Hey there, fellow warriors of life's rollercoaster! If you're looking for a story filled with breast cancer, Xbox battles, and single-parent hilarity, you've come to the right place. Buckle up as I take you on a wild ride through my journey of recovery, juggling motherhood, university, and launching a business while maintaining a somewhat tenuous grasp on sanity!
I was also navigating my final year at university. Balancing surgery and radiotherapy with assignments and exams became an Olympic sport. I practically had a Ph.D. in multitasking, (or at least I like to think so!) ... Majoring in caffeine consumption with a minor in sleep deprivation. ☕️ But hey, if I could survive a breast cancer diagnosis, surely I could survive late-night study sessions, right? And did I mention that I was also trying to keep the freelance consultancy work fires burning? Because, you know, paying bills is still a thing, even in the midst of chaos. A girl's gotta eat!
But hold on, the rollercoaster ride doesn't end there. In the middle of this merry madness, I decided to start my business. Because why not add "entrepreneur" to my already impressive list of titles? My mission: to empower young women who've faced breast cancer beast, just like I did. – I get it. The scars, the uncertainty, the sheer absurdity of it all. I'm here to show them that they can bounce back from boobs to business!
Fast forward to today, I'm through the worst of it. Life has found a smidgen of calm, and I can actually hear myself think sometimes (a rare treat, let me tell you). My days are still a whirlwind of football practice drop-offs, Xbox competitions, and trying to decipher my ADHD champs latest tantrums. But now, I'm also in the wild world of raising funds and finding suppliers for my business. It's a comedy of errors, a daily circus, and sometimes a teary-eyed drama. But you know what? I'm still here, and I'm still cracking on.
Life handed me lemons, but I'm turning them into fu*king lemonade. If I can do it, you can too! So, fellow supermums and breast cancer survivors, let's toast to the chaos, embrace the tantrums, and conquer this sh*t with a smile – one football game, one Xbox battle, and one business endeavor at a time! 🍋💪
Things it could be:
Tbf there are plenty of other possible causes of non-cancerous breast lumps (AKA benign lumps). The most common being cysts, blocked milk-ducts, fibroadenomas, fat necrosis, and sclerosing adenosis.
Here is some helpful information I found online about benign lumps:
How cysts are diagnosed and treated: Your healthcare provider may find a cyst during a physical exam. He or she may confirm the diagnosis with a mammogram or ultrasound. You may also have a fine-needle aspiration. This involves guiding a very fine needle into the cyst and drawing fluid from it (aspiration). This also serves as the treatment for this condition. Once the fluid is aspirated, the cyst collapses and disappears. But, cysts can reappear later, in which case they are simply drained again. Cysts are seldom cancerous (malignant).
How fibroadenomas are diagnosed and treated: Your healthcare provider may diagnose this type of lump simply by feeling it. But, he or she will want to confirm the diagnosis with a mammogram or ultrasound and fine-needle aspiration. Sometimes, in very young women, the fibroadenoma is not removed. However, since sometimes these tumors enlarge with pregnancy and breastfeeding, your provider may suggest having it surgically removed. While most fibroadenomas do not lead to cancer, there is a type of fibroadenoma that has been linked to an increased risk of cancer, particularly in women with a family history of the disease.
Why the 3F's are the ket to finding the right bra...
The perfect post-surgery bra comes down to the three F’s (or as I like to call them the WTFFF's); FABRIC, FIT & FUNCTION.
Whether it’s a soft lightweight material that gives it an invisible feel, cups that offer a comfortable contoured support cradle or its ability to hold your reconstructed foobs like a hoist without irritation... I reckon I have cracked the code with this formula.
Picking the right size and fit bra is above all the key ingredient for comfort. Many women are not comfortable in their bra because they are not wearing the right size. It's something I really feel that all breast care nurses should be trained in. Sometimes patients stick to the size they bought before surgery but after surgery and the breasts heal and evolve over time, or even after pregnancy or a change in weight.
