Daring to bare at Bitterne gym

Daily Echo: Wendy Peters, the woman behind the calendar Wendy Peters, the woman behind the calendar

THEY all have their own stories to tell.

From fighting personal battles with cancer to having loved ones who have lost their lives to the disease, every woman who stripped off for the Curves Breast Cancer Care calendar has her own reasons for taking part.

The calendar was the idea of Wendy Peters, who owns and runs Curves women only gym in Bitterne.

Wendy, from Chandler’s Ford, lost a close friend to breast cancer, who was in her 30s when she died and left two small children. Since then, she has raised a lot of money for Breast Cancer Care. So when one of her clients mentioned that her daughter had started a photography business and asked if she could photograph Wendy, the idea of creating a charity calendar came to her in a flash.

“The Calendar Girls film is all about the camaraderie between the women and I thought that at Curves it’s so similar – we are all about supporting each other,” says Wendy.

“Every part has been done by a member or someone connected to the gym – the hair, makeup, video testimonials of the women who took part, the photography and the models.”

Wendy had no difficulty recruiting 11 women from the gym to star alongside her in the calendar.

Among them is Donna Jacobs, who has fought cancer twice – in 2011 and 2012.

The mother of two discovered that she had cancer in 2011, when she went to hospital to have haemorrhoids treated, but tests revealed she had anal cancer. A year later, she had to have a tumour removed from her chest cavity that doctors said had been growing since childhood.

“It was a huge shock,” says the 50-year-old from Townhill Park. “They say not to look on the Internet, but I did – it made me feel more prepared for it. “My experiences definitely motivated me to take part in the calendar,” she adds.

Daily Echo:

Donna Jacobs

“I’ve had quite a few relatives and friends who have had breast cancer too.”

She says that she was nervous when the evening of shooting came, but that she has been very pleased with the results.

“My daughters both really like it and my boyfriend says he is really proud,” she says.

“I am too – it took guts and a glass of wine to do it!”

Jean Donnarumma agrees that it was a bit nerve-racking, but good fun taking part.

The 61-year-old from Sholing who is ‘Miss July’ says that taking part in the shoot has given her more confidence.

A number of her friends have fought cancer and survived and she thinks it’s important for people to know that you can come back from cancer.

Daily Echo:

Jean Donnarumma

She has fought back from ill-health herself, having survived a heart attack two-and-a-half years ago, and says that attending the gym has been an important part of her recovery.

Linda Templeton used to be a bra fitter and says that seeing so many women come in who had had mastectomies as a result of breast cancer inspired her to take part.

“It can affect anyone and any age – so many women are affected. I’d have done anything to help,” says the 63-year-old from Bitterne.

Daily Echo:

Linda Templeton

“I also wanted to do it for Wendy and for Curves. Since I started coming here I’ve lost two stone. Before I couldn’t walk for five minutes. Now I can walk five miles comfortably.

“I definitely wouldn’t have considered doing something like this before I started coming here – not even to save my house!”

Sue Flooks lost her sister, Pat, and her cousin to breast cancer when both women were in their 40s. Since then, the 63-year-old from Bitterne has supported anything to do with fighting cancer.

“I decided to be in the calendar because it was for Breast Cancer Care,” she says.

“It was great fun doing it and I’m very happy with the calendar. I’ve been selling it to my friends and colleagues – most people know someone who has been touched by breast cancer, so they’re happy to help fundraising.”

Daily Echo:

Sue Flooks

Sue adds that as well as raising funds, it’s important to raise awareness about breast cancer.

“It can affect anyone, young or old. It’s important to examine yourself and also go for your mammograms.

Nowadays I think people are more proactive about it because they’re more prepared to talk about it.”

Rachel Presland also lost a friend to cancer very recently.

“She’d had a double mastectomy at a young age, some time before we met,” says the 43-year-old from Southampton.

“She was fortunate because the treatment she received meant that she had a family and grandchildren and she had a really full life.”

Daily Echo:

Rachel Presland

Again it was the combination of her desire to do something to help fight breast cancer and the closeness of the community at Curves that made her decide to take part.

Having had a cousin pass away in her 40s, Meg Porter was keen to take part in the calendar. After losing five stone and dropping from a size 28 to 14 since joining the gym, she has gone from not wanting to be in family photos to being happy to strip down to her underwear and photographed for the calendar.

“I was very surprised when Wendy asked me to take part in the calendar – but then I realised how much my confidence had grown,” says the 61-year-old from Bitterne. “Now I’m quite proud of my body.”

Wendy says that some great friendships have already been forged between the women who took part in the calendar – who range in age from 39 to 74 – and other club members have already been asking to take part next year.

And it isn’t just the women who took part in the calendar directly who are getting involved in fundraising with it – club members have been working together to sell it, even staffing market stalls.

Some 2,000 calendars have been printed and are being sold for £3 each or £5 for two, but Wendy says that many people are donating more for their calendar.

The women who took part in the calendar were sponsored to cover the printing costs, so all money raised goes to Breast Cancer Care, with Wendy hoping to raise £5,000.

“It would be lovely if they sold out,” she says.

“We’ve already got other members asking if they can be involved next year.”

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