‘We shouldn’t fo­cus on our size or shape, feel­ing good about your­self is all that mat­ters’

Essentials (South Africa) - - LIFE TODAY | AMAZING WOMEN -

Helen Smith, 53, lives with her hus­band Martin, 58, and they have four chil­dren.

I can re­mem­ber how I felt sit­ting in that doctor’s of­fice in Novem­ber 2007. Find­ing out that I had the faulty BRCA1 gene was one of the worst days of my life. I was 85% more likely to get breast can­cer than the av­er­age woman.

I would need a pre­ven­ta­tive dou­ble mas­tec­tomy, and I was dev­as­tated. An A-B cup, I’d al­ways been self- con­scious about the way my boobs looked. So in 2003, I’d had surgery to take me to an E cup. It had

given me so much more con­fi­dence, but now I was be­ing told that I had to have my breasts re­moved. I did my re­search, found a surgeon, and in Novem­ber 2009 I had the surgery, fol­lowed by re­con­struc­tion, which took me to an F cup.

When I woke up, re­lief washed over me – this op was a life­line. The gene mu­ta­tion meant I was also at risk of de­vel­op­ing ovar­ian can­cer, so in Novem­ber 2015, I had a hys­terec­tomy and my ovaries re­moved.

Go­ing through all of this has made me re­alise how im­por­tant life is. We only have one body so it’s im­por­tant to look after it

– I work out three to five times a week and stick to a good diet. As long as you feel good about your­self, that’s all that mat­ters.

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