Developing the best bra sizes is going to be super important for H.E.R Bodywear. My prototypes will be tested on loads of lovely volunteering ladies of various different shapes and sizes, to ensure they really and truly are super f*cking comfortable.
Guiding ladies to find their best fit is really how I want to differentiate my brand. I'm going to create a really simple questionnaire on my website with a few basic questions about their current bra and what may be causing them discomfort, so that I can suggest the best alternative size for them moving forward. My aim is to really support these wonder women to find their perfect fit.
Design development sneak peak: I am currently working on sourcing super stretchy lightweight fabric, which will be either seamless or with minimal bonded seams. Bonded edges are really flat and smooth to reduce irritation over our sensitive scar tissue. They also reduces that bulkiness that comes with a traditional elastic edge. I have also been sampling lightweight moulded memory-foam cups which provide smooth contouring to help even out asymmetry or rippling. And I am constantly snooping around for the latest technology and innovations to make sure that when I do launch, I have got a top notch product.
Let's get down to the titty nitty gritty then... Why do we even need a post-surgery bra?
These bras are typically made out of high quality, antibacterial fabrics with no dyes, wires, or excessive trims. They are worn to provide a good solid support and in some instances, gentle compression to the breasts as tissues recover. Your breast surgeon will be able to give you detailed specifics about your surgery and which type of breast procedure you are having, and how long you will need to wear your post-surgery bra for after your operation and during your recovery.
In one of my previous blog posts I said I wondered which was going to be worse: period pains or the menopause… I can now conclude, it is in fact the menopause!
As if the hot flushes, random aches and pains, fatigue, and lack of ability to concentrate or focus are not enough… I’m now also gaining weight at a phenomenal record breaking rate. I mean, quicker than it took me to grow an actual baby. I literally just need to look at food now and I gain weight… It’s not even funny at this point, Its just frustrating.
So then, why is it soooo much easier to gain weight after the menopause and so much harder to shed those extra pounds… even when I feel like I am doing all the right things?
1. Hormone Changes
Okay, so apparently when your oestrogen levels drop so does your resting metabolism rate (meaning you just burn way less energy) and ironically you feel more hungry at the same time.
Worse still, your cells lose sensitivity to insulin making it easier for your body to store fat. Brilliant! Especially If you don’t exercise, (which believe me, I definitely am trying to do). You also lose muscle mass at a faster rate – and that means less metabolically active tissue to burn calories. Hence, why strength training is MORE important than ever before. But why is it hard to muster up the energy to train? It is a real mental battle, finding that willpower to leave the sofa and get to the gym sometimes.
2. Sleep Changes
Menopause disrupts your sleep pattern in some super frustrating ways. First up, more than 60% of women say they find it harder to fall asleep during the menopause, and then when they eventually do drop off, actually staying asleep is just as hard. One minute you can be fast asleep and the next you’re wide awake and drenched in sweat.
But, what does poor quality sleep have to do with gaining weight? Well, let me tell you… Research shows that getting less than 6 hours of sleep a night is directly linked with an increased risk of weight gain. In fact, lack of sleep boosts the release of an appetite-stimulating hormone called Ghrelin. And, yep you guessed it, Ghrelin is what makes high calorie and sugary foods all that more appealing. Plus, I think its fair to say you feel wayyyy less motivated to exercise when you’re sleep deprived.
My top tips for better sleep are a slightly weighted eye mask and having a fan in your room. I just find it way easier to stay asleep when the room is that bit cooler.
3. Stress Changes
Let’s be real, with so many changes happening to your body all of a sudden, the menopause definitely feels like a stressful time. But, when you’re feeling tense or stressed, your body produces a hormone called Cortisol (AKA the stress hormone). Cortisol can trigger sugar cravings and lead to weight redistribution- Yeay! More weight around your belly and less on your hips (hello muffin top).
Furthermore, more Cortisol means less sleep, less energy, more random aches and pains, and unpredictable mood swings. It also reduces your body’s immune system responses and therefore makes it easier for you to feel rundown or poorly.
