You are still a woman, beautiful inside and out
Three mastectomies and reconstruction
I want women to know if you lose a breast, you are still a woman, beautiful inside and out. That is how I feel, and it’s how my husband has made me feel. I cried the first time I saw it, but now I don’t mind. I want women to know it’s not as bad as it seems. You’re still the same person.
My husband has been there for me 100%. He’s made sure I always feel like a woman. When I lost my hair I wore a little sleep hat or wig, and he used to flick the wig off, make me laugh, and say, ‘It doesn’t matter, you’re still you.’ There’s a lot of humour, and he’s very emotionally supportive. He would hold me all through the night during the worst times. I couldn’t fault him.
Last year we thought it might have gone to the brain and that was the hardest time. I remember sitting, rocking on the floor, terrified. All I thought about was not being there for my daughter and husband. I had an MRI on Christmas Eve and found out I was clear. We just burst into tears.
In the end it was the best Christmas I have ever had. Every day I feel like I am living the last day of my life. I appreciate everything, the trees, breathing the air, the people I love. Thinking you might die changes how you feel about life. I appreciate people more, particularly my daughter. She is twenty, but she’s still my little baby.
She was amazing when I lost my hair. When my hair came out in clumps she held me while I sobbed. The lovely thing is we’ve spent a lot of time together. She came to my treatments with me. It was like having a best friend with me. I’m very proud of her.
I have the gene, so my daughter will have to be tested. She’s not going to rush it though. She’s very vigilant. If she has the gene she will have risk reducing surgery when she’s older.
I’ve had three mastectomies. After the reconstruction surgery the wound started opening up. I had to go back in a few times. The implant was bursting out. I couldn’t look at it, my husband had to change my dressings for me. They couldn’t start my chemo on time, because I just had this hole in my body. And once it did start they couldn’t give me the sixth chemo because of the infection, they said it could kill me.
They will have to do more surgery on my breasts, so I’m toying with having another reconstruction. I’m used to how I look in the mirror, and my husband doesn’t mind, but buying clothing is frustrating. I’d like to be able to wear a nice summer dress.
Despite what I have been though, I am lucky. I am here, with my family and friends, and that’s all that matters.
I love my wig now, it’s part of me
My hairdresser made me a wig in case I needed chemo. In the end I didn’t need chemo, but the hormone treatment thinned my hair out anyway. I love my wig now, it’s part of me. It makes me feel like who I was before the surgery.
I had very, very big breasts before the surgery – size 38KK breasts. From KK to nothing… All my adult life, my breasts have been a big part of me. People used to see them before they saw me. I had to learn how to dress for them, what styles suited me. They made me a woman I guess. Having a bilateral mastectomy took that all away from me.
After the surgery, and after my hair thinned out, I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror. I felt like I had lost my femininity, the things that made a woman. The wig has replaced both my hair and breasts.
Cancer has taught me that life is short. I’m in my mid 40s and if I want to be glamorous every day, I will. I make an effort every day. My hair is part of the way I feel glamorous.
I had bleeding from my nipples and they found pre-cancerous cells. There’s a family history, so as a precaution they removed all of my milk ducts. My husband didn’t think twice, he said, ‘They’ve got to go.’ I was worried it would impact on our relationship, but it didn’t. He’s an amazing man. He loves me for who I am.
We’ve got a little boy who’s eight now. The mastectomies affected him more than anyone else in the family. He loves his ‘mummy cuddles’. After my breasts were gone cuddles weren’t the same for him. He asked me not to come to school without my prostheses because he didn’t want his friends to know my breasts were gone. I hated having to wear the prostheses, they are very uncomfortable, but I wore them every day for him. (cries) I didn’t want him to be bullied, I didn’t want him to be sad. But they were heavy and my scars became sore and inflamed. I learnt that if I wore patterned tops he didn’t notice. So I started wearing busy floral prints. One day he noticed and said, ‘Mummy, you’re not wearing them. You look OK actually! You don’t have to wear them anymore, Mummy, because I don’t think anyone will notice. I didn’t.’
