🎗 Lynda - Survivor
Lynda’s Story – The positive side to cancer
I was officially diagnosed with breast cancer on Friday 4th October 2013. By the end of February 2014 I had gone through a lumpectomy, double mastectomy and the silicone implant operation. I was very lucky that I didn’t need chemotherapy.
How did this all start? A bit of history (it is relevant I promise!). Back in 2011 I had a breast reconstruction, more because I had one breast a C cup and the other a B cup. Any women would know that trying to get a bra to fit uneven breasts is impossible - and your clothes constantly moving to one side of your chest. I’m a Virgo - I can’t handle that. Following the reconstruction, my surgeon then performed a biopsy and let me know that there were no cancer cells present and that my tissue looked very clean.
Fast forward to 2013 and coming up to my 58th birthday, I was thinking it was time I went for a mammogram. Now I’ve had an interest in Tarot and Angel cards since I was 18 and strongly believe that we all have a guardian angel (I think he/she is helping me write this now). I kept waking up each morning with the intention of making that mammogram appointment, then one morning after a particularly disturbed sleep I just shouted “Ok, enough’s enough. I will make the appointment today!” The appointment was on my birthday - 11th Sept
Two weeks later I had a call back to go for a breast assessment – it can take between 2 – 4 hours they said just a precaution. I was thinking I’m ok, I was very busy at work at the time and was trying to find time to go. The lady on the phone was trying to be firm about coming sooner than later but without it sounding like an emergency!
So there I was on Tuesday 1st October 2013 having my assessment. Started with an x-ray, focussing on the area concerned, then on to an ultrasound followed by an examination by a retired breast surgeon – he was very thorough. I thought at the time that my husband would love that job! Lastly a biopsy. All the way through I kept telling each examiner that it was only scar tissue left over from my reconstruction. What do I know? But deep down I knew on my way home that day that I had breast cancer.
On Friday 4th October my husband came with me to be confirmed that I did indeed have breast cancer. A lovely lady broke the news and gently told me the next steps to take. We took the train home and went to my GP so I could make an appointment. My favourite GP was part-time so getting a quick appointment was not easy. At the reception they asked was it urgent and I said “no not really – I’ve just been diagnosed with breast cancer”. With that she made me wait there and spoke to the GP who wanted to see me that afternoon.
By the time I got back she had rung a few breast surgeons and found me an appointment that evening with a highly recommended surgeon. We discussed my options of a lumpectomy with radiation or a mastectomy, but I had already decided that I wanted to have a double mastectomy. I know that I would worry and wait for cancer to come in the other breast and besides which, I was far too vain to have either a smaller breast again or a perky silicone breast and the other saggy! Wasn’t that why I had had the reconstruction in the first place two years earlier!
My surgeon advised I needed to have a lumpectomy first though to take the cancer lump out which was close to the nipple and thought to be around 11mm in size. My surgeon was about to head overseas the next day to attend a conference and would be away for a week. I was amazed that he apologised that I had to wait. I was fine and grateful it was all progressing so fast.
On Tuesday 15th October I was at hospital having my lumpectomy. They found that the lump was in fact 22mm long; as it was so large, I was advised that I would have to have a mastectomy anyway on that breast to be sure of getting all of the cancer cells out. I was also introduced to my cosmetic surgeon.
Tuesday 3rd December 2013 was the day I said goodbye to both my breasts (everything seems to happen on a Tuesday!). I had the two-stage breast construction. Immediately after the mastectomy my cosmetic surgeon inserted a tissue expander to stretch the skin. I went to have saline inserted every week or fortnight until it was the right size.
My husband, originally a Pom, was my guide to this – when they reached a ‘British standard handful’ size for him, he said stop there. Well, after all, I did have his ‘toys’ cut off (I did say there was a lighter side to this)
I came home from hospital with Christmas around the corner. I wanted the house to be decorated, to be cheerful - something to look at while I was going through the pain and discomfort. We had two trees. My sons put up the large tree then my eldest (22 at the time) moaned about putting the second one up, going on and on trying to dissuade me from having it. He got the worst death stare from me that he had ever seen – after all I had been through! Funnily enough, he was very compliant and helpful after that.
I had my final operation to have the expanders removed and the silicone implants put in at the end of February 2014. I now have rock solid breasts that never move – they’ll never go South! I don’t need bras and I can run without my breasts getting uncomfortable. But despite the perky breasts, I’d have been happier to keep the real things, even with their southerly migration, than go through all that I have been through.
While I was going through the diagnosis and the operations, I remained very strong. I had so much support from everyone – giving me strength to get through it all. I never cried at that time, I would joke around and always be positive.
It was about a month after the last operation and I was thinking that I should just throw my bras away. I started to sort them and broke down. I just cried and cried. It was then I started grieving for my lost breasts and what it meant to me.
It is very often the case after - that when the physical has healed and you don’t feel the need for as much support from everyone, that you actually need the mental support. It is then that you have time to process what has happened, now that you have left the survivor phase.
Why the Tattoo?
Every morning I woke up to see scars from my armpit area to the centre breastbone. It was a constant reminder of my cancer. I could have had nipples either reconstructed or tattooed but I didn’t see the point of having another reminder of something that used to give me great pleasure!
I believed my guardian angel had saved me - so what better than to honour that? I now have a guardian angel with the pink ribbon symbol around her and a tree with blossoms growing up and flowing across my new silicone breasts. I love the significance and the empowerment created through adversity
It took me years to decide what I wanted and then a few years to find the right tattooist. He was amazing – he immediately got what I was trying to do, a true artist.
Yes, it was painful - but we did it in manageable slots. It took several months to finish and I love it!
I don’t feel like I’m a victim. I feel stronger and more capable of dealing with life. Helping others to be empowered by their own experiences with breast cancer.