“The worst part is losing your hair.”
My mother and sister got cancer at 42, so I made sure to go for regular mammograms. Sure enough, when I was 42 the doctors discovered a lump in my breast.
I told the doctors they could take my breasts if they needed to, but in the end they only needed to remove the lumps. Still, I needed surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Inevitably, I lost my hair.
When you’re diagnosed with breast cancer, you go through a depression, but the worst part was losing my hair.
When I looked at myself in the mirror, I looked sick. I used to have really long hair, past my butt.
If you go for regular mammograms you can detect the cancer early and have very good chances of recovering. Listen to all the options the doctors give you, but don’t be scared.
“My husband found a lump.”
One day last year, my husband and I were watching TV and saw a news program about self-examinations. My husband asked if he could do one on me, which I thought was amusing, especially since I was only 29. But he did, and he found a lump.
I had a bilateral mastectomy. It was an incredibly difficult decision because I liked my breasts and didn’t want to let them go. Before the operation, I arranged for a professional photographer to come and take photos of me so I’d be able to remember what I looked like before the cancer.
I’m proud of myself that I had the courage to do that. I thought having breast cancer would be easier than it turned out. The physical part was about what I expected, but the psychological part was harder.
“I mourn the loss of my breasts.”
One day while taking a shower, I felt something in my breast that wasn’t supposed to be there. When I went to the doctor, he told me I had cancer. In a way, it was a relief that the knot was something — it wasn’t just me being crazy.
I had chemotherapy, radiation and breast-reduction surgery. The doctors had to remove the tumour in my right breast, but they had to reduce my left breast, too, so it wouldn’t look strange. I went from being a DD-cup to being a B-cup.
I’m happy to be alive, but I do mourn the loss of my breasts. It’s my skin and tissue, but this isn’t the way God made them.
My surgery was in November last year. People sobbed as if I’d died. I think it made them think about their own mortality. My husband kept telling me ‘We’re in this together. I won’t leave you.’
“You’re not alone.”
I found a lump and went to the doctor. The doctor told me it was probably cancer, but I delayed getting a biopsy. This was five years ago. I was only 25 and it didn’t make sense to me that I’d have cancer. Then I discovered another lump. I had chemotherapy, and the doctors advised me to have both of my breasts removed.
That was a really, really, really hard decision for me. For the first year I wasn’t too upset, but when I started dating again it became much harder.
Fortunately, when I met my boyfriend, who’s now my fiancé, he said ‘Ali, it’s not a big deal.’ Having lost my breasts still affects me, but now I’ve accepted that it’s part of who I am.
Breast Cancer: stories of courage