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Interview 31

Age at interview: 76
Age at diagnosis: 52
Brief Outline: Diagnosed with breast cancer in 1977. Was given a double mastectomy with reconstruction.

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Explains her concern for other female family members since her own diagnosis.

Explains her concern for other female family members since her own diagnosis.

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I mean I've got granddaughters and I must admit that I am inclined to say you know' "You just keep an eye on yourself."

I do to my daughter. I mean my daughter smokes, which annoys me intensely, but it's her choice, not mine.

I mean she knows the problems that could be caused by smoking and all the rest of it, so if she continues to smoke and wants to smoke then that's her choice, not mine.

And it's not my place to say' "You can't."

I've pointed out to her that she really ought to be careful and that, but I mean that's her choice as I say.
 
 

Explains that different patients receive different treatments, and stresses the importance of...

Explains that different patients receive different treatments, and stresses the importance of...

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The only thing I always do say to people when we see them' "Never take notice of what one person's having, in chemotherapy, radiotherapy, tamoxifen or whatever."

It's purely because you either don't need it, and the consultants don't think it's necessary for you.

Well, as to advice, I would say don't bottle up your concerns. Talk about them. Get it out in the open, you'll feel better for it.

Because if you talk about it, it's not going to go away but at least you'll have some idea of what's going on and you'll have some idea of what you're going to have to cope with. And it'll give you a better chance to cope with it.

Because it's a fact, it's the not knowing, it's the unknown that is the worry.

And I think that's when it's good to see people who are a long way on because you think to yourself' "Well if they can do it, so can I."

 

Explains how involvment in a self help group helped her realise that her own feelings about her...

Explains how involvment in a self help group helped her realise that her own feelings about her...

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Actually what we did, we all sat round in a circle and somebody said it would be an idea to go round the circle and find out what had happened to everybody. And we were absolutely amazed at how many things had happened, to different people, had happened to all of us.

And a lot of the feelings we'd got, the feelings of despair, the feelings of not being clean even.

Stupid feelings that we all, I mean you can see with hindsight, I suppose in some ways were justified through what had happened to you, but on the other hand if you'd had somebody to talk to, to know that this was a natural feeling or something that was happening to you it would've been better.

It wouldn't have had half the impact on you. You wouldn't have got so many, you used to get very upset about things and for no reason. And as I say, if you'd had somebody to talk to that would've been better altogether.
 
 

Explains that she had a reconstruction over 20 years ago that was very successful.

Explains that she had a reconstruction over 20 years ago that was very successful.

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I've been reconstructed for 23 years and had no problems. So I mean I've had, as I say, 23 darn good years with it and thoroughly enjoyed having it. But it was the original thing that they did then.

Now, I mean they're much more sophisticated now because they now do the latissimus dorsi, which is the big muscle from the back, which they divide and take through.

They do a stomach flap, and they also do the inflation one. I mean they're all three different, totally different to what I had done. And very successful I might add. I mean I can't say that mine wasn't because mine were brilliant. They really were.

Somewhere or other they've got photographs of them, so there you go. But they were, they were extremely good.
 
 

Comments on the sense of loss that many women feel after having a mastectomy.

Comments on the sense of loss that many women feel after having a mastectomy.

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Well for a start I think, I mean I must say my husband was absolutely fantastic.

But you just can't, I mean you are disfigured in your eyes, which not everybody feels like that, but at that particular time it's a loss and you've got to mourn your loss. Because it's a loss of part of your body.

And let's face it there's so much in the papers, on the television, everywhere, about the body image and all the rest of it, that your body image has suddenly been taken away from you.

You don't want to go topless on a beach or something like that, but you haven't got the chance to do it now. Your right to decide has gone.
 
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