When Sara-Jane was told she needed a mastectomy, she worried a lot about her options. She used our Someone Like Me service to help her come to a decision.
I tried not to worry about my diagnosis
Before I’d even had my diagnosis of breast cancer confirmed, a GP told me, ‘You will require a mastectomy, I am referring you to the breast clinic at the hospital’. I was numb.
I am a natural worrier, but I told myself not to jump to any conclusions. I’d had a rough few years at that point, and I thought, don’t worry yet, you don’t have the facts.
When my diagnosis was confirmed, I laughed at the incredulity of it. I thought, ‘Oh, come on universe, cut me some slack’.
‘How blunt would you like me to be?’ the consultant had asked me. ‘Blunt,’ I replied.
She told me the news and at that point I felt like I separated out. I was viewing it through someone else’s eyes.
My first thought was of my son. Then, I cried. A lot.
There were so many test and scans arranged
After my initial GP referral, I had a blood test done. A week later, I attended the hospital, met my cancer surgeon, and had my first ever mammogram, as well as some biopsies.
I attended scans arranged incredibly quickly. 10 days later I met with the surgeon again. She confirmed that I had DCIS and that none of my lymph nodes affected, but they were still unsure whether it was invasive.
I had three biopsies taken. The good news was that the scans had confirmed it was not anywhere else in my body.
Once I had all the results, they explained the reconstruction options to me. It would either be a DIEP flap reconstruction or implants.
I struggled to know what was best for me
When faced with choice about reconstruction, the consultants give you the facts, then pass you over to the Breast Care Nurses who fill in the details and give you the time to process all the information you have just been given.
The nurses are great, they give you time to talk and share the right information at the right time, so you don’t go rushing into overdrive.
I struggled with deciding what was best. I had a serious illness the year before, and with everything else that had recently happened in my life, I questioned my decision-making abilities. I feared making a mistake.
I was worried about the time off work required, about caring for my son with the recovery time. Was I being selfish? I could have an implant and be back to ‘normal’ quicker. I struggled with the scarring that could occur. The only part of my body I liked were my breasts and my torso.
I questioned my vanity, endlessly.
I reached out for help
I contacted the Someone Like Me service. I was put in touch with someone who had been in a similar situation to me. We had an hour’s chat and it was helpful to talk through what the outcomes could be and what would happen.
I was also referred for counselling. After only a couple of sessions, the counsellor said to me, ‘Don’t feel the need to be perfect, you can only make the decision based on the information you have now. it appears to me that in your heart you do know what you want.’ That helped.
Eventually I realised what was right for me
An appointment was made to meet the plastic surgeon. These appointments are very matter of fact. They produce a drawing of your body and what they will do to it. I found this difficult and emotional to see. My body teamed up with the measured description of the risks.
The same day I had my first topless photo shoot. Pictures are taken from different angles which they use to ensure they know how your body looks. That’s an experience I won't forget!
The plastic surgeon asked me to attend the Breast Reconstruction Awareness Group that the nurses run. I did so and it was helpful to talk to ladies who have been through the process.
Eventually, I decided to go ahead with the DIEP reconstruction. For me personally, I realised that I would never have considered having silicone put into my body for aesthetic reasons, so why would I do it now?
I was on my way. It felt right.
Recovery went well
After the operation I rested, did my physiotherapy exercises and ate well. I was back driving short journeys at six weeks, swimming with the use of a float at nine weeks and back to work with reduced hours at 16 weeks.
I’m still managing fatigue and its effects, but I am thrilled with the results of the surgery. I accept it happened and now want it to be the best my body can make it.
It’s important to be kind to yourself
Some days I feel invincible. Others, I just feel incredibly lucky.
I now understand what self-care means. It is about being kind to yourself, through maintaining your health and reminding yourself you are worth looking after.
So, please, be kind to yourself, eat well, rest when you need it. Give in to help from family and friends. Be selfish when you need to be. You’ll be giving yourself the best shot at a full recovery.
If you're concerned about any of your treatment options, talk to one of our breast care nurses on our Helpline.