How i make it work... AMY VASILIEV
AT 31, AMY WAS DIAGNOSED WITH AN AGGRESSIVE FORM OF BREAST CANCER. AFTER NINE ROUNDS OF CHEMOTHERAPY, A DOUBLE MASTECTOMY AND REBUILD, SHE HAS FINALLY LEARNT TO LOVE HER BODY AGAIN
When my doctor told me I had breast cancer, the world went silent. She was talking, but I couldn’t hear a thing. I could feel my heart beating. It got faster until I burst into tears. I said, “I can’t have cancer. I’ve got small kids.” My girls were 20 months and two-and-a-half years old, and my stepdaughter was 11. I broke down. I said to my doctor, “Just cut my breasts off. I don’t care. I need to live.”
I went through nine rounds of chemotherapy, two of which nearly killed me. I was violently ill; I’ve never been so sick in my life. I had to psych myself up for the onslaught of chemo. My brother said to me, “Amy, you’re pretty ballsy to stand up and take this over and over again.” I had no choice.
I had really long hair and got it cut into a bob before I started chemo. After the first round, my hair fell out in clumps. I got in the bath one day and when I took off my headscarf, all of my hair had fallen out. I looked in the mirror and sobbed. I was different. I wasn’t me.
Seeing me so sick really affected my two-year-old. She used to cry and ask, “Is Mummy going to die?” That really upset me. My friends and family were the ones who got me through it. They gave me strength.
I had my double mastectomy one week before Christmas in 2013. By that time, I just wanted it done. I handed my life over. I was on the table for six hours. I knew I was in for pain. I just kept saying to myself, get up, get about, get out. And I did. In December I will have been in remission for three years.
When I heard about the Sobrave breast cancer fundraising calendar, I thought it was a brilliant idea. The women, who are all under 40 and have battled breast cancer, were covered in full body paint and photographed in iconic locations. I hated my body for so long, until I saw those photos of myself [taken at The Three Sisters in Katoomba, NSW]. The calendar taught me to love my body again.
Cancer gave me inner strength, taught me to slow down and made me realise what really matters. I used to worry about the house being dirty; now I’d rather sit down and cuddle my kids. If one person listens to my story and gets their breasts checked, then I didn’t get cancer for nothing.