I’ve found that in the black community, women don’t talk about breast cancer that much. I’ve known women who have died from breast cancer in the Caribbean rather than go to the doctor. I think it’s cultural. I wonder if people think that there is a stigma, that cancer is a bad thing. My mum has just been diagnosed after finding lumps in her breasts. She lives in the Caribbean. She said to me, ‘If I go to the doctor, everyone on the island will know.’ So I had to arrange for her to fly to a different island and have the biopsy. I want this to raise awareness.
Cancer has been a beautiful gift, but in ugly wrapping paper
Single mastectomy and reconstruction
I’d just turned 40 when I found a lump during a shower. The news that I had to have a breast removed took my breath away. The sentence ‘We have to remove your breast’ was horrible, but of course you would do anything to survive.
It was a long saga. I spent most of that year on treatment: surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The following year I had three attempts at reconstruction. For some reason my body wouldn’t accept the implants. I woke up and they were upside down on my body, they wouldn’t settle. I have never heard of this happening to anyone else – it’s bizarre! After the second time, the surgeons used the flap technique, using my own body to reconstruct a breast. They didn’t choose this technique in the first place, because I don’t really have enough body fat. There was a risk of failure, and then there would have been no options. I really crossed my fingers this would work! Finally, I had five years of hormone treatment.
I am now totally happy with the results. It is numb, but it feels warm, just like a natural breast, whereas the other one was hard and cold. Also, if I gain or lose weight, it does the same.
I used to have a high flying job as an engineer, a cartographer. I loved my work. Then I was diagnosed with cancer and everything went on hold. I struggled after treatment to go back to my work. I identified myself very strongly with work and my role, so I felt like I lost my identity during that time. I was in limbo, I couldn’t move on, as though everything had been taken away from me, not just my breast. Then I got in touch with a life coach, and that was a life changing experience. I realised it was what I wanted to with my life, it became my calling. A completely different career!
I used to map the world, and as a coach I help people to map their lives. So there is still a relationship with what I used to do, I am still a cartographer in a way.
Then I had this light bulb moment. Why not use my coaching skills and my personal experience with breast cancer? I found a partner, a GP who is a breast cancer survivor, and we set up LYLAC, Live Your Life After Cancer. We support people when they come out of treatment and they need support, to help to map their lives, build confidence and plan for the future.
Because of cancer I have changed, my job has changed and there have been positives. Sometimes we need these wake up calls in life. I can say now that cancer has been a gift to me – a beautiful gift, but in ugly wrapping paper.
Cancer was like an unwanted house guest, it made a mess, had parties, then went
Three mastectomies and reconstruction
I have a long and complicated breast cancer history. Lumpectomy, bilateral mastectomies, reconstruction, recurrence of cancer, third mastectomy and two rounds of chemo.
When I had the bilateral mastectomy I thought about what my breasts meant to me as a mother, a woman, a lover. Up until that point I had taken them for granted. I am a feminist and don’t see myself as defined by my breasts, but losing them was terrible. If I wanted to live, for my daughter, that was the sacrifice I had to make.
I didn’t want to remove them, I wanted to keep them if I could, and that’s why I had reconstruction. After cancer was found again and I lost one of the reconstructed breasts, I was devastated. I felt like I had worked so hard to overcome my genetic destiny, only to fail. I’d tried to be one up on cancer, had the risk reducing surgery, but I couldn’t outwit cancer. When the construction failed, I felt like I had failed.
My scars represent all the pain I have experienced. My body is a map. Every scar tells a story of vulnerability. On the one hand I have learnt a lot and take some positives from the experience, but cancer is also a deadly disease which causes pain and loss. I feel like I live this dichotomy.
