I keep my belly in my bra

her Af­ter years of ob­ses­sively check­ing did she bo­soms, had found a lump. But Liz next? have the stom­ach for what came

Real People - - THIS WEEK IN YOUR FAB VALUE -

Let­ting out an earpierc­ing scream, I pelted down the stairs, shocked.

As I reached the liv­ing room, my mum, Mel,

54, was al­ready on her feet.

I skid­ded to a stop, hoick­ing my T-shirt up and my left bra cup down. I pointed to my boob. ‘It’s a… a… lump!’ I shrieked. ‘For good­ness’ sake, Liz,’ Mum sighed. ‘I thought there was a fire!’

I was only 14, but I’d been check­ing my breasts for months, ever since she’d taught me how.

Some­thing about my dad’s mum, Gertrude El­iz­a­beth, dy­ing of breast cancer when he was just 10 had stuck with me, like a stone in my shoe.

I was named af­ter her, too. What if I got cancer, like her?

Ter­ri­fied, I had been check­ing my bud­ding boobs up to 10 times a day.

Now, I’d def­i­nitely found some­thing. A hard, pea-sized lump in my left breast. ‘Let me see,’ Mum said. Af­ter a gan­der, she de­cided it was noth­ing.

My doc­tor said the same. A harm­less cyst was the ex­pla­na­tion.

I felt stupid, and I kept my ob­ses­sive boob-grop­ing to my­self af­ter that.

I fin­ished sixth form and went into a job in in­sur­ance.

In March 2012, I met chef Jamie Hansell, 19, through friends and we started dat­ing.

‘Aren’t I the one who’s sup­posed to get bad man flu?’ he would tease when­ever

I got a snif­fle and pro­nounced my­self on my deathbed.

Then, two years on, I was in the shower, check­ing my bo­soms as usual.

‘That’s not right,’ I mut­tered, notic­ing that the tip of my left nipple dipped in­wards.

‘Mu­uum!’ I yelled. ‘What’s this?’

I barely chucked a towel around me be­fore re­peat­ing his­tory – fling­ing my­self at her with my girls hang­ing out!

But this time, the GP re­ferred me to Southend Univer­sity Hos­pi­tal.

I had an ul­tra­sound scan, which came back clear. I’d got wor­ried over noth­ing.

Again!

‘Women your age are at a rel­a­tively low risk of breast cancer,’ the doc­tor ex­plained.

Come the Novem­ber, though, the skin on that breast had started to dim­ple.

When I gave it a feel, there seemed to be a huge lump lurking un­der the skin.

Once again, the GP re­ferred me to the hos­pi­tal.

‘It’ll be noth­ing,’ I ex­plained, ask­ing my best mate Abi, 21, to come along to the ap­point­ment.

Mum was a busy travel agent, and this would’ve been just an­other wild goose-chase for her.

So, me and Abi planned a girlie day out. A lit­tle check-up to put my mind at rest, fol­lowed by big slabs of choco­late cake and cof­fees in town…

Abi waited out­side, fid­dling with her phone, as I fol­lowed a nurse on to the ward.

I pulled off my top and bra, and waited to hear it was all OK.

‘I’m a bit con­cerned,’ the doc­tor mur­mured, feel­ing my skin. ‘We’ll need to do a biopsy.’

I im­me­di­ately col­lapsed into tears. They pooled in my ears as I lay there while doc­tors re­moved a lit­tle chunk of flesh.

Then, fi­nally, I heard the words I’d been wait­ing for.

‘We’re 99 per cent sure it’s noth­ing,’ the doc­tor soothed.

Abi and I went for cake, as planned, and I gave my­self a talk­ing-to.

Ev­ery­thing was fine – they had said as much.

A week later, with Mum by my side, I walked into my fol­low-up ap­point­ment and stopped short.

There was a sur­geon, three nurses and an­other woman. This wasn’t good.

‘We’re re­ally sorry…’ they be­gan.

I was a hy­per­ven­ti­lat­ing mess be­fore they even said the words I’d dreaded all my life. Breast cancer.

I was 21.

Mum reached out her rock­steady hand to grasp mine.

‘What do we do now, then?’ she asked the medics.

My cancer was stage one, mean­ing it was in my breast but nowhere else. It had ap­peared in the seven months since my last scan.

‘Will I die?’ I whis­pered through my tears.

‘Not any time soon,’ one of the doc­tors smiled.

Just weeks later, they per­formed surgery on my breast and man­aged to re­move the sat­suma-sized lump.

But the hor­ror was only just be­gin­ning.

I had to have my eggs frozen the fol­low­ing Jan­uary, just in case I ever wanted the chil­dren I’d never even thought about!

A month later, I started the first of six lots of chemo.