The best way to beat the cortisol blues is to make sure you keep active… You can see where I am going with this one though, right? It’s so hard to find the motivation to exercise when you have low energy, hot flushes, and mad sugar cravings. Catch 22!!
This is why the menopause is such an important time to focus on stress control strategies. So, anything that makes you feel calm, happy, relaxed, and less tense… do that.
Oh apart from dinking loads of wine – which also frustratingly helps you put weight on!!!! UUgghhhhh 😫🤯😢
THIS! is why I can absolutely, 100%, definitely, honestly conclude that period pain was easier to deal with than the menopause – you could just take a paracetamol for that… (and wine was obviously an absolutely acceptable stress control strategy too).
There are some truly magical people in the breast cancer community, who do not realise just how many hearts and minds they touch.
Yesterday's lunch at the Savoy was a celebration of 30 years of the Estée Lauder Pink Ribbon breast cancer campaign and one year since the official opening of the incredible Future Dreams House in Kings Cross. It was a magical day with wonderful people sharing love, light and support for each other.
For the first time in my life, I can honestly say that I felt a deep sense of belonging in a room full of complete strangers. It was like we all just understood each other. We came together to champion each other. We were all connected by utterly rubbish circumstances, but there was truly nothing rubbish about the invisible connection and bond we had.
Me and Melanie had never met (or even spoken) before yesterday, but it felt like we had known each other forever. We sat with so many fabulous ladies including the lovely Laura Middleton-Hughes, known online as bald-boobless-and-beautiful, Laura and Tori (AKA Lincoln & Sydney), the amazing
Secondary Sisters, Gemma, Charlii, Jeannie, Paola and Jane - I wish I had time to speak to everybody.
The lovely journalist, Leah Hardy, spoke about being diagnosed with stage 3, grade 3 breast cancer last August, and then the fabulous Victoria Derbyshire who was diagnosed in 2015, spoke with a panel of three incredibly inspirational ladies;
Victoria Ekanoye, Rosamund Dean and Charlii Siddu about how the Future Dreams Charity had been such a lifeline to each of them.
It was a powerful and moving day, and there were times when there was not a dry eye in the house. We enjoyed luxury hospitality at the Savoy with luxury Rosé wine 'Whispering Angel' which had us all on #CloudWine. I am so grateful for the connections and the friendships that have come out of something so bloody awful for all of us.
Oh, and side note: I felt like a total FANGIRL geek when I saw Leanne Pero, Carly Moosah, Nikki Newman and Lauren Macmahon IRL - obviously not to mention Gaby Rosalind, Cat Dailey, Liz Hurley, Patsy Kensit and Julia Bradbury! 🤩
Danielle and Sylvie wished for nobody would ever have to face breast cancer alone, and that legacy has certainly been achieved through the future dreams dreams house. Their work continues to reach more and more ladies every month, helping them regain self-confidence and find themselves again after breast cancer.
If you, or anyone you know, has been affected by breast cancer. Even if you’re not from London! I urge you to visit the future dreams house in Kings Cross... for a little bit of magic in the middle of all the mayhem!
Always nice to be FIRST at something, right? I mean, unless you're first in line for something rubbish.... like first in the family to get cancer (first and last, please god). But I must admit, being first is normally a good thing in my eyes.
It's nice to be first in line at the supermarket checkout, or first in the call queue when you're waiting and being forced to listen to a naff selection of "hold" music. First row at a concert or first place in a race. First class flights or first class holidays. And I do like to be first on the surgery list, or first on the treatment list at hospital.
But FIRST CLASS honours - Ermmmm yep, I'll take that one all day long thank you very much.
Surely they must be out there right? So, why is it so difficult to find something nice? that fits well, provides support, feels comfortable... AND... looks nice too?
In my experience recovery is not just a physical process, it involves mental, emotional and psychological elements too, and these can be much more difficult to heal after a diagnosis of breast cancer.
