Its said that you never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.
“In 2015 at the age of 46 I was invited to have Breast Screening as a trial to reduce the screening age. I had only been at my current GP practice for a year and they had decided to take part in the trial and I was chosen at random. I went along to the screening without any worries. I was recalled a week or so later, and again went along without any worries as I was told at the initial screening that recalls in younger women were quite common place due to the breast tissue being more dense. At the recall they spotted something that they weren’t too sure about, so I had other tests including a biopsy all in the same afternoon.
‘I went home now starting to worry.’
Just days later I got a telephone call asking me to go in for the results. As this had happened quickly I started to fear the worst. So myself, my partner and my Mum went along to the Pink Rose Suite at my local hospital, for the results. It was then I was told that I had Breast Cancer.
‘Words that hit hard.’
My mum’s eyes filled with tears and my partners grip tightened on my hand. It was a very surreal experience and most of what was said afterwards was a blur, but the other part I did hear was that it was “treatable” and probably caught at an early stage. It was really hard seeing those I love getting upset. I started to worry how I would tell my nearest and dearest including my two sons.
From there I went onto a rollercoaster journey including surgeries and chemotherapy. I had the mass removed but unfortunately they found more cancer, a different type and I had to have a mastectomy. I had immediate reconstruction. Most people would think losing a breast is really hard, and I have to admit it wasn’t easy but losing my hair due to chemotherapy was harder. It hits at your femininity. I found that the hardest part. With the loss of my hair, including eyebrows and eyelashes, I lost my confidence.
‘ I felt ugly.’
I am very lucky in that I have a great network of family and friends who were by my side from the start, and even luckier to have an amazing partner who was my carer, my shoulder to cry on, and the arms that held me up when I wanted to crumble. After treatment my confidence has still been at a low, I may now have some hair but it isn’t long like it used to be, my medication is making me put weight on and I suffer from other side effects. But I am here when so many others aren’t, I am mindful of that every day, and am grateful to all my medical team and support network for that.
I’d seen a couple of shared internet posts of Janey Kay’s Photography on Facebook, and then heard that she’d done a project with the local Breast Cancer Support Group in my area called “Bosom Buddies”, which I thought was amazing. I then saw that she was doing Bridal Boudoir Shoots and as I was due to marry this year, I thought I would look into it. Before my cancer I had never been comfortable in front of a camera, my partner would complain that I wouldn’t have my photo taken, so to even consider this ‘after’ my cancer treatment was unbelievable. From my first meeting with Janey she put me entirely at ease, she shared with me some other Bridal Boudoir shoots she’d done and more importantly the Bosom Buddies ones. I got quite emotional at my meeting with Janey when talking about my Breast Cancer journey and how I felt after treatment. I was so taken with the beauty shown in the photos I knew I wanted to try but not sure if I could be brave enough. Janey with her past NHS experience encouraged me. I knew my partner would be blown away by this if I could summon up the courage, and it is that which spurred me on to go ahead.
The morning of the shoot I was pampered with a make over by Janeys Make Over Fairy, Natalie. I had full hair and makeup and lashes and she truly did sprinkle some magic. I couldn’t believe how comfortable Janey made me feel in that photo session. The results were amazing.
I also along with my Aunt who was diagnosed in 2016 joined the Bosom Buddies group, a lovely group of ladies of varying ages at different stages of their treatment, they meet once a month and have guest speakers and do various activities together, as well as having a general chat about our lives in and out of cancer. It’s great to catch up with people who know what you are going through and who you can share experiences with.
The photograph album Janey produced for me …. well … I was going to present to my partner on the morning of our Wedding Day, but I was so excited at the thought of his reaction, and the fact that we are going straight onto honeymoon so he wouldn’t get chance to digest it; that I presented it to him early ….. and yes he was pleasantly shocked …. which I think is an understatement. I look at these beautiful photos and still can’t believe it’s me, the photos are subtle, some a little more with a hint of suggestion! But all in good taste. I feel empowered by this and can’t thank Janey enough, she has worked miracles. I would highly recommend this to anyone whose confidence is lacking or like me they are experiencing a time where they feel they’ve lost their femininity.
‘We do all have it, but sometimes we need to see it in ourselves and I now see it every time I look at these photos.’
Fiona is an inspiration to us all. A story of strength and determination, but also for me a story of love and friendship and a journey that has taken her from strength to strength.
I was delighted to capture the moments of her family celebrations of her marriage to her wonderful husband and to see Fiona, confident, smiling and every inch the beautiful lady she always was but perhaps for a brief moment , had lost. I feel content and honoured to not only share her story but to be part of her pathway towards recovery.