Anna Southern

It was May 2007, at the age of 46 and two months after I’d bought my own home, that I realised a lump in my breast that I’d live with for over 15 years had changed. This day started a new journey in my life. When I was told I had breast cancer I was more concerned about picking my six year old son up from school, than listening to the information I needed to know.

But as any single parent will know, it’s about doing what needs to be done, so I was quickly in hospital having a partial mastectomy for the two tumours located close to the surface in the middle of my chest. For me my diagnosis was just something that had to be sorted so I could get back to living my life. Radiotherapy followed four months later, sadly at the same time as the death of my closest friend. Fortunately, new work opportunities and new friends provided an optimistic outlook, so while I was conscious I needed to be more mindful of my health, I put my cancer behind me and focussed on the future.

Life doesn’t always go to plan. Two years later I discovered another small lump. This time the news was multiple tumours in one breast and suspicious cells in my other breast. Not one for wanting to ponder things for too long I opted for a bi-lateral mastectomy with bilateral tram flap reconstruction. Finally, my slightly podgy stomach was going to be useful. Impatient as I can be, having the surgery in one go was an easier choice, and it meant going into surgery with breasts and coming out with breasts. Many women make different choices and I’ve realised it is so important that each one makes the one that works for them.

Recovery was a challenging and trying time, but I think it was the day my young son said, as he looked at me naked in the shower, “Hey mum, you’ve now got a smiley face on your body” that I knew things were going to be ok.

With the removal of my breasts, everyone felt confident my cancer was gone. Everyone I have met on my cancer journey has a different story – no two are alike. For me, I was diagnosed with cancer in my upper breast area two more times. I have started different treatment so today I still live with cancer but I still have the hope of recovery.

I have seen so much courage in the women I have crossed paths with in my cancer journey, and I wanted to help others faced with similar decisions. Hope Emerges offered me a chance to be involved in something positive. Nature has always been a big part of my healing, and the heart has been a symbol I focussed on when times got tough – I always believe that love will heal all.