Cancer was like an unwanted house guest, it made a mess, had parties, then went. I shut the door behind it and went, ‘Phew, thank goodness you’re gone, don’t come back.’ But when I found out I had the BRCA mutation I felt like the cancer was part of me. I didn’t simply acquire it, it came from within. I think we are taught to believe in our culture that we have more control over our bodies than we do. When you are breastfeeding, your milk comes in and your body knows what to do, it has a will of its own. When cancer arrives in your breast, it can feel like your body has a will of it’s own in a different way.
When you go through treatment for cancer your body becomes a source of pain, rather than pleasure. Surgery involves cutting, chemotherapy involves what feels like poison going through you, radiotherapy involves burning to your skin. Your physical sensations take on a different meaning. And while that is going on everyone wants to hug you, to kiss you, but actually you don’t want to be touched. So it’s not just about breasts, it’s about what touch means to your whole body. At a very fundamental level cancer affects your relationship with your whole body. You have to re-learn that touch can equal pleasure, not just pain.
Only my daughter sees me naked. I don’t hide from my husband, I could go to greater lengths, but he hasn’t seen me naked. My chest has to be covered. It took me a long time to look at the scars myself. I couldn’t just let anyone photograph me. The Bare Reality book is wonderful and inspired me to take the leap. I bought it to help my daughter make sense of her body as she goes through puberty, to understand what real women’s breasts look like and mean to them, rather than the sexualised images young people come into contact with.
Today has taken courage. I feel my body has a story and I want to give my body and story a voice. My pain has been a secret. I hope this will help other women know you can survive pain.
I’m proud cancer didn’t beat me psychologically
My mother died of breast cancer six months before I was diagnosed. I was pregnant with my daughter, when cancer was found in her brain, lungs and liver. She became slowly sicker and sicker before my daughter was born. She asked the doctor if she would see the baby. We didn’t think she would make it but she held on. Luckily she got to meet her, but by that point she was already quite ill. She held her once, she understood.
I breastfed my baby. Around the time when my mother died, one side stopped producing much milk. I could express 10 ounces out of one side, but only two out of the other. The health visitor thought it was probably just the shock and grief. Of course, in hindsight, it was the tumour. I kick myself now, but at the time there was no reason to think it was cancer. Despite my grandmother, mother and I all having breast cancer, we don’t have a genetic factor. When I was finally diagnosed it was very big and had spread to my lymph nodes.
It was a car crash time. I was so cross when I was diagnosed. I remember thinking, ‘I don’t have time for this.’ I had to juggle my mum being ill, having a baby, mum dying, going back to work. It seemed so unfair. I was determined not to let it affect me. I carried on working and even cycled to chemo. There was another woman at the hospital who cycled to chemo, and I thought, ‘Right, I can do it too.’ I’ve been strong enough to get through it. I’m proud I had the resolve not to let cancer beat me psychologically.
I had size AA breasts before. I wasn’t aesthetically attached to them. I’d rather stay alive and eliminate the risk. I didn’t go through reconstruction because I didn’t want to spend any more time in hospital and more operations. Maybe if my mum hadn’t just died I wouldn’t have been so worried about dying. But I felt they were causing too much trouble in the world. They were responsible for taking mum, responsible for what was happening to me, and I didn’t want them anymore. From the point of diagnosis they were gone in my mind.
My surgeon and oncologist are still worried I made a rash decision, and ask if I am sure I don’t want reconstruction. The longer you wait, the harder it is to have reconstruction. Having a reconstruction is the default decision. I don’t know why they worry so much.
I desperately want to get back to how it was. But everything feels different. I remember the night I was going into labour, and I went to bed. I remember how our bedroom felt that night. I want to get back to that feeling. Now when I go to bed I don’t have that feeling, instead there is a risky, scary feeling hanging over me. I hope I will get past it in time, feel less scared. Maybe.
Agonising about what we look like is a waste of our time and talent.
Lumpectomy and mammoplasty
I was so mad busy at Christmas that I forgot all about my mammogram and didn’t go. Luckily, I was sent a letter about a new appointment. It was devastating to find out I had breast cancer. I had a lumpectomy. After that, they found out there was a bit more, so I had to have another surgery, similar to breast reduction.