My mouth was full of ul­cers, my curly red hair fell out in hanks and I felt sick just get­ting out of bed…

But I was still young. And I was still alive.

‘Who fan­cies the pub?’ I’d ask friends the minute my im­mune

The hor­ror was only just be­gin­ning

sys­tem had re­cov­ered enough for me to so­cialise safely, two weeks af­ter each round.

Then we’d sit in the boozer putting the world to rights, with me down­ing G&TS.

‘Should you be do­ing this?’ Mum asked, when I stag­gered in one night.

‘No one told me that

I can’t,’ I laughed.

On days when I wasn’t up to the pub, I’d stay in and watch The Jeremy Kyle Show.

It helped me feel bet­ter about my­self when times got bad.

Like in the Fe­bru­ary, when I got sep­ti­caemia in my arm from a line the doc­tors had put in and was bed-bound in hos­pi­tal for two weeks.

By March, I’d lost so much of my shoul­der-length mane that I got a friend to come to the ward and shave it all off.

Later that af­ter­noon, Jamie turned up to visit me.

As soon as I clocked his beanie hat, I knew.

‘You’ve shaved your head, haven’t you?’ I laughed.

Sure enough, he whipped off his hat and we were match­ing baldies.

Af­ter the chemo­ther­apy came ra­dio­ther­apy, then, fi­nally, in Au­gust 2015, I was fin­ished with my treat­ment. But the doc­tors had a warn­ing.

Tests showed I had the BRCA1 gene, mean­ing that

I had a far higher like­li­hood of get­ting breast cancer.

It had come from my dad’s mum, Gertrude El­iz­a­beth, just as I’d feared long be­fore I even knew such a thing ex­isted.

‘You’ve got a 15 per cent chance of get­ting cancer again in your left breast, and 65 per cent in your right,’ I was told.

Well, then – that was a no-brainer…

‘I want to have a dou­ble mas­tec­tomy,’ I in­sisted.

Mum was hor­ri­fied at the prospect of me en­dur­ing more re­cov­ery time.

I didn’t even ask Jamie what he thought. Af­ter all, I might let him play with my toys, but they were mine. I loved my 32GG boobs, but not enough to let them kill me.

‘We’ll use your stom­ach tis­sue to fix you up again,’ the sur­geon ex­plained. ‘You’re young, so the skin is still elas­tic enough for it to do the job of your boobs.’

I gasped. My tummy would be­come my bazookas?

‘It’s like a tummy tuck and breast re­con­struc­tion in one,’ he smiled.

I looked down at my lit­tle podgy tum, mush­room­ing over the waist­band of my jeans like a saggy soufflé. My belly was a size 14 and I’d al­ways hated it. ‘Go for it!’ I said.

So, last Septem­ber, I un­der­went the seven-hour op to give me a dou­ble mas­tec­tomy and re­con­struc­tion.

When I came round, I was so dosed up with drugs that I ram­bled rub­bish at Mum for a full hour.

Later, though, my boobs and belly burned with pain.

I was cov­ered in bandages from my chest to my hips, and wrapped in a towel to keep the wounds warm.

Two days on, a nurse chivvied me out of bed and I hob­bled to the shower and un­wrapped the bandages.

As I washed, I caught sight of my­self in the mir­ror.

A huge black scar ran from hip to hip and my boobs were pur­ple and swollen. Even my belly but­ton was jagged and black.

‘But that stom­ach looks pretty flat,’ I smiled.

And my boobs were about the same size they’d been be­fore. Clearly, the doc­tor had pro­tected my as­sets, as promised.

Af­ter two months of be­ing helped to the loo by Jamie, Abi spoon-feed­ing me and Mum run­ning around fetch­ing and car­ry­ing, I was fi­nally healed.

Now I’m cancer-free, and

I look bet­ter than ever!

My scars have healed to a sil­very pink, and my crowning glory has grown back to pretty much the same length it was.

My stom­ach re­ally is flat as a board, and my new breasts are a per­fect 32G.

I still think it’s funny, tuck­ing my belly fat into my bra each day! But, to look at my breasts, you would never guess what they were made of.

I’m hav­ing nip­ples tat­tooed on soon, and I now have just a one per cent chance of get­ting cancer in the tiny bit of re­main­ing breast tis­sue. So, for the first time in my life, I’ve stopped wor­ry­ing about it.

Which is the cherry on my perky, per­fect cakes!

Liz Williams, 24, Shoe­bury­ness, Southend-on-sea

For the first time in my life, I no longer have to worry

Me, age 14, with Mum and brother Char­lie

The black scar and belly but­ton was a shock af­ter surgery Sol­i­dar­ity! My boyfriend, Jamie, shaved his head when I lost my hair

I think I look bet­ter than ever now!

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