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After aesthetic breast work, Rebecca felt fantastic. But two weeks later, she detected a lump on her breasts and soon after, the words she dreaded were being spoken loudly around her.
I’d always been blessed with rather large breasts but after 2 babies and having lost a bit of weight, by the time I was 50 they were no more! I toyed with the idea of a breast augmentation for two years, but thought I was just being silly - or was it just a midlife crisis thing going on? Having been through major surgery in 2006 to remove a tumour from inside my spinal cord, I thought that because this procedure wasn’t for health reasons, I shouldn’t do it.
In my mind I was thinking about the risks of any operation, and this would just be for vanity. However, two years later I bit the bullet and went for it!
At the end of October 2021, I had my boob job! I won’t lie, it was fantastic, everything I could have wished for. My surgeon said I should have a mammogram within 12 months before my breast augmentation, but mine was in July 2020 and it was clear, so I was happy with that.
My recovery was great, pain was minimal but I think that was mostly down to the nerve damage caused by my spinal operation in 2006 - I have numb patches all over my body! Then two weeks after my breast augmentation, I noticed a lump very close to the surface on my right breast. It felt like a broad bean. The implants must have pushed it to the surface. I called my GP immediately who assured me that it was probably nothing, but referred me to the breast clinic anyway.
That was the day that changed my life. It was a whirlwind. I felt I was like an observer watching from above, seeing me being sent from consultation to scan, to test, back to mammogram, then biopsy and finally back to see the consultant in the space of an hour. All I could hear were words being thrown at me:
‘It looks suspicious!’
‘But your mammogram on 20 July was clear.’
‘We need to do a biopsy.’
‘I need the cancer nurse to see you!’
My head was spinning!
I could tell from their faces that they knew, even though they couldn’t say because they needed the biopsy result. I broke down and when they didn’t reassure me, I knew too!
They told me I had to stop HRT, which I did (I had only been on it for 5 months and didn’t realise what relief it was giving me for my perimenopausal symptoms). The biopsy results came back within 3 days and yes, I had breast cancer. My world didn’t stop then - it had already stopped a few days before.
To be honest, the lumpectomy and recovery were easy. What I wasn’t expecting was the impact that coming off HRT would have on my life. I went from a happy-go-lucky lady, always smiling, to an anxious, unhappy, restless shell of my former self. I could deal with the physical menopausal symptoms, but the mental ones were something else. I was just functioning to get through the day, only to dread the sleepless nights.
I decided I couldn’t live like this. I still had radiotherapy to come, so I did loads of research, saw some menopausal specialists and decided to go back onto HRT. For me, the benefits outweigh the risk. I know it’s not right for everyone, it’s a very personal choice. Although my oncologist and breast surgeon don’t agree with my decision, they understand it. Oncologists are all about longevity of life. For me it’s all about quality of life. I’m happy now and life is good!
I found Breast Cancer Now and wanted to share my experience and take part in any research study I could, to help other people like me going through breast cancer, but to stress the importance of checking your breasts via the Voices Network. Apparently there are one million ladies who missed their mammogram during lockdown – that actually equates to a rather large number of ladies walking around with breast cancer without knowing! So, please check your breasts and book that mammogram!
After getting support from Breast Cancer Now, Darlaine decided to give back and support and empower others, by joining Breast Cancer Voices. Learn more.
After breast cancer surgery left Karen with scars, she put the empowering lessons of an ancient Japanese art into practice and sought out the skills of a talented tattoo artist.
After being told she had an aggressive form of early cancer in 2018, Paulette stayed upbeat thanks to the support she received. Her path to recovery has included helping others through Breast Cancer Now’s voluntary programmes.