Did you know that 15% of British female adults are diagnosed with breast cancer? That is around 1 in every 7 of us.; There are 55,000 new cases every single year (around one new diagnosis every 10 minutes). Yet only 0.2% of the bra market in the UK is currently specifically for post-surgery or mastectomy… and why should we feel “less” than we did before surgery? Why should we be put in to a box, that basically says "this is all you are allowed to wear now"? Why should we have less options? Surely after surgery we need “more” support to feel our best and achieve a full emotional recovery?
I am interested to know your thoughts on this. Please leave your comments below.
I'm about to get the snip... 09 Sep 2021. 1pm
More importantly, I won’t be able to have any more babies. Don’t get me wrong, at almost 40 and without a significant other, it's not even something I ought to be thinking about. But here I am... thinking about it. Like all those eggs are just going in the bin, never to be fertilised or have the opportunity to become cute little babies. Probably for the best though tbf.. I need a job and stability to bring a third human up in this world. Anyway, they would potentially have the BRCA gene too so I have spared them that fate at least.
On a serious note though… I’m gutted I’ll be menopausal before I’m 40. Never have a period ever again? Not something I thought I'd say or feel… I’ll let you know when I’m on the other-side which is worse: Period pain or hot flushes!
******** UPDATE ********
Surgery done. Ngl, feeling a bit tender and swollen rn. It was supposed to be day surgery, but I told the surgeon that I would have to go home on my own this evening as the kids were stating at my mums. So they kept me in! #winning Haha... it's like a little all inclusive holiday to me hospital is (minus the sun and the pool obviously) but I'd much rather be woken up every couple of hours to be given morphine than stay at home and wake up every couple of hours with a sweaty child laying on my actual face.
Also... I text my amazing sister to tell her my phone battery was about to die. She came to the hospital at 10pm and delivered not only a phone charger, but a whole midnight feast, a tooth brush, tooth-paste, deodorant, baby-wipes, a book ... AND a lottery ticket!!! How lucky am I? Let it be known, Ros Perry of Nottingham, UK is the best sister in the world! xx
My interest in bras began in my early teens when I started to develop my little ticking time-bombs, but then grew massively over the following decades, especially during the changes my body went through during pregnancy and breast cancer surgeries.
I am a 2x breast cancer survivor and I’m thriving! I am striving for a better life and brighter future for myself and my children. I’ve racked up around 10 surgeries to date, everything from lumpectomies to mastectomies, but I’ll be honest, I have been reluctant to “find my place” in the cancer community. I didn’t want the fact that I have had cancer to “define” me as a person. I didn’t want to be identified as “the girl who has had cancer”. I just wanted to be me. And if I am completely honest, I think I have avoided cancer support groups and connections in the past, mainly because I find it all a bit overwhelming and emotional when I talk to others who have been through or are going through similar battles. I think I have been in denial for a long time. Choosing instead to focus on things that make me happy and feel positive instead of sharing sad or difficult stories with others.
People keep telling me that I am so strong. But am I? Am I really any different to anyone else? Is my body built differently? I don’t think it is. Maybe my mind and my vibe is strong, and maybe that's what carries me through these struggles life keeps throwing at me. I don’t know. But what I do know though is that breast cancer has transformed me.
I don’t think I’ll ever really have peace of mind that I am 100% safe and out the other side of the battle. Every new lump, or strange unidentified sensation is a scare to me. But I have learned that this trauma has made me appreciate every single day that I get to see my babies grow up, every tear I get to wipe from their scruffy little faces, and even every opportunity I get to put them in their place when they are giving me attitude. It has given me a passion for life like never before.
Now although I am completely comfortable wearing my good old, trusted sports bras, I have realised I need to do something about this body dysmorphia I have been wrestling with. I have decided I am going to design and develop my own range of modern, self-esteem boosting post-surgery bras for ladies who are looking for something more vibrant. Or something that doesn’t look like it was designed for their granny.
