My GP wasn’t worried about my breast lump so I delayed getting it checked for 7 months
In July 2021, I was diagnosed with stage-3 breast cancer and told that it had spread to my lymph nodes.
Waking up knowing you’ll never look the same again is a hard pill to swallow.
Doubly so, when you’re all alone with no one for support.
It’s what happened to me when I had a double mastectomy during lockdown and Covid restrictions didn’t allow for any company.
As I lay in my hospital bed feeling desperately sad, I took a selfie of for Instagram and the tears ran down my face.
Although I knew in the moment it was a photo of me heartbroken, I assured myself that in a few weeks, months or even years’ time, I would look back at that picture and realise how strong I was.
I wanted to show people that it’s OK to be sad. It’s OK to be vulnerable.
It was time to navigate loving myself in a world that is constantly judging the way you look. I had no idea how on earth I’d manage – but here I am, 20 months post-op and grateful to be alive.
I first found a lump in my breast in the summer of 2020. I was breastfeeding and assumed it was just part of normal bodily changes.
When I did book an appointment in late October, my GP wasn’t worried. I wasn’t particularly concerned either, but I didn’t like the way it looked and it was getting even bigger.
I was advised that I was too young for breast cancer, but as a precaution given a referral to the breast clinic for further investigation.
When it came to the week of my appointment, I was unfortunately exposed to Covid so it got cancelled and with no reason for concern, I didn’t re-book.
However, the lump continued to grow. It looked like a bruise pushing out from my chest, becoming more and more noticeable when I wore certain clothes.
As it got larger, I went back to the GP a few months later and was referred to the breast clinic again.
In July 2021, I was diagnosed with stage-3 breast cancer and told that it had spread to my lymph nodes. The news felt completely unexpected.
I have two young children, and at 30, I was fit and healthy. I was heartbroken and was hit with so many emotions – fear, anger, worry.
I was too young to have breast cancer – how wrong that thought was.
After a month of tests, scans, and appointments, I began phase one of my treatment plan – 13 rounds of chemotherapy, with the surprise addition of sepsis and a heart blood clot thrown in, just to make the rollercoaster a little harder to ride.
During my chemotherapy I lost all of my hair along with several stone in weight. I felt unrecognisable.
Phase two was the operation. I thought about my options a lot during chemotherapy and decided to opt for a double mastectomy. I made the decision for many reasons – to keep up my active lifestyle, to reduce the risk of reoccurrence, for my children and their lives.
Plus, if I had chosen to have a single mastectomy, I would have had to wait for the breast to be reconstructed, and I didn’t want to live uneven for over a year.
I just wanted it all over with as quickly as possible.
However, because I opted for a double mastectomy, I was no longer eligible to have reconstructive surgery through the service.
The operation itself was OK. I went in first thing and woke up feeling like I had made the right choice. The recovery was slow, and, both physically and mentally, it’s still ongoing.
I accepted the way I looked fairly quickly, but it can be hard when trying on clothes that no longer fit or look right. Low cut tops don’t seem to sit right around my chest anymore, and it’s hard to look feminine in a vest top when your chest is flat or concaved in some areas.
Now, I much prefer to wear tops with a high neck or a bodysuit that makes my lack of breasts less noticeable.
I know my life won’t ever be the same again and sometimes that can be a lot to accept.
I live with daily pain and although my scars are a reminder of what I have been through, gratitude for being alive will always be my overriding thought.
I began blogging my journey the day after my surgery, not only as a way to personally cope, but also to help educate people.
Breast cancer in young people isn’t often talked about and I wanted to do my bit to change this. I documented everything I went through, and I wanted to show my scars on my platform so others could virtually be on the journey with me.
There will always be backlash for looking different or being vocal about something you believe in.
I know this isn’t the ‘normal’ body type and I’ve had countless abusive messages from people, but I’m OK with that. I can recognise it’s their problem for being closed-minded and think it’s sad they’re living a life of such negativity.
But the majority of my inbox is filled with love and support. I’ve had some lovely messages from other survivors saying that I’ve helped them with their confidence and showed them that it’s OK to keep living their lives.
All of these kind messages drown out the hate.
Normalising my body type to raise awareness and boost the confidence of others is why I wanted to be part of Erika Lust’s #OneMorePage3 campaign.
Page 3 is known for its objectification of women’s breasts for male gratification, but we’re working to turn it on its head to raise awareness of breast cancer and celebrate bodies of all shapes and sizes, by campaigning to place the image of myself, the first ever double mastectomy model on Page 3 of a national newspaper.
More from Platform
Platform is the home of Metro.co.uk's first-person and opinion pieces, devoted to giving a platform to underheard and underrepresented voices in the media.
Find some of our best reads of the week below:
Metro columnist Nadeine Asbali explains why British Muslims like her are do disappointed by Keir Starmer's response to the Israel-Hamas war.
Writer Erica Crompton resents the expectation that she should live in poverty because she is on benefits and instead shares how she 'treats' herself.
Parenting columnist Sarah Whiteley is proud that her kids eat TV dinners from time to time and champions being a 'good enough' parent.
And finally, Emily Tisshaw was told her Halloween costume was offensive to disabled people by her taxi driver - it wasn't long before he ate his words.
It’s so important to communicate that breast cancer can happen at any age, but also show that it’s OK to be different. In a world where you’re surrounded by filtered, unrealistic body images on social media, I hope sharing my scars will help others believe it’s OK to be exactly who you are.
Our imperfections make us different and different is powerful.
I want people to check themselves, monthly, and know what their normal feels like. If you notice a change, go and get checked.
I’m living proof that it can happen to anyone and the earlier any changes are looked at, the better the chance of being cured. Let’s not hide away from looking after ourselves and let’s not hide away from being proud of our bodies, whatever they look like.
To support the campaign, ERIKALUST is encouraging breast cancer survivors to share their stories on social by using #OneMorePage3 and tagging @ErikaLustFilms, generating awareness for breast cancer during the month of October.
Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing [email protected].
Share your views in the comments below.