Viv's Story

How cancer wasn’t going to get in her way of climbing a mountain

I was diagnosed when I was 42 (same age as my Mum was) with extensive, high grade (C5 cells) in my right breast. I had had a clear liquid coming out of my nipple and as I was so breast aware, on my birthday, I went to the doctor straight away. She sent me for tests and needle biopsies. These came back with some detection of abnormalities but nothing major. They thought it could be a blocked milk duct, so I underwent a microductechtomy which is removal of the milk ducts and had a core biopsy while under anaesthetic.

I was due to climb Ben Nevis that weekend with my kids for Pancreatic Cancer Research. They wanted me to have the op ASAP but nothing was going to stop me climbing that mountain. So I waited and had it the week after we had completed the challenging climb. The consultant told me that time was on my side and I had about 6 weeks to decide whether or not to have a mastectomy. I did a lot of thinking and research but I made the decision to say goodbye to both. The consultant didn’t hesitate to take my healthy breast due to my Mum’s cancer. I was also sent for genetic testing and I was negative. I wake up every morning thankful that that was the case.

It turned out that I had a 6cm lump in my breast alongside the DCIS and a micro met in my lymph node. I was very fortunate that I didn’t have to undertake chemo or radiotherapy. I wasn't offered immediate reconstruction due to my weight and other issues so I asked if I could have temporary implants which they did put in. Within 10 days I had a horrible infection in the left side which resulted in me losing the left implant and another 10 uncomfortable days in hospital. I stayed a uni boober until the following May when I had the other implant removed and went completely flat! At this point I was devastated and ended up having counselling at our local hospice for about 18 months.

Once I got my head around it all, I thought about having reconstruction. I actually couldn't face another massive surgery so I decided to remain flat chested. I am so happy with this decision and whilst I would never say never, I am really not convinced I will ever get it done. I am now working on my new body image and trying to get my belly flatter and lose weight for health. There are so many clothes that can flatter the figure even without boobs so I work on updating my wardrobe so I'm comfortable.

I work with 16-19 year old boys and to be honest I don’t think they even notice I have no boobs. I have been left with lymphedema in my right arm and have to wear a sleeve all the time which causes more questions than my flat chest!!! Life is good and I am so thankful for the breast care unit at our local hospital who have looked after me so well. If I can climb a mountain with cancer in my breast, I can do anything!!!