Breast Cancer Awareness Month fashion shows to be held in Norwich
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
Caroline Scott was just 31 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I’d got no family history of breast cancer but I found a tiny lump when I was in the shower,” she says.
“I went to the doctor’s the next day and he referred me to the hospital. Within the month I got the diagnosis that I’d got triple negative breast cancer.”
Caroline was told that she would need chemotherapy, followed by a single mastectomy and radiotherapy.
Further down the line she would have breast reconstruction surgery.
During her treatment, Caroline received support from Keeping Abreast.
The Norwich-based charity gives advice to women who are going through or considering breast reconstruction after a mastectomy.
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And she has gone on to become chair of the charity’s trustees.
This weekend, Caroline and two other Norfolk Keeping Abreast volunteers, Catherine Bailey and Tracey Davies, who have also had breast cancer and different types of breast reconstruction, will be showing off the latest autumn looks at a series of Style Shows at John Lewis in Norwich.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Keeping Abreast and John Lewis have teamed up to put on a series of in-store events to help those going through breast cancer and breast reconstruction as well as help to raise funds and awareness.
So far there has been a bra fitting weekend and head scarf workshops. Later on in the month there will also be beauty workshops and wig and hair styling workshops.
This weekend’s Style Shows are being held in the lingerie department with the aim of demonstrating that after breast reconstruction surgery it is still possible to look and feel feminine.
Caroline, 39, who lives near Attleborough, started her chemotherapy treatment in September 2013.
“The chemo took me right through until January in 2014 and then on Valentine’s Day in 2014 I had the mastectomy and had the radiotherapy in the May,” she says.
Because of the damage that radiotherapy does to your skin, Caroline then had a wait for her reconstruction surgery, to ensure that her skin had healed sufficiently.
Caroline was aware of Keeping Abreast – she had been to one of their More Than Just Fashion Shows, where women who have been through breast cancer and reconstruction surgery take to the catwalk, and during her treatment she had attended one of their support groups at Wymondham.
And at her reconstruction appointment there was a Keeping Abreast volunteer who was in the waiting room to offer support to people before and after their appointments.
Caroline had her reconstruction surgery in 2016. Tissue was taken from her upper thighs to create a new breast.
It was then that the impact of what she had been through hit home.
“At the time my mindset was very much about just doing whatever had to be done to get rid of it so I could get on with my life.
“The thought of losing a breast was just part of the process.
“On reflection, and I took me a lot of years to get round to this and really recognise it, I realise actually what a big impact that had on me.
“I was diagnosed at 31, lost my breast before I was 32, and was, the only way I can put it is, living uneven and, a true Norfolk saying, I was wonky - and there’s no way of getting away from that.
“Other people would say they can’t notice, but you can yourself. You know how clothes look different, you know how different it looks even if you’ve got a prosthesis in.
“Reconstruction isn’t just a one-off operation, but straight away after the surgery it felt like a switch had gone back on. Having that natural shape and just feeling more me again.”
And she said that Keeping Abreast’s support was invaluable.
“Everybody you meet, although they are going through treatment, still to this day I haven’t met anybody who had exactly the same kind of treatment or experience as I did.
"Everybody’s treatment ,feelings and experience are so individual, which I think is why any kind of support groups become invaluable, because you meet people that you have a common thread with and you can all support each other in different ways.”
Caroline started volunteering for Keeping Abreast, helping out at fundraising events. And then after her reconstruction, she took to the catwalk twice in their More Than Just Fashion Shows.
“It’s truly a show that has to be seen to be believed,” says Caroline.
“There are about 400 people in the audience and the warmth and encouragement you receive is so empowering. And you create amazing bonds with the other models.”
You can model in the shows a maximum of twice.
“The second time I think I threw caution to the wind a little bit more and wanted to enjoy it because I knew I wouldn’t get to do it again,” she says.
“On both occasions I did the underwear set. It was completely amazing to be doing that, to be showing people the changes that can happen and give the encouragement to people to embrace all the scars.
“When in you’re in your treatment you can feel completely battered, whether it’s from chemo, operations, general tiredness, the emotional side of it. It gives you the chance to say, my body is truly amazing because it got through all that. But I’ve also got the scars now and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
And Caroline is looking forward to returning to the catwalk on a smaller scale this weekend.
“It’s really nice now to be able to be reaching out to people again. All of what’s happening this month in John Lewis is absolutely amazing - the support they’re giving to Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Keeping Abreast, just to get people’s healthcare back on the agenda again.
“That face-to-face support. The hand squeeze. The cup of tea. Those are the sorts of things that really help.”
Keeping Abreast Style Shows are being held at John Lewis, Norwich, on Saturday, October 16 at 11am and 1pm and on Sunday, October 17 at noon and 2pm. Places are limited – email email@example.com to book.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month events at John Lewis Norwich continue with beauty workshops at the first floor Style Studio on Saturday October 23 from 10am-5pm and Sunday October 24 from 11am-4pm.
Volunteers from Keeping Abreast will be on the women’s fashion floor on Saturday October 30 from 10am-5pm and Sunday October 31 from 11am-4pm. There will also be GHD and Dyson wig and hair styling workshops at the first floor Style Studio on Saturday October 30 from 10am-5pm and Sunday October 31 from 11am-4pm.
The next Keeping Abreast More Than Just Fashion Shows will take place at the Norfolk Showground on Wednesday March 16 and Thursday March 17 2022. Information will be available at keepingabreast.org.uk soon.