The cover girl of our launch issue speaks about what its like to have breast cancer when you’re young.
I was 27 years old when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The biggest shock I’ve ever had in my life and the most difficult challenge I’ve ever had to conquer.
My life was straightforward: I worked; went to gym; socialised … Then I was diagnosed! All I could think was, “Isn’t it older ladies who are supposed to get this?” “How can I have breast cancer?” My mom and I would walk into doctors’ rooms and breast cancer functions announcing me as the patient – otherwise everyone assumed we were there for her!
I had just achieved the hairstyle that I was going for: long, thick and beautifully highlighted. I cut it short to prepare for when it would fall out then, when it started falling out I shaved it off and bought a stunning platinum blonde wig. Without my wig I felt like there was an alien looking back at me in the mirror. My wig was my security blanket while I was bald. It made me feel normal and made it a whole lot easier to go out with friends and socialise. If I did my makeup and drew in my eyebrows, you could hardly tell there was anything wrong with me. It was great for keeping up appearances – but people often didn’t realise quite how sick, or tired, I was feeling.
I had many fears. Would I still be able to work? Would my company give me the time off? Would my friends hang out with a “sick person”? What would my parents think? How would they cope? Would men ever find me appealing? Would I still be a woman? What makes me a woman? The list went on.
Everyone was really supportive. I worked throughout my treatment, which meant I still had my medical aid. My folks had their own emotional issues to deal with but they were still there for me. I even dated!
My doctors drummed it into me: avoid negative people, words and situations; surround yourself with positivity – I needed to get selfish and look after me. My friends invited me out so often that I had to say “No”! That’s quite hard for a people pleaser. When I was not feeling great I’d say, “No, I’m not coming out tonight”, “No, I’m going to go lie on my bed and rest”, or even “No, I’m not participating in this discussion”. As great as it was to take control of my life – it was really tough knowing I was lying on my bed alone while all my friends were running around having a great ol’ time. I’d live life vicariously through their stories, Facebook and BBM. When they thought I was up to it my family would join me, we’d watch a movie and I’d fall asleep.
Once your treatment is over life carries on – suddenly you’re “normal” again. You don’t get as much attention and caring as before and work pressures normalise.
I have learned so much … the face in the mirror may still be young but the eyes are much older and wiser. I have learnt to be patient with my body, which no longer always does what I want it to. Learning to say “No” was great for life in general and I pursue positivity and things that make me happy.
The treatment ends but the emotional and physical scars never disappear. I have a long life ahead of me, and I can’t spend it obsessing over whether the cancer will come back. For the time being, I’m enjoying every moment I have.
Written by Victoria