Real People - - FAT TO SPARE -

Some peo­ple look at a plump, milky ball of moz­zarella cheese and think ‘fat’. Me? I saw curves. A cheesy pizza burst­ing with roasted pep­pers was my idea of heaven, and that love of grub had given me a plump, milky body to match!

At uni, in Leeds, I’d swill down pints of cider, then head to the pizza par­lour just op­po­site my halls of res­i­dence to top off a top night.

I didn’t want to waste time cook­ing, so I was a reg­u­lar.

And by the end of my com­mu­ni­ca­tions de­gree course, I’d gone from 11st to nudg­ing 13st 7lb at 5ft 4in.

I didn’t care – I wasn’t one to hide away what a good ap­petite had given me.

So I’d proudly dis­play my 38D boobs and shapely hips in tight dresses. I had the con­fi­dence to carry them off.

Then, start­ing work in a res­i­den­tial home for adults with learn­ing dif­fi­cul­ties, eight months af­ter leav­ing uni, my eat­ing be­came more hap­haz­ard.

‘No time for food,’ I’d say to my house­mate, Eleanor, 24, as I rushed out the door to start my 7.30am shift.

I’d shovel bis­cuits down when­ever I got a spare 10 min­utes be­fore my shift fin­ished at 10pm, and then I’d punch the speed dial on my phone for my fave Chi­nese veg­gie take­away. Life was good.

But one morn­ing, three years on, as I stood lath­er­ing-up in the shower, my hand brushed against some­thing on my left breast.

I felt again.

Yes, there was some­thing there – a small, hard lump like a peb­ble just un­der the skin. Just like Mum.

My mum, Wendy, 46, was a mar­tyr to cysts in her breasts.

Looks like I’m the same, I thought.

I booked an ap­point­ment with the GP, and ex­plained about Mum’s prob­lem.

‘Likely noth­ing to worry about at your age,’ agreed the GP. I was only 24.

But just to be on the safe side, I was re­ferred for tests.

Five weeks later, I went on my own to the breast can­cer clinic at St James’s Univer­sity Hospi­tal, Leeds. I wasn’t ner­vous;

I was too busy won­der­ing which low-cut top I was go­ing to wear later that night when I was due to meet up with pals in Liver­pool.

I sat still while the ul­tra­sound probe went over my skin. What about the black clingy num­ber?

Next I had a mam­mo­gram, be­cause the ul­tra­sound doesn’t al­ways see through the breast tis­sue in some­one so young. Or maybe the bold bur­gundy top would be bet­ter?

Next up was a lo­cal anaes­thetic, so the doc­tor could take a punch biopsy from my breast. Click! Click!

Five times the ma­chine stabbed into my boob like a sta­pler. Then a nee­dle was prob­ing be­neath my armpit

to draw out some tis­sue. I won­dered why I was hav­ing so many tests just for cysts. For the first time, un­ease was creep­ing in.

And at this rate,

I was go­ing to be late get­ting ready… Fi­nally, a ti­ta­nium clip was in­serted to mark the spot where the lump lay. Over, at last. Later as I rushed around grab­bing my gear for my night out, bruises be­gan to ap­pear on my breast.

I tut­ted. Noth­ing re­veal­ing for me tonight! In­stead, I stuffed jeans and a T-shirt into my bag, winc­ing with pain. But as soon as me and my mates were out on the town, I didn’t think about my boobs once.

A week later I sat in front of the doc­tor again, ex­pect­ing him to talk about cysts.

Only… he looked very se­ri­ous. ‘We’re re­ally wor­ried about the lump,’ he an­nounced, bluntly.

I felt my mouth go dry.

‘I can’t con­firm it’s can­cer for sure un­til we get the re­sults from the biop­sies. But I think you should pre­pare your­self for that.’ I willed my­self to keep it to­gether and lis­ten care­fully but, as soon as I opened the door into the wait­ing room, I be­gan to sob. For the next week the word ‘can­cer’ re­ver­ber­ated around my head. I’d gone on my own. Had I heard the doc­tor cor­rectly? Or had I per­haps ex­ag­ger­ated his words?

Next time, I took Eleanor with me. I searched the doc­tor’s face once again. ‘Our sus­pi­cions were cor­rect – I’m so sorry,’ he said. The tu­mour – an in­va­sive duc­tal car­ci­noma – was 9cm. The doc­tor wanted to start chemo straight away to shrink it, and then we could de­cide if I’d un­dergo a lumpec­tomy or a mas­tec­tomy.

‘But I’ve booked tick­ets for Glas­ton­bury,’ I blurted. Trust me to be think­ing of my so­cial life! Chemo was planned around it, so I’d be able to go when I wasn’t wiped out by the treat­ment. And I started to pre­pare my­self as best I could.

I had my hair lopped from el­bow-length to my shoul­ders. ‘I don’t want to see loads of it come out,’ I ex­plained to Eleanor.

