Breast cancer patients creates e-book: “My surgeon recommends it to his patients”

MedZine editorial

Amsterdam, October 22th –

“Rather than living in fear of the unknown, I live in the knowledge that life is fantastic.” Those are the final words of the recently published e-book, created by breast cancer patient and photographer Kiki van de Laar, Courage through a lens. The book, which contains self-made photos of herself during all treatments, does not just reflect her strength and courage, but also her positive way of looking at life. “My surgeon is very enthusiastic and he recommended my book to some of his patients. He even asked me to make a printed version for in his waiting room.”

Van de Laar: “I did not create this book just for myself or my family and friends. I created it for other breast cancer patients and their family and friends. I wanted to provide them a tool of support and knowledge about what lies ahead of them and what they are going through.”

Diagnosis breast cancer

The Dutch Van de Laar is a professional photographer and together with her husband Rogier, she is always looking for adventure and the unknown. While five months pregnant of their first child, the young couple decides to move to Australia to start a new life. Four years later and after giving birth to two children, Van de Laar discovers a little lump in her breast. “It’s probably nothing, I thought”, Van de Laar says. A couple of weeks and a lot of testing, scans and biopsies later she finally gets the final conclusion: she has breast cancer.

Almost directly after the diagnosis, she knew that she had to do something with this new journey in her life. “As a professional photographer I can make the difference because I know how to catch a moment.” From that moment on, Van de Laar took her camera with her everywhere she went, from the waiting room to all the scans, chemo and even to operating theatre, on both the sad and happy moments.

Van de Laar undergoes a lumpectomy and it turns out that she suffers from an aggressive triple negative tumor. Hormone therapy is not going to cure her and she needs a mastectomy. After the surgery, Van de Laar gets the chemotherapy TAC for four months and subsequently radiotherapy for five days a week, six weeks long. And she recorded it all on her camera.


“For me it was really important to make all the photos myself. I wanted to show my readers the way I looked at my treatment, from my point of view.” Van de Laar didn’t get any problems with taking her photos. Everyone she met turned out to be supportive. “My doctors reacted very positive to my camera. It was great to see how supportive everyone was. They were all interested en I did receive nothing but collaboration,” a smiling Van de Laar tells.

Therefore, her photos are not hiding anything. Whoever reads the book gets pushed back and forth between pictures which are funny, special and sometime confronting. She shows the beautiful pictures of her shave off party, as well as those of the side effects of chemo and her scar that marks the place where her breast once used the be.

Van de Laar never thought of quitting. She always kept her mission in mind, every photo in her book had to help other patients. “For that reason I did not used my artistic pictures. I made a lot of those, but in my opinion they were not helpful enough. The photos on which I get punctured, get my chemo or go through radiotherapy are.” Her artistic photos are soon to be exhibit in the Flinders Medical Centre, the academic hospital she got her treatment.

Positive reactions

The e-book is published recently and Van de Laar already received a lot of positive reactions, also from her oncologist and surgeons. Additionally, fellow breast cancer patients recognize themselves in her story. “And for me that is great. One positive reaction is my green light to go on with what I’m doing. This just even make me even more happy.”

After her treatment finished, Van de Laar seemed to be cancer free. She now was able to enjoy her life the way she did before the cancer and promote her book as good as possible. However, when she starts to feel pain in her right shoulder and back and needs to go to the ER twice, she knows something is wrong. Both an MRI and bone scan confirm her fear. The cancer is back and know is in her brains and back. “I won’t recover. I asked my oncologist, ‘am I dying?’ ‘Yes’, he said, ‘you are dying.’”

Van de Laar now tries to spread her story in order to help as much people as possible. Not just by reading her book, but also because fifty percent of all book sale proceeds will be donated to the Australian breast cancer foundation and the Flinders Medical Centre. “This way I can give something back to those that helped me with this journey. I really want to make a difference in breast cancer research. It is my wish to hand over a huge amount of money. But for now the most important thing is that I’m happy, really happy. I’m very proud of my book and pleased that I was able to do this.

Van der Laar’s e-book can be ordered at her website. She is also trying to finish her bucket list. For this, she is gladly to accept donations as well.

*Photo: Kiki van de Laar