I’m 51, a Hospice Shop manager, living in Browns Bay. I was 35 when I found a lump in my right breast. I was lucky and had found it early. I had a lumpectomy, chemo, radiotherapy and five years of hormones (Tamoxifen).
No one can ever prepare you for such a life changing diagnosis but I had great doctors and fantastic unconditional and unending support from my partner Dave, and I made some good new friends at that time. After the radio' and chemo' finished we moved to Nelson and started a new life. But nothing is ever simple and at my next mammogram more cancer was found in my other breast. I elected to have a double mastectomy with Tram Flap reconstruction. It’s hard to explain how much my confidence was knocked by the second diagnosis but I eventually bounced back - it just took a lot longer than before. I looked for silver linings everywhere - the biggest one was getting a slimmed down pair of boobs that I am so happy with, a flatter tummy from the Tram Flap and a good perspective on what is important in life. I also got a tattoo!
I’ve made friends with women who have travelled the same path and survived. I paddle a Dragon Boat with 22 of them and they are all unbelievably amazing!
I studied art history at university and love the curvy female models of Rubens. I was amazed to hear how modern doctors were able to diagnose breast cancer from the paintings. I took part in this campaign to illustrate how lucky we are to live now with such amazing treatment. We can survive whereas those models did not.
Also, who wouldn’t want to be made into a beautiful painting?!
One thing that is important to me is to be a positive face for breast cancer survival. I felt very alone when I was diagnosed, but now I know there are lots of us out there and we are doing well. I’ve just celebrated my 15-year cancer-free anniversary; I intend to celebrate quite a few more.
Know your breasts. Check yourself regularly. If you are worried go and get checked early, because knowledge beats breast cancer. Don't wait. Now is good.