Even though you know some people are cured from breast cancer, others die. It took a while for the seriousness to sink in. I had chemotherapy and radiotherapy and am on hormones now. I’m really grateful to the health service, all the doctors and nurses. I could have had the other breast reduced to match, but I didn’t want another operation. No one is going to stare at my breasts and think they are odd. If they do, then that’s their problem!
You can’t open a magazine or newspaper without seeing someone’s idea of ‘perfect’. It makes me angry. People are so much more than what they look like. I know it affects men too, but there is so much for women to agonise about. Agonising about what we look like is a waste of our time and talent.
I’ve modelled for a life drawing class. It was a wonderful experience. The artists were enjoying looking at my body in a non-sexual way. It was eye-opening. Everyone’s pictures were all so different.
I also did a nude photo shoot for an art exhibition called Happy in My Skin. I was a little bit nervous, but there is safety in numbers. We stripped off, put our dressing gowns on and went down to the sea. It was a lovely hot day and of course there were loads of people there! We threw off our robes and ran into the water. We were jumping up and down and hugging each other and it was indescribably joyous. We are all unique and we all realised there is nothing wrong with us. I don’t know who decides who is ‘perfect’.
So, I felt fine about this photograph. I am more nervous about talking. I think I am very ordinary. I don’t have a special story. I like gardening, I like to spend my money on plants. When they grow, thrive and spread that gives me real joy. I like the cinema, theatre, meeting friends, and I have two wonderful daughters. I’m interested in doing things and not thinking about what I look like. So my relationship with my body hasn’t really changed.
The idea of having photographs of real women, not celebrities, on Stella McCartney’s website is mind-blowing. It’s such a positive step in the right direction. I think it would be good to see real women in adverts as well. I wish there was less talk in the media about what women look like. For example, politicians – who cares about her shoes, trousers, top, where she bought them and what they cost and what they look like? It makes me cross.
We won’t know if my fertility is affected until we start trying
Single mastectomy and reconstruction
I was diagnosed when I was 27 and had just got married. I want to have children some day, so I went through the first stages of IVF before chemo.
We won’t know if my fertility is affected until we start trying. I’m on hormones at the moment, in a temporary state of menopause, and I need to stay on these drugs for five years at least. So, I don’t even want to think about it at the moment.
We have eight frozen embryos. We have turned it into a cute little joke, where if we end up having to use those, we can say to them, ‘Well you were conceived when we were in our mid-twenties, so if you’re naughty it’s because we were too immature then!’ But hopefully they are an insurance plan and we won’t have to use them. It would be a long drawn out process, and I don’t want any more procedures. If things could be a little more natural from now on, I would appreciate it!
In the fertility clinic I was surrounded by all these lovely couples who were trying to get pregnant. Someone asked me how long I had been trying. Not a day in my life! That was a challenging start to the whole cancer process.
I didn’t have a great relationship with my breasts before all this. My remaining nipple is half inverted, and the other was completely inverted. I was bashful about them because I thought I didn’t look normal. The more ‘perfect’ media breasts I saw everywhere, the more bashful I became. In fact, I thank my breasts for stopping me from being too sexually promiscuous when I was young, because I was too ashamed of them to do anything sexually! I didn’t loathe my breasts, I just didn’t want to flash them about. When I met my husband I didn’t care though, because he was amazing and loved me no matter what. I used to worry about whether I would be able to breastfeed one day…If I am able to get pregnant I’ll have to see if I can breastfeed with one breast with a half inverted nipple!
Sexually, I don’t know if I will ever get used to the reconstruction. If my husband touches it, it shocks my brain, and it interrupts that lovely little place you enter… My husband and I couldn’t have been closer during everything, but sexually things just stopped for a while. You kind of become sad puppies together. It’s all love, but sexually we went into hibernation for a while.
People are afraid of cancer, but it’s so common now. I know this sounds strange, but there’s nothing really to be afraid of. Going through treatment is not as bad as you think it’s going to be. People find their own ways of dealing with it, their own way of owning the experience, whether it’s wearing a wig or not wearing a wig. Choosing something like that can give you a feeling of control.