I have several years’ experience of working in the fashion industry, and I have just completed a BA (Hons) in Fashion Management at Nottingham Trent University as a mature student, and believe me, to say juggling a full-time degree course, a part time job and two young children as a single parent has been a struggle would be an understatement. But I think this is the path I was meant to end up on. Post-surgery and mastectomy bras have always looked and felt so clinical and boring to me and so I think it’s time for me to really get out of my comfort zone and do something about it. I think this is my calling and I have finally found my place in the cancer community.
I am planning to launch my new business later on this year if all goes to plan. Watch this space!
I thought surgery was going to prevent me from getting breast cancer... Turns out, I started the consultation process just in time.
My grandad died of breast cancer when he was just 58. Now, first things first, breast cancer is much less common in men than it is women. In fact, it's around 85 times less common in men than it is in women. So when my grandad was told he had breast cancer back in the 1980's he was tested for the BRCA2 gene mutation. The BRCA2 gene mutation is hereditary, and increases the carriers risks of developing breast cancer to around 80% (in comparison, non-BRCA mutation carriers lifetime risk is around 12%.)
Once we knew he had the BRCA2 gene mutation, the whole family were monitored by the genetic team at Nottingham City Hospital's Breast Institute. We knew that my mum and her siblings all had a 50:50 chance of inheriting the gene fault. All 3 of them inherited it! And, would you believe it, so has every single person in my grandads family tree to date. Male and female! I mean... Is it just me or is that freakishly unfortunate?..... 50:50 chance? Not in our case!
Thankfully, not everyone who inherits the BRCA2 gene fault will go on to develop cancer, and preventative surgery reduces the risk even further.
I remember when the nurse came in to tell me that I’d tested positive for BRCA2. I was 29 years old and pregnant with my first child. The first thing to come out of my mouth was, "Yep, I know,” because, well I did. My intuition, coupled with the super strong family history, all but assured me this would be the case. I didn't even need to think about my options at this point, I already knew I wanted to have preventative surgery, along with a breast reduction to my then large and rather disproportionate 32G breasts. But I was pregnant and so I knew I had to wait.
My son, Rayan was born in August 2012 and I breast fed him for around 6 months, before booking my preventive surgery. I'd been preparing for my surgery emotionally and physically for a few months and was in many ways looking forward to a new improved figure with neater curves. I had to go for several standard routine tests and scans before the surgery and thats when I found out... I had in fact. Already got. Breast. Cancer!!!!! WTF??? I was 30. I had a new baby! I had so much to live for. So many plans for my future. I felt way too young! I didn't have time to process any negative thoughts, or think about the "what if's", I just knew that I wanted to get whatever procedures needed to be done, DONE! and quick. Like yesterday. And so thats exactly what happened. Simple as that.
The following weeks and months were a bit of a blur. The doctors originally diagnosed DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) in my right breast. (DCIS is basically the earliest possible form of breast cancer, it needs to be treated but is not life threatening). However they then discovered there was a stage II cancer which they explained was contained or encapsulated - so still not too worrying and easily removed. I had a lumpectomy to remove the cancer in my right breast, at the same time as a double breast reduction and repositioning of my nipples. I needed to keep my own breast tissue while the scars healed to ensure my nipples had the best chance of surviving the surgery.
After 3 months I was due to go under the knife again for the double mastectomy with implant reconstruction, but in the meantime, the results of the lumpectomy came back and the cancer they thought was encapsulated and not particularly dangerous was in fact on the move, and spreading to my surrounding tissue. I had some lymph nodes from my right armpit removed and tested but luckily there was no sign of any cancer in them, and so I escaped chemotherapy, and I thankfully got the all clear in 2013 after my reconstruction. I was sent away with a 5 year course of Tamoxifen to safeguard me from a potential future return of the disease, and was told I will be under the care of the Nottingham Breast Institute for life.
I am extremely thankful to the breast care nurses and amazing talented surgeons I was blessed to meet and forever grateful that I was so lucky.
#BRCA2 #genetic #mutation #gene #familyhistory #hereditary #Diagnosis #BreastCancer #cancerjourney #DCIS