28 years ago, I finally decided that I needed to stop smoking. I was three weeks in and I noticed a lump on my breast. I thought I’ll wait and see if it goes, it could be related to my periods or something. In the end I went and saw my doctor and it was one of those ‘on the way out, hand on the door, oh by the way’ things.
Within a few days I was in hospital and found out it had gone into my lymph nodes and I needed a mastectomy. And the one thing I want to share is, because it was so big for me, I didn’t know what was the most distressing; losing a breast or the chance of losing my life. That might sound very odd to a lot of people but that’s how I defined my femininity at the time and it was such a big thing.
I was very fortunate and had the mastectomy. I had chemotherapy and radiotherapy; I know so many people go through this with cancer. So, I had all of this and decided I needed a reconstruction straight away; it was the only way I could cope. And I did cope. I took care of myself; I took time out of work and It was ok. I’m not going to say I did so well, because didn’t, I can’t say I was brave, because I wasn’t. The truth is that it was rubbish, lonely, frightening and it was horrible. I was mid-forties at the time and it was considered very young when I was diagnosed. At that point it was 1 in 12 women, the odds are worse now.
I put my life back together. I’ve seen my daughters get married, my grandchildren be born, and I love my life. I can empathise with people so much more because of what I went through. Deeper relationships can be formed with people because I understand on a more personal level. I would say to all women to just check yourself, use your hands to soap yourself in the shower and have a good feel around so you know what’s normal for you. If there are any changes don’t delay and get checked. Just don’t leave it.