PUBLISHED ON: 21 August 2018

Toria discovered a lump while her mum was going through her own cancer treatment. She shares how she kept her optimism and what being a model in our London Show means to her.

Toria took photographs as her hair grew back

I wasn't shocked at being diagnosed

I found a lump in August 2015. At the time, my mum was going through treatment for cancer. She had been diagnosed the year before.

It was because of her that I decided to go and get checked. I went to the hospital on my own, as I didn't want to worry my mum or my husband.

Within 50 minutes I had two mammograms, five biopsies and had been told that they thought cancer was in both breasts. It all happened so quickly.

It took me by surprise, but I wasn't shocked. Cancer wasn't something new for my family. I'd been living and breathing the disease for 12 months because of my mum. It felt like just another thing that I had to go through.

I went onto autopilot

Once I had come to terms with my diagnosis, I went onto autopilot.

I started reading absolutely everything I could about my diagnosis, my treatment options and what I was going to face. My research led me to Breast Cancer Care and the information and support that they provide. It was a massive help to me.

I had two lumpectomies and went through chemotherapy. I'd always had short, cropped hair, so didn't think I would be bothered when my hair fell out because of treatment.

But when it started to come out, it was a huge shock to the system. It wasn't so much about losing the hair on my head (I had some great wigs!), but when I started to lose my eyelashes and eyebrows the shape of my whole face changed. It was very difficult.

Toria took photographs during her cancer treatment

It's hard to see yourself changing

You can put a mask on with makeup. You paint your eyebrows in and put your wig on, and everyone says, 'You look amazing!' I used to think, 'If you saw me three hours ago, you wouldn't be saying that!'

You look healthy when you start treatment. By the end of it, you look like you've gone through the mill. It's hard to get used to looking in the mirror and seeing your body changing week by week.

I decided to take photos all the way through my treatment. I wanted to show the difference in my appearance, but they were also for me to look back on. 

There's one photo that's horrendous. I took it on my worst day, after my fourth round of chemotherapy.

I came home and lay in bed, thinking, 'I can't feel any worse'. I took the photo so that I would remember how I looked and felt at my lowest moment. I've kept it as it shows me how far I have come.

My daughter was my inspiration

My daughter hadn't even turned two when I was diagnosed. She knew that Mummy wasn't very well but didn't fully understand what was happening.

I think I was fortunate that I was able to keep her in nursery and still interact with her as we used to. I didn't let her world feel any different.

She was such an inspiration to me. When I felt awful, I would look at my daughter and remember I was fighting cancer to be her mum. She was the reason I kept going.

I thought I was 'back to normal'

The last 18 months have been the hardest part of my experience. When I came out of treatment I thought, 'Wow, I did it. I'm back to normal.'

But then the worries kick in. It's been a long process for me. I've gone back and forth with doctors, as the tamoxifen has given me menopausal symptoms that I've really struggled with.

I've been working on myself and have started seeing a counsellor. I'm in a much better place, but I wasn't prepared to feel this way. The after-effects of breast cancer treatment hit me more than I expected.

Toria-2018

The Show has been an incredible experience so far

I decided that I wanted to start fundraising for Breast Cancer Care. My work got involved, and together with Breast Cancer Care Cymru we've done a huge amount of fundraising. A few friends and I did a Pink Ribbon Walk last year, and my office did Wales on Wheels.

It was through fundraising for the charity that I heard about The Show. I never thought I'd be chosen, and it's been an amazing experience so far.

At a welcome day I met so many incredible women. It was wonderful to be able to speak to people like me who had gone through a similar experience.

A few of the models have started a WhatsApp group, and I can't wait until we all meet up again.

Your life isn't on hold forever

When you hear the word 'cancer', everything feels so scary.

One of my friends has recently been diagnosed, and one of the pieces of advice I've given her is not to be afraid.

Treatment is difficult, but there are so many support options out there to help you through. Being honest with yourself about how you're feeling, and with those around you, will make it easier.

Breast cancer feels like it's put a pause on your life. But your life won't be on hold forever. There's so much more waiting for you beyond treatment.

 

Join Toria and 30 other inspirational people at The Show London as they step out in style onto the catwalk after a breast cancer diagnosis. Raise vital funds to help us be there for others like her. Book your tickets today.

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