The following is couple of letters we received from women who are happy to share their experiences:
To whom it may concern
I am one of the increasing number of young female cancer patients that has been diagnosed with breast cancer.
I was diagnosed in January 2011, one month after my 38th birthday, the start of over two years of biopsies, scans, mastectomy, reconstruction, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, monoclonal therapy and revisionary reconstruction. Quite a mouthful, eh!?
My own opinion is that the diagnosis and treatment is the easy part; dealing with the side effects such as hair loss not so easy, (OK, it was nice not having to worry about waxing my bikini line and under arm for a few months, but wouldn’t you think there would have been some justice in it all, and that I wouldn’t have to worry about the hair on my legs…. but no! I never lost a single hair from my bloody legs!) but it is the psychological element isn’t so easy to deal with. While being extremely thankful and grateful that with medical advances my prognosis is extremely good and the chances of recurrence quite low, I can’t say I appreciate the loss of femininity I felt with losing my hair, eyebrows, eyelashes and putting on 2.5 stone over the course of treatment. It seemed churlish to give out about such seemingly trivial things. But they are the things people notice the most. At time when so many abnormal things are happening to my body with exhaustion, nausea and bloating, it was a time when I craved a little holiday from the ravages of chemotherapy and radiotherapy and to feel normal and feminine again.
It’s like as if we are meant to sacrifice any notion of looking nice, in exchange for perpetual good health. That’s fair enough, but it comes with a lifelong price too, and when scars from surgery fade, self esteem and confidence take a battering quicker but take a long time (if ever) to find that self esteem and confidence again.
I’m the best person to laugh at myself, and I cope with situations normally with good humour. That is the side everyone see. They didn’t see the frustration at not being able to put on make-up properly because things we take for granted, such as eyebrows and lashes that define and frame the face, are gone. They didn’t see the lack of interest in how I look, especially when my old clothes no longer fitted me.
When conventional medicine treats the cancer, for the soul it would be wonderful to have a service such as Gerardine hopes to provide. We may lose our breasts through treatment but most of us that have had breast cancer have the opportunity of reconstruction. Something like the service Gerardine wants to offer would be like reconstructing confidence. We don’t know how important this is to us, because there isn’t enough provided to us to be able to tell the difference.
I think it’s wonderful that Gerardine is undertaking this project; I am excited for the cancer patients that will benefit from this and maybe some day in the future this service will automatically go hand in hand with cancer treatment to alleviate self esteem issues and confidence. Heaven knows we have enough issues to deal with.
I hope this small insight into my life as a cancer patient is helpful but if you want any further information please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Here is a Testimonial from another brave woman, we thank them for their honesty and wish them well for the future:
To: Geradine Ryan
….. As I have gone through the treatment process, I understand first hand the negative effect it can have on your confidence and appearance. This would be such a beneficial service to offer patients & post cancer patients. Even just to feel “normal” again if even for a little while. Geradine is a genuinely kindhearted person who is very generous in her time dedicated to fundraising and in particular this cause.
My story begins in 2004, when I discovered a lump under my arm in my left breast. I was 28 years old and assumed naively that I’d pulled a muscle while swimming, never expecting in a million years I could have cancer (as I was much too young or so I thought!!!). Tests and biopsies followed, then more visits to different oncologists for second opinions. After getting over the initial shock and resigning myself to the fact I would need treatment, I developed an “I will beat this and will not let it upset me” attitude. The radiotherapy began, lumpectomy followed and finished with very strong sessions of chemo. Then the real reality of cancer kicked in for me- doubling in size- bloating, mouth sores, teeth yellowing from constant vomiting, grey complexion, hair loss in clumps ( thankfully for me it never fully went – thanks to the cool cap).
However, it was then I realised that it was people’s attitude to my appearance that was getting to me not the pain or treatment or nausea (I attacked that with attitude). It was surprisingly for me the people staring with pitiful expressions, others commenting on my bloated appearance and how unwell/ grey-faced/ heavy I looked. Some even asking if “that was my real hair or a wig?” Which I would always cheekily reply “OMG- is it on backwards again?” Or “why, is it crooked?” (“,). However, what hurt the most were the friends and neighbours who would cross the street and avoid me because they didn’t know what to say to me……
…..Thankfully, I’m in remission now & happily married with a very loving, supportive and thoughtful husband and a beautiful little boy (that all my doctors told me I would never have) ;•)~
Life is funny sometimes. I never would have believed that the trivial end (as opposed to the medical side) of cancer would have affected me as much as it did. I suppose as women, we are super critical of our own bodies and images and it can be a huge shock when this is altered so suddenly, so drastically and without your consent. I would like to commend Geradine on her endeavour to undertake this task of restoring confidence in patients and post- cancer patients and trying to reignite a little light inside each and everyone of us. She is genuinely a very special person.
> L (Tipperary)