Before I got into the shower I looked at myself in the mirror seeing myself naked which is something I never do, but for some reason that day I did.
My left breast looked a different shape than I had remembered, and my nipple was going inward. I had been wearing some old bras and was convinced my nipple had been squashed and it would soon pop back out as I was washing in the shower, it didn’t. While I was washing my breast, I thought I could feel a lump. When my husband came home that night I asked if he could feel a lump he couldn’t, but he said if I was worried I should go to the doctors. The lady doctor said the lump was an unusual shape, so she would phone the breast clinic at the hospital to fast track my appointment but said not to worry it may not mean anything. My mother who had died two years previous from a brain tumour had been prone to having cysts in different places on her body, so I wasn’t worried I was sure my lump was just a cyst. I was so convinced everything would be alright when my husband decided to have the day off to come with me to the hospital I thought he was wasting a day off, I was fine. It was March 2007 I had just come through the healthiest winter I had ever had, I hadn’t been ill not even a cold. I felt good everyone said how healthy I looked so I couldn’t have cancer, surely I would feel ill or I would instinctively know about it wouldn’t I?
After a mammogram, scan and biopsy and after spending the afternoon in the hospital all the other patients had gone home my husband and I were the only ones left in the waiting room the cleaner was coming round mopping the floor when we were called back in to see the consultant and breast care nurse, when they said they were 90% sure I had cancer but I had to wait a week to get the results of the tests. I spent that week convincing myself I had a 10% chance of them being wrong, this was me I couldn’t have cancer. When my husband and I was back a week later being told I had cancer I found myself sinking into a black hole the words breast cancer, mastectomy, chemotherapy echoing in my head these were all words that apply to other people not me, was I in a dream? Would I wake up in a minute? My husband squeezed my hand and brought me back to reality this was really happening to me.
I had a left breast mastectomy with auxiliary clearance and a temporary implant a tissue expander. Back in 2007 there were no show and tells to attend I had no friends who had breast cancer I didn’t know anything about breast reconstruction, all I had was leaflets with photos of headless women with different types of reconstructions. When I was given three different choices of reconstruction I couldn’t decide, so when I was given the option of a temporary implant tissue expander, I knew I wouldn’t cope very well if I woke up from the operation with a total flat chest on the left, so I opted for that. Six sessions of chemotherapy and a year later in April 2008 I had a free Diep flap left breast reconstruction as soon as I came round from the operation I felt much better even tough my new breast was swollen sat higher than the other one I felt it was me, my stomach area was very sore but I had a flat stomach something I had never had before, I knew there was a reason I never got rid of the baby fat flabby tummy I had from having two babies, it was now in my left breast. Six weeks of taking it easy wasn’t that hard I managed to resist the temptation of vacuuming and cleaning I was so pleased with the reconstruction I didn’t want to do anything to upset it. The swelling went down and the first time I ran to chase the children I couldn’t stop smiling I could feel my left breast move up and down just like my right one it was amazing. I kept telling my friends to feel my breast it feels so real. In November 2008 I had a reconstructed nipple, I wasn’t bothered about a nipple but my husband who had supported me all the way through had said “I don’t mind what type of reconstruction you have but please can I have a nipple” Before having the op the nurse stood me in front of the mirror and drew a circle where the nipple would be as I stood there watching I knew this would be literally the cherry on the cake, I was really glad I had decided to have my nipple reconstructed, even though the nipple was very large when first reconstructed it soon shrank down. In February 2009 I had areola micro pigmentation (nipple tattoo), finally I was whole again,
Complete, a real woman with a cleavage.
Later that year I received a letter from the breast care nurses asking if I would like to be involved in a support group they were thinking of starting, I jumped at the chance to help other women and attended the first meeting in January 2010 and in May that year the show and tell sessions started which has now evolved into the charity Restore. I am always amazed at how many women come through these sessions and the vast age range breast cancer effects and I feel very passionate about being able to help women through this tough time, showing them there is light at the end of the tunnel.
I can honestly say I have never regretted having reconstruction, I feel stronger, more confident, I can face the world with my head held high proud to say
“Look at me I’ve beaten breast cancer, I look good and feel great”. Now all these years on anyone new I meet has no idea about my story and it is up to me if I want to tell them or not, I have control of my life again.
Come to a Show & Tell event
Find out more about different types of procedure and the experiences of patients by coming along to one of our events.