I tell myself I am going to live till I’m 90
Mastectomy and reconstruction
I couldn’t feel a lump, I had a pain under my arm. My boss’s mother had just died of breast cancer so she insisted I go to the doctor. It turned out I had a 5cm tumour with legs, like a little spider. It was painful because the little spider legs had started to go under my arm.
The lump was very close to my bone so I am regularly checked for bone cancer. They think I am going to be OK. I’m now going to go down to six monthly MRIs and bone scans. Worrying about the cancer spreading has been the worst thing.
I had a really rough time mentally. I struggled with the fear of dying, mainly because of my boys who are four and nine. I used to think about dying every day. I was so scared I couldn’t sleep. (cries) My partner had to hold my hand all through the night. You can believe every day you are going to die, or you can believe every day you are going to live till you are 90. You know what? No one knows. Every time I get a negative thought I tell myself I am going to live until I’m 90.
You’ve probably heard the chemo stories. Your hair falls out, your eyebrows fall out, your nails fall off, your bones ache. It’s fucking horrendous what happens to you. Oh, and the sickness. I was in hospital for a week each time in recovery.
But I want to talk about the success. I’ve radically changed my life. I think you have to. I changed my stressful job. I green juice every day. I exercise as much as I can – yoga, little runs, walks in the park, meditation. I’ve massively reduced my alcohol intake, but every now and then I have a blow out, because, fuck it. I forgive myself that. Do I really believe all this makes a difference? I’m on the fence, but I don’t want to look back and think I didn’t do everything I could to help myself.
Life has gone by in a blink. It makes me sad. So now, I really live in the now. I’m a better mum, a better wife, my friendships are closer, I have more empathy. Everything is more meaningful. If I had never had this experience, who would I be? You have to say, ‘I am bold, and strong and I am going to live through it.’
My partner has been brilliant. We’ve been together 11 years and we just got married. We’re in love again! We’re so solid.
You always think you have another day to something. You know when your kid says, ‘Can we play? Can we read a book?’ The dads do a lot of the fun stuff, while we mums make dinner or whatever. This has made me spend more time with them. I’m more conscious of their feelings and listen to them. I will sit down and read a book now. My oldest son knew what cancer was and was very scared. He became angry with for being ill. I have had to woo him back, make him feel comfortable, make him feel it’s safe to love me.
If in doubt, don’t leave things because you’re busy. If I hadn’t gone to the doctor about my sore arm I might not be here today. It’s that simple. I wanted to do this to increase awareness. It can happen to anyone.
It’s unfortunate you have to go through something as big as this to know you have to live in the now. All those things you realise on your deathbed, I know them now, and I take them with me. My life will have more purpose now, and that’s a good thing.
My scars are like smiley faces
At the time of being diagnosed I’d never seen a mastectomy scar. That really frightened me. I didn’t know what the future held. I didn’t know what I would look like after my surgery. We don’t see the scars, and we need to see the scars. For me, the fear at the beginning was the worst part. And it took me two weeks to look at the scars after the operation. I even hid them under a shirt in the bath. I know it was ridiculous. But I know women who have waited months or even years before looking at their scars. The one in eight women who are going to get breast cancer need to know what to expect, to take the fear away.
People are embarrassed by breast cancer. I don’t know why. Because they’re breasts? The breasts are gone! When people lose limbs that isn’t hidden away in the same way as mastectomy scars.
After the initial panic, I felt strong, ready to fight this. I also want to be a positive role model. There is a lot of breast cancer in my family. In the event that my daughter or niece have to face it, I want them to see that life gets better again. I’ve been volunteering to do lots of crazy things – this project is just one of them!
I used to get stressed and now I go with the flow. I worry less about trivial things. I’ve fought a massive fight and I am proud of my body. I used to pick it apart, like most women do, didn’t like this part, didn’t like that part. Now I would encourage women to appreciate their bodies the way they are. I’ve gone through so much, and I’m still standing. I wouldn’t have chosen to have this but I am proud of my scars. They are like smiley faces.
