The One in Eight
Being diagnosed with breast cancer in your twenties, thirties or forties is a very different experience to having cancer in your sixties or seventies. First of all, if you are anything like me, you didn’t even know it could happen. From the little I did know, I had the impression that it was not a risk so long as you didn’t have a family history or a genetic mutation. I learned later on that breast cancer caused by a genetic mutation only makes up 5 - 10% of all cases.
Hearing the words, you have cancer is scary and you are thrown in a whole new world of exams, specialists and options - SO many options! Again, I thought it was more of a straightforward approach, as in “you have that type of cancer and here is your treatment plan”. Alas, that is not how it works. You have a myriad of options and decisions to make. Lumpectomy, mastectomy, radiation, hormone therapy, targeted therapy… You have to become an expert in breast cancer just to be able to understand your options.And let’s not forget all the non-medical questions: how do I deal with losing a breast, or both? What do reconstructed breasts (or foobs as we call them) look and feel like? How do I start dating again and undress in front of a new partner with this new body of mine? It is like a whole new universe being thrown at you. Confusing and scary. Having the support of family and friends is amazing and so important. But… sometimes, they don’t get you. They can’t, because they haven’t been through breast cancer. How you can burst into tears in the lingerie department because nothing fits anymore, how you suddenly get boob envy (it’s a real thing) and just see breasts everywhere. How they think you should be “over it” because your cancer treatment is done.
This is why the connection with other people in the same situation is so, so crucial. They can actually sympathize with you because they have been through breast cancer. They’ve also experienced scanxiety that runs riot before every routine exam. They know about the lost innocence, how you can never confidently walk into the MRI room, because you know it can go wrong, because it did once. How you may be declared “cured”, but also have the knowledge that it will come back and metastize in 30 % of all cases.You were the 1 in 8. You just don’t want to be part of those 30%.
These new connections also get the humorous side of things, the side that may seem tasteless to outsiders. Like absentmindedly shouting “where is my tit, have you seen my tit” whilst energetically searching for your prosthetic around the house. Or the night out when it took you a solid 10 minutes to notice your date was enthusiastically fumbling your breast, because you have no feeling there or they are not even real but silicone stuffed in your bra.
We all seek human connection but, in this case, it is especially important to be able to create relationships with people who get it. Who get you. Who get this whole cancer thing. To do so in a safe place. That is how Boobytrapp came to be. We’re building a breast cancer app for breast cancer patients. Find out more about how we're connecting breast cancer patients. The survivor doll image is copyright to the amazing Marina Bychkova. You can see her incredible work here.