At Home with Chris Jessen 2018 - 196
lipping the red dress
over my head, I feel it fall
softly against my skin then
I stand back and look in
the mirror. Looking back
at me is a beautiful woman in her
thirties, with a slim ﬁgure and
gorgeous curves. And even though
I'm completely ﬂat-chested, I look
and feel stylish and feminine.
I take a snap with my phone and
upload it to my blog - to show
that living without breasts needn't
mean hiding away.
When I discovered a baked-bean
sized lump almost hidden behind my
right nipple one Friday evening I was
just 35, but I wasn't too concerned
- I was young and had no family
history of breast cancer.
A visit to my GP the following
Monday put my mind at rest - it was
probably a blocked milk duct or a cyst,
I was told. However, two months later
when it hadn't cleared up, the doctor
sent me to a breast clinic.
'If it's an infected cyst,' he told me,
'they'll probably need to remove it.'
After more reassurance at the breast
clinic, where I had a mammogram,
ultrasound and biopsy, and they also
told me it was likely to be a cyst,
I returned to speak to the surgeon
about having it removed.
My mum had oﬀered to come with
me, but I told her that I would be ﬁne.
'It'll just be form-ﬁlling -nothing to
worry about,' I said.
'I FELT PUZZLED - I HAD CANCER.
SURELY THE ONLY IMPORTANT THING
WAS THAT I GOT RID OF THE DISEASE'
But when I entered the room
and found another doctor and a
nurse there as well as my surgeon,
everything changed. 'I'm really
sorry,' the nurse told me. 'I'm
afraid it is a nasty.'
Luckily, although my cancer was
classed as 'Stage 3, Invasive' it hadn't
yet spread to my lymph nodes. My
surgeon told me I'd need to have part
of my breast removed and a course of
chemotherapy, but that the outlook
was fairly positive.
It was when the surgeon got a
silicone implant out to show me that
I began to question my course of
196 | FEBRUARY 2018
treatment. 'I'll have to remove a lot
of tissue, but I can use an implant to
reconstruct the breast,' she said.
I felt puzzled - I had cancer. Surely
the only important thing was that
I got rid of the disease?
'Can you just remove the breast?'
I asked. 'And take oﬀ the other one
too, so I'll be symmetrical.'
While I liked my D-cup breasts,
I didn't feel I needed them to feel
feminine or sexy - I just wanted
the cancer dealt with.
Although the surgeon said this
was possible, she advised me to take
some time to think about it. 'You're in
Breast cancer treatment will vary from patient
to patient, depending on the cancer type, stage
of disease and the patient's age. However,
treatment will often include:
SURGERY Either 'breast-conserving' surgery or
mastectomy. Surgery may also be required on
the lymph nodes.
RADIOTHERAPY Targeted radiation delivered
to the breast.
CHEMOTHERAPY Different strengths and
protocols exist, depending on the type and
stage of disease.
TARGETED THERAPY Treatment using drugs,
including Herceptin, that help to block the growth
and spread of the cancer.
HORMONE THERAPY A range of drugs, including
tamoxifen, that can be used in certain cancers as
an additional protective treatment.
WORDS: GILLIAN HARVEY, IMAGES: SARAH J DOW, GETTY IMAGES