I breastfed my children when they were babies, so they had done their job. Before the mastectomies, my kids ran around singing, ‘Bye bye boobies, thank you for the dinners!’ as a joke.
I had a friend who said she thought breastfeeding is perverted. That made me really sad. If there are people in society who feel that way, then something is really, really wrong with society. That’s what breasts are there for! I do understand some people choose not to breastfeed, and that’s fine, but it’s certainly not perverted. It shocks me that people feel that way.
We need to change attitudes. Get it out there. Talk about it. I’ve never been extroverted, never been one to stand in front of a camera. But I want people to know that having breast cancer isn’t as bad as you would imagine. It’s frightening, painful and gruelling at times, but it’s manageable. Thousands of women are managing it every day.
Cancer is a lonely place. You can be surrounded by love, family and friends, but still feel alone on your path. That loneliness stems from fear so we need to talk about it and normalise it. I got to 44 and I’d never seen mastectomy scars, even through I knew people who had them. Sadly women are diagnosed every day. We need to help take away the fear.
I didn’t get the chance to grieve for the baby
I feel more normal-looking when I wear prostheses, but the bras for them are not very comfy or pretty. They don’t seem to be for younger people. I love this bra. It’s so comfy and pretty. We need more of these.
To be honest I wasn’t too bothered about losing my breasts because I just wanted the cancer gone. I was a size AA before the mastectomy, I was too small to have a lumpectomy, so you wouldn’t think there would be much difference, but my chest actually goes in now. In some tops you can see the concave shape. Not all clothes look right with no breasts. Some days I feel upset if I try on old clothes. Of course, I’d rather that, than have cancer.
I’ve got no breasts, I’m in the menopause and, when I was bald as well, there was just nothing that made me feel like a girl. For about a month I couldn’t get undressed in front of my partner.
I haven’t thought much about whether to have reconstruction, because for a while they thought the cancer had spread to my bones. Touch wood, I am clear, but I had four months of thinking I might have bone cancer. I don’t know how I coped. I cried a lot, took anti-depressants.
My mum was in pieces. She always says, ‘It should be me.’ My sister wishes it was her because she already has a daughter. I was pregnant last year and we lost the baby. The doctors think the pregnancy hormones spurred on the cancer, because I had the oestrogen cancer. My nipple had changed, which they thought might be from the pregnancy but they gave me an ultrasound to be sure, and that’s when we found out. It’s been a horrible eighteen months. I didn’t get the chance to grieve for the baby, because there were only four weeks between the miscarriage and the diagnosis. They can’t guarantee that the cancer won’t come back if I try and get pregnant again. I’m too scared to risk it.
My partner and I are much closer now. He’s my best friend and I am more in love with him than I ever have been. He kisses my scars.
I’m a nurse. You get used to giving bad news when you’re a nurse, but I have great empathy for the other side of it now. I really want to work in chemotherapy – who better to give chemo than someone who’s had it?
I’ve been stripped of everything, literally. Hair, eyebrows, eyelashes gone, ovaries shut down. I’ve been to the lowest point. Anything after that is better. This is going to sound strange, but I am more confident now.
The day I found out I didn’t have bone cancer I was so excited. I say ‘yes’ to everything now. Like this! I love life. I absolutely love it. I feel like I have a second chance.
I can’t run away from my body
Single mastectomy and reconstruction.
I like the photograph in Bare Reality of the woman who has a tattoo where her breast used to be. I’m a bit jealous of that! So, when I saw you were looking for more women for this project, I thought it would be really cathartic for me.
