With the annual Breast Cancer Care Fashion Show fast approaching in October, we caught up with one of the lovely and inspirational Breast Cancer Care models taking part in this year's show.
Laura Owens talked to us about her cancer experiences, how Breast Cancer Care has supported her and the challenging trek she will be taking part in later this year…
Tell us about your personal experience of cancer
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2012 at just 31 years old. I had found the lump in the shower and initially thought it was just fibrosis; surely I was too young to have breast cancer.
At the hospital, when I saw the look on the face of the ultrasound technician my stomach did a flip. I was working in Marbella, Spain at the time and I had to leave my job and the life I loved to come back to England for treatment.
My mum had breast cancer and uterine cancer 10 years ago so I was well aware of what I was about to face. I never really dwelled on why it happened to me or felt massively sorry for myself (well, apart from during chemotherapy, which I hated!) I just focused on getting my body as healthy as possible and read as much as I could about breast cancer so I could make sure I was getting the best treatment.
I had a mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. I requested the same surgeon my mum had 10 years ago and it was a great choice, I’ve had a really good result.
I was then given the choice of whether to have chemotherapy or not. It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make but I knew if I didn’t give it a go my friends and family would have been worried sick. Unfortunately I had to stop chemotherapy after my second session when I got a dangerous blood clot in my left arm.
I’m still waiting for the results of genetic testing to determine whether I carry any known faulty genes, which may increase the risk of me getting cancer again. I have already decided to have a risk-reducing mastectomy on the remaining breast later this year. I know it doesn’t guarantee my future but it’s the right choice for me.
My Breast Care Nurse, Nicky, gave me a letter about a two-day Younger Women's Forum, run by Breast Cancer Care, which was being held in Liverpool. I am so grateful to her for telling me about Breast Cancer Care so early on in my breast cancer journey and so glad I plucked up the courage to attend.
The forum provides support and access to breast cancer experts, and it changed my whole experience into something so much more positive.
I met other women who were feeling the same as me (I wasn't going mad after all!) and it prepared me for what to expect over the next few months. I made genuine friends for life there. It’s great to talk to someone who understands how you feel, especially at night when you're lying in bed with a million thoughts running through your head (and 2 million tabs open on google!).
Since meeting everyone involved in the Show in London in April, we have been chatting on Facebook and have built a lovely bond because we can all relate to one another. To be able to share this unique event with them will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience and hopefully one I will never forget.
I’m also looking forward to being dressed by a top fashion stylist! I'm quite creative by nature, I love putting outfits together, so I’m excited to see what they put me in. I'll be halfway up an 8,000ft mountain in Peru for the model fitting day so my clothes will be fitted at the last minute, I hope everything fits!
What other activities have you done to help fundraise for Breast Cancer Care?
I ate a whole jar of pickled onions covered in cayenne pepper to get to £2,000 (evil friends!) and held a raucous quiz night, which was only supposed to be a small mid-week affair but we ended up having to draft in extra tables and turn people away!
By the end of the night guests were dancing on the tables and we had raised just under £6,000! I'm lucky to have some very generous and supportive friends so had an array of excellent prizes donated for the raffle and auction, including tickets for Britain’s Got Talent from Alesha Dixon, and four tickets to see and meet JLS in concert!
Why did you decide to do the trek?
I'm quite an adventurous person and I don't like to be told I can't do something, so stubbornly I signed up to do this trek way before I had recovered! I wanted to have something positive and exciting to focus on. My training involves walking my three dogs and I do four hot yoga classes a week. I drink less alcohol, eat more healthily and I feel better than I ever have in my life. I wouldn't say I'm fit enough for the trek just yet but if I have to crawl up that mountain on my hands and knees I will. I've had an awful lot of donations and sponsorship so I can't let anyone down!
To book tickets for the Breast Cancer Care fashion show and watch Laura strut her stuff on the catwalk, go to www.breastcancercare.org.uk/theshow