PUBLISHED ON: 17 July 2018

Leanne tells us how she regained confidence after her breast cancer treatment and why she's reaching out to women who are struggling with their own body image.

Leanne

I was told not to worry because I was so young

I was diagnosed with breast cancer a few days before my 31st birthday.

I found a lump, which everyone told me not to worry about because I was so young. My mum has had breast cancer twice, so I knew I needed to get it checked.

I went to an appointment with the consultant who worked with my mum. I took my best friend and my brother along with me as I didn't think it would be serious.

When she said that they'd discovered cancer, I couldn't believe it.

Six months earlier I had been in the same room with my mum, being told about her treatment plan. Now I was hearing my own options. It was a lot to absorb in one appointment.

I walked out flabbergasted.

In the next couple of weeks, I underwent more scans and tests. Waiting for all of it was so nerve-wracking, I started suffering from anxiety and panic attacks.

I thought, 'How am I going to be a woman again?'

Leanne after her double mastectomy and reconstruction

I started chemotherapy exactly a month after my diagnosis.

You expect the worst with chemotherapy. It was tough. The treatment robbed me of all the things that made me feel like a woman.

My periods stopped, my hair fell out – even my eyelashes and eyebrows went.

As I was at high risk of recurrence it was recommended that I have a bilateral mastectomy which was followed by a reconstruction. It was very difficult losing all these things at the same time.

I thought, 'How am I going to be a woman again? Who's going to want me?'.

I slowly started to experiment with my appearance. I bought wigs, wore different makeup and tried out lots of different looks. People told me I looked good without any hair, but I wanted to wear wigs. I tried to bring a bit of fun into my treatment and now I'm a pro at putting on eyelashes!

Now, I don't look back on chemotherapy as a negative experience. Every time I went for an appointment, I was getting better.

Blogging helped me discuss body image

I made a friend during my chemotherapy treatment who had very low self-esteem. When she was diagnosed with cancer, it shattered the little confidence that she did have.

I was lucky as I was comfortable with myself before I started the chemotherapy, but after breast cancer sometimes I looked in the mirror and felt horrified.

If I felt that way, how did women with less confidence feel?

Something that helped me with my confidence was writing blogs. I started to share my experience and how I was dealing with it through my online writing.

I was determined not to sugar-coat anything. I had people reach out and thank me for being so honest with my writing.

My blogs also helped start some important conversations about body image. Writing about my physical changes and how I was feeling created a discussion about the pressures put on women to look and act a certain way.

It's something that you really feel when you're having breast cancer, and still affects you when you're trying to move forward from your treatment.

I decided to stop worrying

It's common to struggle with your confidence after breast cancer. I've had to come to terms with the fact that my body will never be the same again.

The minute I decided to stop worry about how my body was changing, the better I felt about myself.

 

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