After I had my surgery it took me time to show people my scars. One of my daughters said, ‘Mummy I never want to see you walk around the house without clothes on again!’ But they have got used to it. I’ve shown my friends now as well. Some people say it’s not that bad, because they are trying to reassure me. But I showed a friend after we had a couple of glasses of wine and she burst into tears. I thought, ‘Oh god, it must look really bad!’ (laughs)
There were only two weeks between the diagnosis and the surgery, I didn’t have time to think about what was happening. The cancer was quite far advanced. I remember the nurses showing me pictures of other women who had had the same sort of surgery and I was absolutely horrified that none of them had a nipple. I remember thinking, ‘Holy shit! Where the bloody hell is the nipple?’ I found that hard to deal with. I don’t know why.
I was given a stick-on nipple to wear. They show you a selection box of 12 nipples. I did think about getting a comedy one and surprising my husband with a massive one or a teeny tiny one. You have to find some humour in this somewhere! At first the nipple helped, it made me match. But then I couldn’t see the point, it kept falling off and I lost it on the consultant’s couch! I was too embarrassed to phone up: ‘Have you found a nipple?’ (laughs)
I’ve always liked my breasts. I breastfed two children, and I was happy to be able to do that. I felt like my breasts had been treacherous getting cancer.
I’d love to be that woman who doesn’t care about her scars, be cool with it, but I don’t feel that way, and it’s been 15 months. To start with I was glad I had the surgery, I wanted the cancer gone. Now, I’m completely at odds with my body and what’s happened to it. I would like to have the sort of body someone would glance at and think it’s a normal female body, one that has the composite parts. At the moment it doesn’t feel like part of me. It’s a mutilation. (cries) I want to be more normal. I look at old photographs and I’d give anything to go back to that feeling of invincibility.
I’m not going to be that perfect cancer patient who eats her healthy food. If I am going to pop off any time soon, I want to feel alive, and sometimes kick and scream about it if I want.
I think I’m at a particularly difficult stage, it’s harder than having the chemo. I’m tired and emotionally rumpled. What I want is not to be in this body any more. I want to run away, but I can’t run away from my body.
This whole journey was meant to happen
One morning, just by accident, I brushed my breast in the shower and felt a lump. I already had an appointment to see the doctor that very day. I feel like I was meant to find it.
When I went for the results of the mammogram and the biopsy, there were two doctors in the room, so I instantly knew it was bad news. I could see a load of notes on the desk and I made out the words ‘breast cancer’. I found myself making polite conversation, ‘This room is so pink isn’t it?’ and chatting to the doctors to make them feel better!
I’m a spiritual person, I’ve always had faith, and I feel as though this whole journey was meant to happen. I see it as a blessing rather than something bad. Given the choice to have my life back as it was before, or go through it all again, I would choose the cancer. I’ve learnt and developed so much and I can use that to help other people. It feels like this is what I’m meant to do in life, my direction, my path.
The day after I was diagnosed, the nurse sat my down and said the worst things. She said it was going to be awful, I’d be depressed, sit at home, watch daytime TV eating crisps, give up work and give up on life. That is what she told me. Really. She was trying to be helpful but she told me I would be so depressed I would find it hard to fit into society. I thought, ‘Wow, this is crazy’.
The day I finished my treatment another nurse said, ‘You must be so depressed and tired, get back into work when you can.’ I’d never given up work or given up on life. So, right from the beginning, I knew I needed to help change things, and I set up Hello Beautiful.
Hello Beautiful is all about educating people about a healthy, happy and non-toxic lifestyle. Having cancer and setting up Hello Beautiful have been a positive transformation for me, and I want to give that to other people. I think being around positive people is very helpful.
I used to be a stressed person. Now I’m more relaxed and I enjoy the small things in life. I’ve changed how I eat, what I put in my body, and I feel so much better. You need a healthy body and healthy mind for your whole body to work. I’m not perfect but I am a lot of better than I used to be.
Cancer has given me a new creative outlook. I have created lots of new artwork and I make casts of women with breast cancer. Hello Beautiful hold ‘art therapy’ style workshops in schools and hospitals. Cancer can be a very inward experience, so art can help people open up, talk and get through it. Breast cancer is close to your heart, literally, and connected to a lot of emotions for women. I love being able to help women.