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The moment you received your diagnosis – can you remember it?
When I had gone for my biopsies – I had 7 – I was shown the MRI slides and knew straight away that it wasn’t good. It’s an image I’ll never forget, especially seeing how widespread it was. In the 48 hours that I waited for the results, I was constantly online researching, so I suspected it was DCIS before the doctor told me. What I wasn’t prepared to hear was “mastectomy” and that’s when I broke down. I remember letting out this uncontrollable loud sob. I was truly devastated.
What exactly was your diagnosis and at the time what was the prognosis that went along with it?
I was diagnosed with high-grade Ductal Carcinoma InSitu in all quadrants of my breast. DCIS is stage 0 and non-invasive but given how extensive the disease was at this stage, they were not sure if there was an invasive component and if it has spread to my lymph nodes, so going into surgery there was a lot of uncertainty.
How was cancer initially detected? (i.e. through a BSE, a CBE, or an annual mammogram)
It was detected through an MRI, then mammogram, and biopsies.
When you told family about your diagnosis what’s the one thing you wish people had asked or said but they didn’t?
I was grateful to have practical support. A friend is a chef and prepared a massive hamper of prepared meals which was a massive help. What I wish people had NOT said was “oh, it’s like a free boob job!” or telling me how upset or scared they were for me. Comforting other people in the early days were really difficult and I eventually needed to just cocoon myself.
Ultimately you made the very brave decision to have a mastectomy – how did you reach that decision?
The mastectomy on one side was not optional – it was the only way to address the DCIS, but I did opt for the bilateral mastectomy which was a good decision since it was later discovered on that side too. Initially, I decided on doing it bilaterally because I am young and knew that the reconstruction would never match a natural breast.
It’s been a real journey for you, not one diagnosis, but two – has it changed you as a person? As a woman?
I don’t think it changed me, but it made me look deep inside of myself, to realize my own strength and my own self-worth. It has made me more accepting of and kinder to myself.
You admirably advocate for women to self-check and indeed get their annual mammogram – why is this so important to you?
In my case, the disease was discovered twice at DCIS, at stage 0. My life wasn’t threatened, I didn’t need to endure radiation or chemotherapy, and I owe that to early detection.
Mammograms feel scary – any words of wisdom for women who’ve got their appointment coming up, how can they best ‘prepare’.
It is awkward and uncomfortable but it’s a momentary discomfort that could save your life. I always tell friends who tell me they’re worried the doctor will find something that they’ll only find something if there is something, and if there is something, they need to find it to fix it! Take a friend along or a good book, wear clothes that are easy to take on and off, take a deep breath and remember that whatever the outcome, you have the strength to face it.
How can we as girlfriends best support a friend or family member dealing with the ‘Big C’.
Offer precise help. When someone says “Let me know if you need anything” you’re unlikely to reach out. “I can take the kids on Tuesday afternoon. Would that help?” or preparing meals, keep them company at doctors appointments are all great ways. Talking about things other than the disease is also great!
If there’s another woman reading this who’s exactly where you were and preparing for a mastectomy what would you tell her?
You’re stronger than you think you are.
Reach out to other women who have been through the same thing - all those questions and fears and emotions in your head were going through theirs too.
Let yourself cry and grieve. It doesn’t mean you’re not strong.
You can only take 3 beauty products with you to a desert island – what are they?
SPF, lip balm, hair serum
A beauty hack you swear by?
Using lipliner all over the lip, instead of lipstick
8 hours sleep or 2 litres of water?
2 litres of water (I don’t remember when I slept 8 hours!)
Favorite selfcare treatment?
Hot bath with lavender salts
Most Iconic woman?
There are so many!!! The first that comes to mind now is Ruth Bader Ginsburg
6 women to a dinner party – who are they are why?
Katherine Switzer – she was the first woman to run the Boston Marathon. Men ripped her bib off her back but she kept running. That kind of strength is incredible.
Oprah – her insight and wisdom is inspiring and enlightening.
Angelina Jolie – her humanitarian work and dedication to her children is just beautiful and inspiring.
Jane Goodall – she inspired generations to conserve and protect animals which is a cause close to my heart.
Adele – she’s so down to earth and personable, with a great sense of humour…and might sing for us!
My sister – she’s awesome and has the most incredible infectious laugh.
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