Growing up, Fran sometimes had a difficult relationship with her body. Her secondary breast cancer diagnosis tested her even further, but now she has a newfound confidence.
I never had a very healthy relationship with my body
Looking back to before my breast cancer diagnosis, I was very underappreciative of my body. Because of my job as a personal trainer, I worked my body hard, and was always striving to make it better. I was strict with what I ate and how I trained. I was very unkind to myself.
When I looked in the mirror, I would notice the things I didn’t like and think about how I could change those. It was such a negative way of looking at myself.
Then, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, my relationship with my body became more negative. Initially, I was angry with it for letting me down; I couldn’t help but blame it. I’d looked after myself with healthy eating and regular exercise for so long, I couldn’t believe I was now being diagnosed with this disease.
I no longer saw myself in the mirror
When I was first faced with chemotherapy, I was terrified of losing my hair. I’ve got really big curly hair and people know me as ‘Fran with the big hair’ – it’s my trademark. I thought if I lost my hair, I would lose my identity. I tried hard to keep it with the cold cap.
Later on, when I started to experience other physical changes from my treatment like weight gain, I couldn’t help but feel insecure - even though I knew that this was out of my control and that I couldn’t do anything to change it.
When you lose your hair and your eyebrows, you look different. Those changes had a negative effect on my body confidence. I was no longer seeing myself in the mirror.
Plus, cancer has aged me. Going from a fit and healthy woman to being in pain with my muscles seizing made me feel old. I could see my friends going out for long walks and enjoying life, but I couldn’t do that. I was worrying about surviving.
I made a conscious decision to change my mindset
However, as I continued through treatment, my whole outlook changed. I began to appreciate my body and the fight it was putting up for me.
Just 24 hours after brain surgery, I was standing again, all thanks to my incredible body. That made me feel grateful to my body and strength it had. Not just physical, but internal strength too.
It’s all about switching your mindset: yes, I’ve gained weight, but my body is dealing with cancer.
By changing my attitude, I was able to see that there were positive changes happening too. My body is starting to repair itself, my hair has started to grow back, and my confidence has grown. Now I’m being kinder to myself and appreciating what my body is doing for me.
I want something positive to come from my diagnosis
I think fashion and clothes can definitely impact how you feel about your image, too. During treatment, I would just wear the same thing: comfy activewear. I generally wear that day-to-day, it’s sort of like a uniform. So, when I do get the chance to dress up, I feel really good!
I’m so excited to be taking part in this year’s Fashion Targets Breast Cancer campaign. I want to use my own experience to help others going through something similar. It’s nice to feel like something positive has come from my diagnosis and knowing that this collection helps fund world-class research and life-changing care for other women is really special.
I personally found the Breast Cancer Now website really useful when I was first diagnosed. It was a clear way of digesting all the information and meant I could process it all in my own time.
Then when I was told I had secondary breast cancer, I called their Helpline and spoke to one of their expert nurses. I wanted to speak to someone I didn’t know. When you speak to family and friends you can see them getting upset, so I found it really cathartic being able to cry to someone outside of the family.
I will continue to be positive
Being diagnosed as a younger woman can be isolating, I remember feeling quite lost. I never thought I would get breast cancer at 25, and I didn’t know anyone even close to my age that was going through the same thing.
I wished I had been taken seriously when I first went to see the GP a year prior. But with no family history, a good healthy diet and an active lifestyle, it was so unlikely. I just couldn’t understand why it was happening to me.
Now, however, I’m trying to be positive and use my age to my advantage. Not 'why me’ but ‘try me’ – I know my body can put up a good fight.
I have also realised that you don’t have to lose your identity when you go through cancer. I’ve now decided to pursue a career in oncology fitness, to try and use my skills as a personal trainer to help others going through cancer.
You can help support people like Fran by purchasing something from our Fashion Targets Breast Cancer range. Every piece sold helps fund vital research and care for people with breast cancer.