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6 stories of finding hope after breast cancer

PUBLISHED: 15:52 28 November 2017 | UPDATED: 15:52 28 November 2017

Charlotte Johnson and Amy Burger. Picture: Victoria Fear

Charlotte Johnson and Amy Burger. Picture: Victoria Fear

Victoria Fear

Breast Cancer is one of the most common cancers in the country with around 150 new cases diagnosed each day.

Amy Burger, consultant oncoplastic breast surgeon at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn, provides reconstructive surgery.

She said: “As a surgeon who deals with breast cancer it is always one of the hardest things to remove a breast even through it is for the right reasons.

“For some women reconstruction is an important part of their treatment and recovery, however, it isn’t possible or suitable for all women.

“It means a huge amount to me as a surgeon to create a shape and see that women are happy with the results. One of the sure signs that they are happy with their breasts and confident is when you see their bikini suntan lines after they have been on holiday, knowing that our patients feel good about themselves means a great deal to me and the team.”

Katie Docherty from King’s Lynn was just 31 when she found a ping pong ball sized lump within her right breast, less than a year after she gave birth to twins Miles and Delilah.

After a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, she took the decision to have her left breast removed. Then Katie, who is married to Liam and also has an older son, six-year-old Dylan, had reconstructive surgery.

She said: “I always knew that if it came down to it I would much rather have no boob than run the risk of having cancer again.

“Having been through cancer I wanted to feel comfortable in my own skin and not lose confidence in my clothes or swim wear, which is one of the reasons why I chose to have reconstructive surgery.

“I am really pleased with 
the results of the surgery – 
they’re better than they were before I had children.

“The care I received was absolutely fantastic. The team was really supportive and approachable and would answer any question I had.”

Sisters Lucy Drew and Charlotte Johnson decided to have risk reducing surgery after tests showed that they had a gene which meant they had an 85pc risk of developing cancer.

Charlotte, who works as a nurse specialising in lung cancer, said: “Having seen young people die with cancer and supporting their families, it makes it really clear that myself and Lucy are fortunate to discover the gene early.”

Lucy, who works as a medical secretary at the hospital, underwent a double mastectomy first. She said: “We were lucky as we found out we were a high risk and were able to do something about it before anything could develop.

“I am really pleased with the final outcome. Amy can work magic! They are lovely. Having the surgery has really taken a weight off my mind and keeping my boobs was just not worth the risk.”

Lumps and cysts led to Yolandé Craig, 43, of South Wootton, seeking medical guidance and she was later found to have abnormal cells following a lumpectomy.

Yolandé, whose mother had died at the age of 50 of breast cancer, took the decision to have a double mastectomy in January 2016 after a number of tests had come back inconclusive.

She said: “I think my story would have been different if they had not kept on digging after the inconclusive tests as Amy found a small cluster of tumour cells within my lymph nodes. Luckily I did not have to have chemotherapy.”

She said: “I am really pleased with the results. When you show people they say it is unbelievable that they are not real.”

Yolandé has also raised £10,500 for the Breast Unit after holding a ball at King’s Lynn Corn Exchange in August.

She said: “The Breast Unit team is really supportive and the care was second to none.”

Emma Matthews, from King’s Lynn, opted for a mastectomy after she was diagnosed with abnormal cells.

“I am not going to have kids and I’m not a Page 3 model so I decided to have the mastectomy,” she said. “I would recommend to other women to check out anything they are concerned about and to have the mammograms. A few minutes of discomfort is not a bad price for your life.”

Feeling confident was one of the reasons why Eileen Smedmor decided to go ahead with reconstructive work after having a mastectomy in June last year.

Eileen, 63, of Downham Market, was found to have two lumps in her breast and took the decision to have a total mastectomy.

She said: “I have always taken pride in my appearance ever since I was little. I spend time on my hair and make-up so not to have a boob really affected me.

“Having the reconstructive surgery has given me confidence.”

Eileen is also encouraging more women in West Norfolk to keep up with their NHS Breast Screening appointments as just 72 per cent attend their mammograms.

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