Along­side the chemo, I was given steroids. Might as well have been handed a pump!

One morn­ing, I started to put my clothes on. But­tons wouldn’t fas­ten. Zips wouldn’t reach. The steroids had blown me up like an air bed. ‘Noth­ing fits me any more,’ I cried to Mum.

Al­most overnight, I’d gone to 15st and size 22. Mum gave me a cud­dle, then we went out to buy me big­ger clothes.

Soon, wigs were added to my shop­ping list as my hair started to shed. I looked in the mir­ror and could barely recog­nise my­self. This body I’d al­ways loved, with all its curves and con­fi­dence, was some­thing else now and I de­spaired.

I didn’t look like me. I looked like a can­cer pa­tient. And the poi­son wasn’t even work­ing.

But a sec­ond course fi­nally be­gan to shrink my tu­mour, and the time for my op drew close.

I’d de­cided on a mas­tec­tomy, be­cause I didn’t want to risk the can­cer re­turn­ing and a re­con­struc­tion would be car­ried out at the same time.

But what would re­place my breast? I didn’t fancy im­plants.

‘I don’t want any­thing for­eign in­side me,’ I said, gri­mac­ing.

The sur­geon out­lined an­other op­tion. ‘We aren’t of­ten able to do this,’ he said. ‘But we could re­build your breasts us­ing your own body fat.’ Eh?

‘On a lot of women this isn’t pos­si­ble, but I think we can make it work for you,’ he said. The penny dropped.

A lot of can­cer pa­tients were too skinny to have new boobs moulded from their own fat. But I was well-up­hol­stered. I’d never loved my flab more... I chuck­led.

If I’d been a skinny Min­nie, it wouldn’t have been pos­si­ble.

The sur­geon planned to cut fat and mus­cle from my back and flip it for­ward un­der my armpit to my breast area.

‘I can’t prom­ise it’ll be the same size as your other breast,’ he cau­tioned. ‘Some­times we can only man­age an A or B cup.’ Mine were still mag­nif­i­cent Ds.

But what did I care about wonky boobs? At least I’d be free of can­cer and sil­i­cone!

And in Oc­to­ber 2015, I un­der­went a six-hour op­er­a­tion, and came round to be met by a big smile on the sur­geon’s face.

‘It went per­fectly,’ he said. ‘We man­aged to take enough fat and mus­cle from your back to give you the D cup you de­serve.’

‘It’s a good job I was car­ry­ing the ex­tra weight then!’ I laughed.

But re­cov­ery was tough. For months I was barely mo­bile be­cause of the toll it had taken on my body.

For the next two years, the pain in my back was of­ten ex­cru­ci­at­ing.

And my nor­mal high level of con­fi­dence was now shat­tered.

Two years on, my hair still hadn’t started grow­ing prop­erly again.

The strands were thin and wispy. I peered in the mir­ror. Even though it’d been a cou­ple of years since my surgery, still all I could see was a can­cer pa­tient star­ing back at me.

For the first time in my life, I hated how I looked. And that re­ally wasn’t me. ‘I have to do some­thing,’ I thought.

There was noth­ing I could do about my hair, but I could do some­thing about my weight.

My lovely lady lumps had given me a new boob, sus­tained me through my can­cer…

I’d al­ways be grate­ful.

But now I needed to change.

In Au­gust 2017, I stood on the scales at Slim­ming World.

I weighed 14st 4lb and fas­tened on a tar­get of 11st. Out went pub lunches and take­aways, and I be­gan to start cook­ing my own food at home.

I changed jobs and be­gan work for a char­ity.

In­stead of trav­el­ling there by car, I walked the two-mile route. Soon I’d lost 2st. The flab had dis­ap­peared from all over my body, ex­cept in one place… my re­con­structed boob! The mus­cle and fat taken from my back was stand­ing firm at the front and do­ing its job.

It meant that breast was much big­ger than the other. But my lop­sided boobs weren’t go­ing to stop me from flaunt­ing the new me! My old con­fi­dence was back. At a party, I sashayed around in a low-cut black vel­vet dress and rev­elled in the com­pli­ments.

At my worst, bloated with steroids and bald from the chemo, I was wear­ing a size 22 and scared for my life.

Now I’m back to be­ing the party-lov­ing girl who never turns down an in­vite.

I’ve been in re­mis­sion for three years, but I have reg­u­lar scans on my other breast, be­cause I’m deemed to be high risk. I’ve reached my 11st tar­get.

I wear a 32E bra – it’s tight on one side and loose on the other. But who cares! I know there are much worse things than be­ing wonky… and at last I’m bustin’ with life again. Ge­or­gia Em­blen, 28, Leeds

I’d never loved my flab more...

My love of par­ty­ing wasn’t go­ing to change The dis­ease slowly chipped away at my self-con­fi­dence t was Treat­men stress­ful so

I’m half the size I used to be! Me be­fore and now: I’m de­ter­mined to live life to the full

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