Swimming with the sharks can actually be the best experience of your life. By Juliet Vigurs
A month ago
Hi, my name is Juliet, I’m 50, I live in Yorkshire with my partner and our 4 children & 2 dogs. I was diagnosed with breast Cancer in September 2016. I had heard people who had been through a similar experience, say that the room went blurry and that the words seemed unreal. But that wasn’t of any importance, it would never happen to me…
All I can remember is my shoes, I stared at them as the consultant spoke to me, to be honest, I can’t really remember what he said, Breast cancer, mastectomy and chemotherapy were the words that resonated. My mum sat in a chair in the corner of the room, she picked up her phone halfway through to text my dad. She said later that she was as much in shock as I was. The nurse said she’d never had someone text halfway through a diagnosis. Yet, still, those cream loafers stared back at me, the tassels on them screaming in silence as I sat, dumbfounded. I have never worn them since. I’d had issues with my boobs before, breastfeeding had left me with calcifications which form when the milk in the ducts form calcium stones, I’d was told not to worry about having lumpy bits, so I didn’t. It was only after a routine mammogram and a look from the radiographer, followed by a ‘nothing to worry about’ biopsy that I returned to the clinic, expecting to be told that I had another stone in my right breast.
The weekend after the diagnosis was the worst, I had been told on a Friday. I googled myself into a state and took to my bed. Hiding from the world as my brain screamed in silence. Monday came so slowly that weekend, I had to tell the children at some stage and yet all I wanted to do was run away and hide. From then on, I can’t really remember details, possibly because of the way my head dealt with it, the endless appointments, procedures, chemotherapy, side-effects, hair loss, wigs, Herceptin, breast removal and reconstruction, all just followed on one after another. My new boobs actually look amazing and I am so grateful that I found such a caring and understanding surgeon. My wigs were called Priscilla and Daphne, they helped me be me. Even with the loss of all my other hair, eyebrows, eyelashes and other bits, I managed to maintain a makeup and skincare routine.
Chemo isn’t kind to the skin and moisturising was a nightmare, it just slid off my skin. Massages and spas were recommended by my oncology team. Most spas are still a bit hesitant to treat a cancer patient, however, I did find some places that were happy to treat me, these helped my well-being more than anything. Being able to relax for even half an hour was wonderful. One thing I managed not to lose throughout this was my sense of humour. I mean I had wanted a breast reduction for years; I was rocking a 38G, my boobs entered the room before me. Not the best way to go about it though eh?
Now I look like a spaniel listening to a dog-whistle when I look at my nipples. One is perfectly sat upon my plastic booby, the other is proceeding south as a 50-year-old boob does. Though my surgeon did a nipple graft, which involved cutting my remain nipple in half and stitching it onto my fake boob, the tattooing around it. It looks fabulous, just a bit wonky. I don’t have to wear a bra anymore; I can wear strappy tops. My hair has grown back and I have had hair extensions because I can and I want to look like a blonde goddess at 50. During my blogs I openly talk about being a warrior, being a survivor, letting yourself fall apart, how to be a friend to someone with cancer and also what happens when all the treatment stops and you are just left in the middle of the ocean without a life raft. Swimming with the sharks can actually be the best experience of your life, cancer makes you change.
Click here to read more from Juliet