Loving yourself whatever life brings – Leanne’s Story

Here I have a guest post for you from a lovely blogger called Leanne. Reading Leanne’s story really made me think about how I look at the world and how quickly life can change. She shares over on her blog My Breast Cancer Journey some really honest experiences, worries and troubles she has had. She shares some things I genuinely didn’t know despite having known people with breast cancer so her website is such an interesting read. Leanne has such a positive outlook I really think you will get something from reading so wanted to share. Here is Leanne’s story, it is a real eye opener and inspirational story.

Sometimes life just likes to kick you when you’re down. You think that things couldn’t possibly get any worse and then boom – life smacks you clean in the face all over again. But don’t worry, this isn’t a sorry tale, it’s about how when you think you are at your lowest point, just changing the way you think can have a really positive impact on your future.

Rewind to August 2017. My Dad (pictured above with Leanne) had been struggling with his vision, having problems with processing words on a page, struggling see. Separately he had found a lump under his arm that was growing by the day. He’d been back and forth to the doctors and dismissed over and over on the grounds that it was all down to blood pressure. Fed up with the GPs attitude, my mum took Dad to A&E and it was there, following an MRI scan that they discovered two lesions on his brain. We would later discover that he was suffering from secondary malignant melanoma – stage 4 – spread to his lungs and liver as well as his brain. There was no cure, not even any treatments that could prolong his life. He died on 1st November 2017, 8 short weeks after diagnosis.

During his illness, back in October, I had found a small lump in my breast and had noticed that the mysterious specs of blood I’d noticed on my pyjama top had actually been coming from my nipple rather than the spots I’d always struggled with on my chest. I was urgently referred by my GP to the breast clinic but I wasn’t overly concerned. The breast team didn’t seem to be worried that it was anything serious, an innocent papiloma they thought. They had wanted me to leave it be and return after Christmas for further scans but something was telling me to push. If Dad’s journey taught me anything it was to trust my instincts and never take no for an answer when it comes to your health. I insisted they remove the duct as soon as they could. My consultant thankfully agreed.

Meanwhile I was just  focussed on getting my mum through each day, supporting my children who desperately missed their Grandad and planning Dad’s funeral. The funeral was beautiful, we did Dad proud and a few weeks later I had my operation. The week before Christmas, still so desperately sad about Dad, my husband and I headed back to the hospital to get the histology results.

“It’s cancer.”

The room started to spin. “What? No. How? But you said it was just…”
My first thought was with my children. What would we tell them? Then my Mum, oh God, how could I tell her I had cancer so soon after it stealing Dad?

The breast team explained that as far as they were aware we had caught it early. I’d need further surgery known as a central excision to remove the rest of the cancer cells and I would lose my nipple. The stupidest thing was, I was more concerned about losing my nipple than being told I had cancer.

Heading home with various leaflets and cancer booklets, all i could focus on was mourning my left nipple. I mean looking back now, it seems ridiculous doesn’t it. Cancer? Yeah no probs… but you want to take my nipple? Hell no! I guess in that moment I was thinking that if I looked normal on the outside then no matter what was going on inside, I’d be fine.

Over the weeks that followed I began to re-evaluate my life. I’d spent the past 20 years being so body conscious, worrying about what people thought of me. Trying to lose weight on fad diets, trying new creams to improve my skin, loading fake tan on and contouring my face but none of it was for me, not really… it was all about keeping up appearances, looking good to feel better about what other people might think.

Slowly my perceptions of myself started to change. It was family and health that were the most important things in life. So what if I lost my nipple, at least I’d be alive. In January I had the wide excision operation. It was hard looking in the mirror afterwards. Seeing the huge scar where my femininity used to live. By the time I headed back to the hospital for my results I was actually in a really good place. I had started to gain confidence in myself. I was not going to let any of the negative experiences I’d been through affect me. My positivity was on the up. That’s when the third and final kick in the teeth came. They hadn’t managed to get all of the cancer during the op  –  I would need a mastectomy.

My mastectomy took place in February and despite a few complications I’m doing ok. I opted for immediate reconstruction and at the moment I’m living with horrible a horrible expander. Later in the year i’ll be having a prophylactic mastectomy on my ‘good’ boob and eventually both expanders will be replaced by silicone implants.

I am in a good place but very much aware now of just how precious life is. Family time and making memories is the single most important thing for me. The mastectomy has affected my metabolic rate and made me pile on the weight, I’m a boob down with one to go and soon both nipples will be replaced with tattoos. But I’m not a freak, I’m a warrior. And to quote my favourite song from The Greatest Showman – THIS IS ME.

My whole experience, as negative as the last 6 months have been for me, has actually made me a more positive person. I appreciate my life a lot more and I’ve realised that all the body hang ups I had before were stupid. I’m a boob down, I have put on 2 stone but I’m different. I’m a better person now, I’m focused on my happiness and helping others more than anything else. That’s why I’ve set up a blog documenting my journey, sharing tips and helpful advice as well as sharing lots of stories from other women going through breast cancer too. It’s going from strength to strength and really helping others. I feel like I’m finally giving something back. So for those of you that are reading this guest post, wondering why I’m here, well here goes…

I am asking you to really think. Take a step back, look at your life and ask yourself – what really matters? Life is truly what you make of it. Go out and embrace it. Don’t be ashamed to be yourself. Be proud. Stand Tall. Love your body, the skin you are in, because one day it will all be over and you shouldn’t have any regrets.

If you want to follow Leanne’s journey and read some more check out her blog here.

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