Next month is a very important month for me, and for millions of women (and men) around the world. October 2011 is Breast Cancer Awareness month.
In the UK, 50,000 people are diagnosed with Breast Cancer each year, and 12,000 of them die from it. It is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in women under 35.
This year, I will be spending october with my mother who is flying over from France to exhibit her artwork in London. Every day I am thankful that she is still here.
For the purpose of this post, I will give her the pseudonym ‘Sarah’.
Back in 2002, Sarah found a lump on her breast. She ignored it.
She didn’t think it was anything more than a spot, and did not even consider going to see a doctor about it.
Months later, it was still there, bigger, harder, and painful too. Sarah finally went to a doctor with her concerns. They discovered that she had breast cancer, but it was already quite far advanced. The only solution was to have a mastectomy where one of her breasts was removed, and all the lymph nodes under her left arm were removed as well.
Afterwards she needed radiation and chemotherapy for years. Sarah lost all her hair, couldn’t eat, threw up constantly, spent most of her time exhausted in bed, and had terrible mood swings – it’s safe to say she wasn’t really herself during that time. The cancer seriously affected her, her life, and those around her. The chemotherapy gave her an early menopause, meaning she could never have any more children.
After the operation, the doctor told me she had a 30% chance of still being alive in 5 years. Now, here we are, 9 years later, and she’s still here and stronger than ever.
Sarah kindly agreed to answer a few questions about her experience:
Sophia: How do you feel about your mastectomy scar and what you went through?
Sarah: It’s very black and white. On a good day it doesn’t bother me, and I can go for long periods of time without even thinking about it – it’s just another part of me. However, on a bad day, it’s the worst thing in the world. It’s like a sinkhole dragging me down with it; everything bad happening seems to be because of that scar, and it hurts. It’s my real weak point.
Sophia: Do you feel like a different person since you recovered?
Sarah: Yes and no. Yes because I’m just so impatient these days, I can’t be dealing with the little things; I don’t have time to faff about. I’ve got to get things done, no emotions involved. The reason I would also say no is because inside I still feel 18 years old – I still have the same dreams and goals as I did then, and I think that girl is still in there somewhere.
Sophia: Are you particularly open about having survived cancer?
Sarah: I think so. With my friends and family, of course they all know what happened, and it’s not something I hide. With strangers, I wouldn’t bring it up unless somehow it was appropriate. I wear prosthesis so the question isn’t usually raised.
Sophia: Have you ever considered having a breast reconstruction since you’ve become healthy again?
Sarah: I have considered it, but I still don’t really think it’s for me. The skin over my breastplate was pulled so tight; it’s already quite uncomfortable as it is. I don’t really fancy having any more surgery; I’ve grown to accept my scar the way it is.
Sophia: What would your advice be for other breast cancer survivors, or others going through the same thing?
Sarah: Just remember that you’re still you. Cancer can’t take that away from you – you may feel the worst you’ve ever felt, but it won’t stay like that. Having family, friends and support groups is very important for moving forward and accepting what’s happened to you.
Thank you Sarah.
One of my very close friends lost her mother to breast cancer when she was just a little girl. Sometimes I wonder why I was so lucky, and she was not. It makes me both very sad and grateful at the same time.
For Breast Cancer Awareness month, I’m going to try and wear a pink bra, EVERY DAY! I think I can manage, but I may need to buy a few more pink bras before October! 🙂
Please visit my Just Giving page for Breast Cancer Care to make a donation. Every little helps, so if you can spare anything, please help the cause!
To make a donation, click here.
The first two on my list (currently my only two pink bras) are:
The Princess bra is very true to size. It comes up very slightly tighter in the cup than the Emily bra, but otherwise is a very similar fit. Detailing as always is stunning, and it is very comfy once it’s been worn in a bit.
The Lucy bra I found slightly looser in the band, maybe not enough to size down, but if you are in-between sizes, pick the smaller one. Cups come up small, I would’ve preferred to size up one. Very comfortable and it gives a lovely rounded shape – a much higher cut than the Princess bra above.
My plea to women everywhere, is that you all remember to check your breasts at least once a month! In fact, how about a free reminder? There is a great website called Coppafeel; you list the names of your breasts (mine happen to be Fred and George!) and they send you a monthly text message reminding you to check them.
Breast Cancer Awareness may only be October, but you must remember to check your breasts EVERY month. Be aware!