PUBLISHED ON: 22 January 2021

When Carly first got breast cancer, she decided she’d have a double mastectomy if it ever recurred. However, when that happened, she was met with some resistance to ‘going flat’. 

Carly, a slim white woman, smiles with her arms above her head, showing her mastectomy scars and flat chest

I felt lucky to have caught the cancer early 

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 31, I never once thought, ‘Why me?’ I went through all the tests, operation and treatment thinking how lucky I was.  

I was told that I had grade 1 ER+ breast cancer. The tumour was 6mm, the size of the end of a pencil. I was fortunate that I had caught it at the earliest stage. I’ve always been aware of how much more serious it could have been. I can honestly say my cancer diagnosis never affected me in a bad way. 

I needed a lumpectomy and radiotherapy. I had to take tamoxifen for five years. 

To me, that didn’t seem too bad. My life was never at risk and my treatment wasn’t too invasive. I felt I got away lightly. 

As I was quite young, I always knew that the cancer might come back. Not in a pessimistic kind of way. More like a practical, looking at the odds kind of way. I always knew I wanted have a double mastectomy if or when it came back. I also knew I never wanted reconstruction. 

My decision to have a double mastectomy was met with resistance 

Fast forward 11 years: I had a recurrence. 

My decision to ‘go flat’ was easy for me but was met with some resistance from the doctors and nurses. I felt a lot of pressure from them to a have reconstruction: either implants or using my own tissue. I knew I didn’t want either. It was implied that I wouldn’t feel normal or like a woman without breasts, and I felt kind of insulted. 

It took a lot to convince everyone. I really feel this needs to change. It’s great to know our options of reconstruction but not all women feel the same. We all have our own reasons; we are all different. We should all be respected. 

I’ve never had a problem with the thought of having my breasts removed; it’s not something I need like an arm or a leg, so in my view it was no big deal. I know many women will find this difficult to believe, but it’s true.  

My surgeon was the best and even did the op without needing to use drains, which was a massive contribution to my quick recovery. I could move my arms above my head quite comfortably the next day. I ran three miles 2.5 weeks after my op and felt great. I ran a 10-miler six weeks after. There’s a lot to be grateful for right there. 

I feel so much more confident now 

I actually prefer my body now. I love how freeing it is not to have to wear a bra, especially a sports bra. My new shape feels great when I run. All my clothes hang better and look nicer on me (I was a bit annoyed about this as I was looking forward to buying a whole new wardrobe). I think my scars are cool. And I never have to worry about sagging boobs as I get older! 

I wasn’t expecting to feel more confident flat-chested, but I really do. 

I hope, when you see my photo, you notice how happy I look as well as how neat my scars are. When I look at this photo, I see strength. My smile is real. I see how lucky I am that I’ve not only survived breast cancer twice, but also that it hasn’t changed me at all. 

I am happy with my life 

I’m also not naïve, in case you were wondering. I’m fully aware that my breast cancer can come back, either in my chest wall or elsewhere in my body.  

But why would I spend my life worrying? I could also get diagnosed with another cancer. I could also go out and get run over. There are countless things that could end my life, but if I were to spend my time worrying or focusing on the fact that my cancer might come back, then my life as I know it is over already. What a waste that would be. 

None of us are born with a guarantee to live a long, healthy life with no problems. There’s a lot of bad stuff that can happen in our lifetimes, and the chances are that we’re going to experience a few challenging things. It’s how we respond to those things that makes the difference between feeling happy or constantly feeling scared.  

I feel so lucky to be 43 and married to my best friend. I’ve got a fantastic relationship with my four healthy kids. My life is filled with everything I love: family, running, my work. So how can I be anything other than happy? 

 

If you've been diagnosed with breast cancer and want more information on what to expect from treatment, be sure to check out our information pages.

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