Genevieve

Age at diagnosis: 35
Family history of breast cancer: no

Without any family history, I was a 35 year old mother of 2 young boys when I was diagnosed with the breast cancer disease. I often get asked how I found my cancer. Did I find a lump? Was I sick? But the scariest part of it all was that I was fit and healthy and didn’t feel one bit out of sorts.
It all came about as I felt a thickening on the top of my right breast for maybe 6 months and at a routine check-up at my doctor thought I should get her to check it out. I was sent for an ultrasound, which turned into a mammogram which turn into biopsies and less than 2 weeks after my initial diagnosis, I had a mastectomy of my right breast with the histology coming back as 11 ½ cms of high grade ductal carcinoma (DCIS).
As my cancer was still contained to my breast ducts, I was lucky enough not to have chemotherapy. I did however have to complete 6 weeks of radiation because they couldn’t get a 2mm margin at my chest wall. My radiation finished on my 36th birthday. I was very lucky to be able to complete my treatment close to home and my family were well supported by family and friends.
When my breast cancer treatment came to an end, it was a really strange time for me. Everything had happened so fast and then it was like, ok you’re done, now go back and live your life again. But it really wasn’t that simple at all. How can you go back to life as it was when so much has changed?
Personally, I hated living with one breast, it affected everything I did so 6 months after my first mastectomy, I decided to have a preventative mastectomy of my left breast to be able to stop tamoxifen, to rule out any possibility of breast cancer recurring and for my own personal comfort.
Since then and over time, I have chosen not to have a breast reconstruction – a choice I know is deeply personal for all women but one I feel really at peace with. It is however, a choice that many people are surprised at and I understand why many women feel they have no other option than to reconstruct. It can be really hard on your self-esteem living in this day and age without something that society puts so much value on as far as feminine beauty.
I however really comfortable in myself with no breasts but the hardest part with that choice is that I do still want to feel feminine and beautiful in clothes and I want women out there to know that they do have options if they choose not to reconstruct.
This is where my post cancer journey changed. Sadly, there are very few clothing and fashion options for women who choose not to reconstruct. I love fashion and clothing and I didn’t want that to change but I struggled a lot to find things to wear with no breasts. I wanted to be able to have options at all the mainstream shops – I just didn’t know how to do that yet. So I decided I needed to work it all out myself. Over the last few years through trial and error, I’ve been getting better and better at working out what fashion suits the breastless chest.
Once I got the hang of it myself, I decided that I wanted to put together a tool for other women post mastectomy or even in that decision time contemplating reconstruction to help them have things to wear and still feel great. I know that personally, I would have loved this tool. Sadly, at the moment, I do think there is a huge gap in the fashion industry which doesn’t cater specifically for this but I am excited that more people are becoming aware of this and I am certain that over time, more options will become available for flat women.
So here I am…breastless and beautiful as my mantra. On the 16th October 2016, the 3rd anniversary of my first mastectomy, I launched my blog called www.leavemebreastless.com. It is a website to help women who have had mastectomies find fashion for their new bodies. I post a weekly blog with inspirational words and a link to current fashion. I especially hope that this reaches women in remote area who perhaps have less opportunity to access. I am passionate about helping other women find their style and feel beautiful again!
I am certainly still learning along the way but I feel as though I have turned my cancer experience into an empowering positive journey. I still have incredibly hard days when I miss my boobs and just want them back, but it’s only my boobs I crave, not something to hang a dress on. I still have those disaster days when nothing fits, but let’s face it, so does every woman, breastless or not.
Having cancer has really put a lot of perspective into my life. It has helped me to focus on what is really important and not to sweat the small stuff so much and strangely I am almost grateful for this experience. Finding my cancer early, I also felt incredibly lucky to be one of the lucky ones to survive when other beautiful women have not and will continue to not be so lucky.
My messages out there to anyone reading this are – Don’t be complacent, know your body, every part of it so that you will notice if anything changes. Early detection is key, it certainly saved my life.
But the final message and the one that I think is so important is to appreciate the body you have just the way it is. Big boobs, small boobs, no boobs – you never know when part of your body or your life could be taken from you. Don’t waste your life finding faults in yourself, embrace your body and celebrate who you are. Don’t judge other people’s bodies, we are all on our own journeys and don’t be afraid of cancer, just be aware of the signs and trust your instincts and follow them.
I feel honoured and excited to be able to share my survival story with you through this amazing opportunity with So Brave and always remember – you are beautiful, just the way you are!