'Why I had a double mastectomy'

by Rebecca Methley, a patient at The London Clinic

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. To honour this, a former sufferer of breast cancer and patient of The London Clinic, Rebecca Methley, shares her story.

Living in Hong Kong and having previously resided in Australia, life with three young children was great. However, at the age of 35 my world was brought to a stand-still when I found a lump in my breast.

When I went to my GP in Hong Kong with my concerns, I was initially told not to worry. The lump hurt and I was advised it could not be breast cancer, as breast cancer was not painful. When the lump kept concerning me and did not go away, I went back to my GP twice and was given the same advice. Still worried when I moved to Singapore several months later, I went to a specialist who sent her me to have a mammogram.

The mammogram results came back negative but the screening system in Singapore meant that thankfully, I also had an ultrasound. After the doctor saw my ultrasound, I was given the devastating news that I had a 2cm cancerous tumour growing in my right breast. As a mother of three young children, this news was incredibly scary.

I then had to undergo a lumpectomy to remove the tumour, which unfortunately left me with a misshapen right breast. This was followed by radiotherapy treatment. I was also given the option of having chemotherapy but because the lump was of borderline size, I decided not to go ahead with it. It was an incredibly tough decision to make.

Like most women who have had breast cancer, I was given Tamoxifen to take as a preventative measure for five years after diagnosis. My family and I moved home to the UK in 2007 and that same year I stopped taking the drug. Once the medication finished, I began finding lumps and bumps in my breasts and was told by my doctors that they were benign cysts, but they caused me constant stress and concern.

Because of the cysts, I was at my local hospital having tests every few months, and was always worrying that the cancer had returned. One cyst even grew to the size of a tennis ball, and required aspiration. As well as experiencing terrible worry, I was also very insecure about my misshapen breast.

When the tennis ball size lump came back, and the 10-year anniversary of my diagnosis rolled around in 2011, I’d decided enough was enough. I was sick of the cysts and of feeling self-conscious about my damaged breast, and made the decision to get both of my breasts removed.

I was recommended Mr Gerald Gui, Consultant Breast Surgeon at The London Clinic. Upon meeting with him, I explained I wanted a double mastectomy, followed by a reconstruction.  Mr Gui helped me to weigh up my options by giving me both the pros and the cons of the procedures. He was brilliant, as he did not let me just go ahead with the surgery without thinking it through. He got me to slow down and look at the facts.

I spent nearly a year thinking about it, and then decided to take the plunge. I underwent the double mastectomy in January 2012, followed by the reconstruction the following October.

It was the best thing I have ever done. It is not an easy thing to go through, but I no longer have to worry about breast cancer and I feel like a weight has been lifted. The reconstruction also means I now have a great set of boobs and no longer feel self-conscious about them.

Now that I know I am cancer-free, I am enjoying everyday life again, including spending time with my family, who I could not have got through this experience without. My husband and children were what kept me going when I felt like the worry and fear felt was too much to cope with.

I am also enjoying leading a fit and active lifestyle without worrying about any of my previous insecurities. I am still carrying on with pilates, which really helped me rehabilitate from the reconstruction. It is quite hard to even move your arms up and down after the procedure, but pilates, as well as swimming, helped me get movement back.

This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, my message to women is to seek a second opinion and push for more tests if you still feel there is something wrong, even if you have a clear mammogram. The research I have read shows that 20 per cent of pre-menopausal women who have mammograms are given results that are falsely negative; mammograms are more effective at picking up breast cancer in women who have past the menopause.  The cancer did not show up on my mammogram, it is only the ultrasound that picked it up.