As Nicky Yaxley from Rackheath awoke from an anaesthetic at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital she touched her chest and breathed a sigh of relief. Her breast implants were just as she wanted them to be.

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This was far from being purely a cosmetic procedure. Rewind two years back to December 2008 and a 33-year-old Nicky sat in a hospital consultation room hearing the words that for years she had dreaded.

“My mum was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was only 32 and now that my sister and I were in our 30s we were all worried that we could have inherited the faulty gene that could lead to us developing breast cancer,” explains Nicky.

“After seeing our GP and being referred to the hospital to have genetic testing, my sister was given the all clear, but it was discovered that I carried a BRCA gene which put me at a much higher risk of developing breast cancer.”

There are many types of inherited faulty genes that can only be tested for if you have a strong family history of breast cancer.

Most people need to have a living relative with breast cancer who can be tested first to find out which fault on the breast cancer genes might run in the family. Those who have a faulty gene have a 50pc to 80pc chance of developing cancer before they are 70.

“I was not as shocked as I thought I would be when I heard the news and I guess this was because I had prepared myself to hear the worst,” says Nicky.

“The biggest decision I had to make now was whether to have my breasts removed as a preventative measure.”

Having your breast removed is traumatic even when you have been diagnosed with cancer and surgery is necessary to save your life. Nicky was in her early 30s and was fit and healthy, which made the decision to have her breasts removed even more distressing.

“There are several other options for people who have the breast cancer gene,” says Nicky.

“You can have regular screening which will spot any cancer developing at an early stage, but having my breasts removed seemed to me to be the only way to ensure that I didn’t have to go through what my mum went through.

“It was a tough decision and it was something I discussed at length with my husband, who was my rock throughout the whole process.

“Our discussions involved whether we should start a family before or after the surgery and we decided to try for a baby after the procedure.

“As I was fit and well it was a very difficult decision, but the fear that I could develop breast cancer really overshadowed everything else.”

While making her decision, Nicky’s surgeon put her in touch with Norfolk charity Keeping Abreast, an organisation which gives information about the process of breast reconstruction by offering the opportunity to talk to experts and women who have been, or are going through treatment.

Nicky says: “I went to a Keeping Abreast meeting and I was absolutely amazed by how inspiring and supportive it was to talk to women who have been through what I was going through.

“Having someone to talk to face to face who had the same decisions to make as I did was far more beneficial than researching information on the internet or talking to people via online chatrooms.

“The support of the Keeping Abreast women and my family helped give me the strength to go through with having preventative surgery and having my breasts removed.

“It took me over four months to make my decision, but even then I had to wait another nine months to have the operation as the surgeons wanted me to be completely sure.”

In February 2010, Nicky had a double mastectomy and reconstruction surgery. “I had implants as this was the only option available to me at the time,” says Nicky. “However, I did choose for my implants to be the same size as the breasts I had as I wanted them to look as natural as possible.” Earlier this month, Nicky helped raise money for Keeping Abreast by modelling at the charity’s More Than Just A Fashion Show at Open on Bank Plain.

“This was the first time I had modelled at one of their fashion shows and it was amazing,” says Nicky.

“I modelled clothes for Love Couture and Vanilla and I felt fantastic.

“Some of the women even modelled lingerie on the catwalk which was extremely brave and although I never thought that I would say this, maybe I will do the lingerie section next time!”

Nicky and her husband are now proud parents to a nine-month-old baby boy and Nicky feels her life is only just beginning.

Sadly, Nicky’s mum died of secondary cancer before Nicky and her sister got their results from their genetic tests.

Nicky says: “The way I see it is that we had 25 good years with mum since she was first diagnosed with breast cancer. I could have lost her when I was five. Hopefully now that I have had my breasts removed I will not have to face telling my son and my family that I have got the same disease that took mum. I do feel incredibly lucky.”

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