Being diagnosed with breast cancer just after my 40th birthday was a huge shock. My risk factors are very low. I exercise a lot, I don’t smoke, I drink occasionally and I don’t have a strong family history. Being breast aware was a very low priority for me at that time as I honestly didn’t think I was at risk. I found a dimple in my left breast and if it wasn’t for a Facebook post I had read a year before about dimples being a sign of breast cancer, I would have thought that my breasts were sagging and I was getting old! However, my paternal Grandma was diagnosed with breast cancer aged 45 years old so I went to see my GP just in case. Thank goodness I did.
Breast cancer really turns your world upside down. It makes you face your own mortality which is a very scary thing. I wasn’t afraid of dying, I was afraid of leaving my husband and three young children behind. I wanted to see my children grow up. For this reason, I was so determined and upbeat that I was going to beat this cancer. I had to think positive thoughts. Now, this can be quite hard to do as breast cancer treatment is brutal. It not only leads to scars from surgery, radiation can cause burns and chemo can cause hair loss and weight gain. The psychological scars can be just as challenging as the physical changes.
I think for me, the hardest thing to accept was the changes in my body. I battled an eating disorder in my teens, and I have had three babies so that also can affect your body image too but I worked hard to get back in shape. However a double mastectomy takes away some of your femininity and no amount of exercise will bring that back! You lose your shape and curves. Instead of breasts, you are left with scars, numbness and no nipples. You feel like your body has betrayed you and losing your breasts can feel like the end to being a female. Hormone treatments can last up to 10 years and put you into medical menopause. You feel old before your time. It takes a huge amount of psychological effort to love your body again.
This is why I am so proud to be part of the So Brave Project. The aim is to empower younger breast cancer survivors to love themselves again; feel beautiful inside and out and to heal those emotional scars. It will be a challenge to have a photo shoot in a public place when body painted from head to foot for the calendar but I will do it with a huge smile! I am also passionate about educating others about breast cancer in younger women and for teenagers and women to stop fighting battles with their body image. Life is really too short to be at war with yourself.
My fundraising aim for So Brave is $10,000. I plan to raise money through an International Cornish Cream Tea event- friends and family across the world will host a cream tea and talk about breast awareness. I am also planning on completing a sponsored mud run, a sausage sizzle and make my husband wear pink scrubs at work in October, breast cancer awareness month. I will also hold a local launch for the 2020 calendar. Donations via the website are gratefully received. I thank you for your support.
“The kind of beauty I want most is the hard-to-get kind that comes from within- strength, courage and dignity’ Ruby Dee.