It was all such agony
Would I ever be the woman I was before?
My life had just been getting started, but now..?
Allyson Lynch, 31
Pouting, I struck a dramatic pose in front of the mirror.
Just like the magazine models I admired so much. I was just a kid, but I loved their flamboyant clothes, their confidence.
It’d be amazing to make money being snapped for a mag, I thought dreamily.
By 2011, I was 24 and working as a hair stylist – but I still had model ambitions.
And, as it happened, a local charity shop needed people for a charity calendar.
‘I could do it!’ I beamed to my mum Karen, then 58.
‘Go for it!’ she laughed.
She remembered me posing in the mirror as a girl.
Now, smiling for the camera with hair and make-up done, I felt a million dollars.
Three years later, a friend asked me to model for alternative clothing brand Sourpuss. With my everchanging rainbow-coloured hair and tattoos, I fitted the spec perfectly. I’ll be a catalogue model. My dream come true! Working for Sourpuss was
as fun as I thought it would be.
It fitted around my hairstylist job, too. I’d never been happier. Until one night in April 2014, when I placed my hand on my left breast while in bed. Under the skin, I felt a lump.
And I just knew. I had cancer.
Both Mum and my grandfather, William, carried a mutation of the BRCA1 gene.
Mum had survived breast cancer, my grandfather, prostate cancer. But while it wasn’t a shock, I’d not expected to have it as young as 26.
I was referred for an ultrasound and biopsy.
Days later the specialist phoned, confirming what I already knew. I had stage-1 breast cancer.
‘I can’t believe it,’ Mum sobbed.
She’d been 42 when she’d beaten cancer.
I was so much younger. It felt desperately unfair.
Still, with Mum’s support and experience, I knew she’d carry me through.
That May, I made the biggest decision of my life. A double mastectomy. Doctors had offered me an alternative – a lumpectomy followed by radiotherapy.
But it would mean there was a risk of the cancer returning.
I knew the fear of that would torment me every single day.
So I opted to have both my boobs removed.
After the op, I could barely look at myself in the mirror, my chest ravaged with scars.
Cancer had robbed me of my femininity – and my journey with cancer wasn’t over yet.
During the next five months, I endured 16 rounds of chemotherapy. It was relentless and cripplingly painful.
Everything I touched felt like razor blades, the softest blanket felt like rocks. Soon, my hair was falling out. When I decided to shave it all off, friends and family sat beside me, shearing away their own locks, too. Amazing support. Yet looking in the mirror, all I saw was the cancer, my body a war zone. No longer model material.
There were days I couldn’t even get up in the morning.
My life had just been getting started, and now..?
No hair, no breasts, in agonising pain, bedridden and with no choice but to move back in with Mum. I was half the woman I once was...