Samantha was diagnosed eight weeks before she was due to get married. This year, she’ll be modelling in The Show London. She shares why it’s important to deal with your diagnosis in a way that’s best for you.
I was told I was too young
I first found a lump when I was leaning over at work. I went to the GP who told me that it was probably an infection and gave me antibiotics. For the next three months I repeatedly went back. The lump felt painful and larger than it should be.
One night, I couldn’t sleep because of the pain. I went to A&E, where they told me again it was an infection. I said that nothing seemed to be making any difference.
They sent me home, but soon I was back at the GP. They decided to refer me to a breast clinic, assuring me that it would be nothing, I was too young for it to be anything serious.
I didn’t take anyone with me to my appointment. The mammogram was fine, but after my ultrasound the mood in the room changed. They asked me if there was anyone with me, when I said no, they told me to come back next week for a biopsy and to bring my fiancée.
The biopsy confirmed that it was breast cancer. I immediately went into fight mode. I had just quit my job as a lawyer, looking to retrain as a teacher. I was getting married in eight weeks.
I told them, ‘Just make me well.’
I had fertility injections on my wedding day
I had a mastectomy with immediate reconstruction on 15 August 2017. The doctors initially recommended a lumpectomy, but we decided to remove the whole breast after further biopsies confirmed that the cancer had spread. Five days later, I was dancing at my best friend’s wedding.
I didn’t need chemotherapy as my Oncotype DX test came back with a low score, and I didn’t have radiotherapy as I was worried that it would affect my new implant.
While waiting for the Oncotype DX test results, it was suggested that I should think about fertility treatment. My nurse suggested going to the fertility clinic, but it felt like something they just needed to tick off the checklist. At no point did they mention that I should talk to someone about the process.
The team at the fertility clinic were thorough and helpful. Even though I didn’t have chemotherapy, I’m happy that I’ve had the fertility treatment, as I’m now on hormone therapy which means I can’t get pregnant for the time being. It’s reassuring to know my eggs are there if I need them, even if I did have to do the fertility injections on my wedding day!
My dress was refitted because of my mastectomy
After my surgery, I had a lot of swelling under my armpit. My wedding dress was sleeveless, and I was worried about how I would look on the day.
I had a wonderful woman refit my dress to help me. She removed the underwire from the left side where I had my mastectomy and extended the arm hole so it could accommodate the swelling. On the day I didn’t end up thinking about it at all. I look at the photos and can’t see any difference.
The wedding was a great distraction from what was happening. It took my mind off it. My family were so great and supportive. My mum came to live with us for six weeks to help us out, and my husband also bought me a French bulldog, Bella, after my surgery.
Because of her, I had to get outside. I walked her, house trained her, kept her busy. Even with my drains and wound dressings, it was still possible to look after her.
I’m more informed now
At the time, there was so much going on that it all flew by. Now I find myself thinking a bit more about what I’ve been through.
I’m still living with uncertainty. I know that I could have a recurrence. Last year, I got a chest infection that lasted 12 weeks and had to have a scan. At the time I had no idea that it could have been a sign of secondary breast cancer.
Now, I know it’s better to be informed. Last year I went to a Younger Women Together event. It was the most incredible weekend of my life (apart from my wedding!). It was nice to feel normal. Just because my active treatment is finished, it doesn’t mean I’m over my diagnosis. I’m still taking medication every day and dealing with side effects. It was amazing to be surrounded by people who understood what I was going through.
After the Younger Women Together weekend, I created a WhatsApp group for us and we all meet up. I also chat to lots of people on Instagram. It’s great to be able to talk to people who feel the same way.
I’m now one of Coppafeel’s Boobettes, helping to spread awareness of breast cancer, particularly among younger women and men.
There is life after breast cancer
I signed up to The Show after seeing my friend Lauren do it last year. I looked online and thought, ‘why not?’.
My body isn’t something I’m particularly confident about. I used to be very active, but with hormone therapy I put on some weight which is harder to shift then it used to be. But I want The Show to be a positive thing to come out of my diagnosis.
People hear the word cancer and they panic. I’m so passionate about showing that there is life after breast cancer. I also want to raise the profile of cancer in younger people and share how important it is to know what’s normal with your body.
You know what’s best for you
It was so important to do what was right for me when I was diagnosed. But what was right for me might not be right for you.
Don’t let other people influence your decision, and make sure that the people supporting you know how you want to deal with your diagnosis and treatment.
The way I dealt with my diagnosis was through positivity. It happened, and I wanted to know what we needed to do next. For others, it might be better to close the door and lie in bed for two days while you process the news, everyone's reaction is different.
Don’t let anyone tell you how to deal with your diagnosis. You know what’s best for you.
Join Samantha and 31 other inspirational models 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.