My bra-vellous mission
Heather Walters, 37, from Barnstaple, raised a titter and laughed in the face of cancer
Iwas lying in bed one evening when I found it. It was hard and round, the size of a broad bean hiding in my right breast. ‘It’s probably nothing,’ I told my hubby, Tristan, then 34.
But I booked an appointment with my GP.
Concerned, he referred me for tests.
A biopsy soon confirmed the worst.
‘You have breast cancer,’ a doctor said. His words swam in my head as I struggled to take them in. Back home, I put on a brave face for my kids, Billy, then five, and Phoebe, three. ‘I’m sure it’s an easily treatable case,’ Tristan reassured me. But days later, I got a call… ‘You have an aggressive type of cancer, you’ll need chemo straight away,’ a doctor said. My mind raced. Would I live to see the kids grow up? For now, Tristan and I decided not to tell them about it. Then, a month
later, I started chemotherapy to shrink the lump.
Ten days on, I noticed strands of hair on my pillow.
My lovely, long blonde hair was falling out. So I asked a friend to shave it off. I just couldn’t bear to see it falling out in clumps. I had to explain it to the kids. ‘Mummy has a poorly booby,’ I said gently. ‘But the magic medicine will make me better.’
As my gruelling treatment continued, I wanted to do something to raise my spirits.
A friend mentioned seeing bras hanging from a tree once.
‘Women do it to raise awareness for breast cancer,’ she said. It gave me an idea. My parents, Peter, 61, and Jane, 60, own a local toy and sweet shop in Barnstaple.
It was currently undergoing building work and had scaffolding up outside.
‘We could hang bras from the scaffolding,’ I suggested.
‘People can donate £1 and sling their bra over the shop,’ I laughed.
We decided to donate money raised to Coppafeel – a charity aimed at getting women to check their breasts.
Mum and Dad were on board.
My friends and I started it off by donating a quid each – and a bra.
Then the builders at the shop hung them up from the scaffolding.
‘Bra-vellous!’ we cheered when we saw them flapping in the wind.
We called our campaign Check Yourself, Don’t Wreck Yourself.
I set up a Facebook page and began writing a blog. Soon it was attracting thousands of readers.
And before long, the shop was covered in a rainbow of bras of all shapes and sizes.
When my treatment got tough, I’d just imagine all the bras covering the shop and giggle.
After six rounds of chemo, I had surgery to remove my breast.
Luckily, I was given a full reconstruction afterwards. ‘Doctors took off Mummy’s bad boob and gave her a better one,’ I explained to the kids.
After, I began radiotherapy to make sure all traces of the cancer had gone.
My campaign gave me something positive to focus on. And on my final day of treatment, the scaffolding was taken down.
But not before I’d copped a final view first.
Seeing all those bras, I felt overwhelmed. We counted 1,600 in total. I was so proud of what we’d achieved together. ‘Take that, cancer!’ I said. We donated the bras to a charity for women in Africa, and I hope that for every bra donated, it encourages a woman to check her breasts. Now, I’ve finished treatment. But I’ll need check ups to make sure the cancer doesn’t return.
Since then, I’ve continued to raise awareness with my campaign.
A group of us performed a flash mob dance shortly after the bras were taken down, and we even held an event where celebrities like Ed Sheeran donated autographed underwear towards the cause!
I was lucky to beat breast cancer, because I found the lump on time.
Through my campaign, I want to encourage other women to check their breasts regularly, because it could make the difference between life and death.
If my campaign saves just one life, it will be worth it.
To see Heather’s campaign, search Facebook for Check Yourself, Don't Wreck Yourself.
The campaign gave me a focus
We were deluged with bras!
We raised a smile and vital awareness
Builders helped us out