The past year has been interesting for everybody to say the least. Just 8 months after launching SeaMorgens, along came Covid 19 and I knew this was going to be very bad for my new business and the plans I had been putting into place since before the launch. However what became quickly obvious to me from the start of the pandemic was how the virus was destroying, if not taking, peoples lives and it taught me to appreciate how lucky I am to have what I do. A lesson I’m glad has stuck with me throughout my journey the past year, as I have needed to remind myself of it at times.
A few months after hearing the words corona virus for the first time, I found a lump in my breast. At first sheer panic set in. Then after reading a lot on google about how 80% of breast lumps found were benign I relaxed a little. It was not really the most ideal moment to get things like this checked out due to the whole world being in lockdown. So I left it, monitoring it daily, absurdly assuming (or just trying to convince myself) that I would be in that 80% and it was not worth the fuss and risking potentially spreading the virus. After all, it will never happen to me right!?! I’m far too young for cancer.
As time went on, the benign lump was not going away and it started to seem more sinister then I had hoped, I decided it was time to get it checked out. I knew I had cancer before my official diagnosis. I had my hospital appointment for the initial check, where the doctor examined me for mere seconds before sending me straight for an ultra sound. The ultra sound found something suspicious in my armpit too, so I was sent for a mammogram before having biopsies in my breast and underarm. I was then sent back to the initial doctor who booked me an appointment for results and told me that it would be followed by an MRI scan to see the size of it. It was difficult as I was alone due to Covid and it was obvious he knew what it was, I’m sure he has seen it a hundred times, but he also did a good job of bracing me for the bad news to come.
The news came, after what can only be described as the longest 4 weeks of my life. I was prepared for it, as well as surprisingly positive. Its funny what life’s lessons can teach you about yourself. I never knew I was the positive and optimistic type until I had cancer, even given how much information there was to take in that day, and there was a lot. I had a 4.2cm lump, which for anybody who knows how tiny my breasts are, thats quite a size! It was aggressive (I now know this is generally the case with breast cancer in younger women) and had already spread to my lymph nodes.
There was to be surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and for the next 10 years after there will be hormone medication since that is what caused it. Then of course all the delights that come along with it, for example breast aesthetics and the risk of Lymphedema due to surgery, or things like possible permanent organ damage and hair loss due to chemotherapy. Then there were things I did not know about, like the fact that I may end up infertile due to treatment, which is still a delicate subject I can’t really talk about as it has been, by far, the hardest to swallow. When I asked that day how long it will take from diagnosis to the end of active treatment, I was told one year, so right there and then I braced myself to lose a year of my life.
I don’t know why I chose to not tell many people, I think I was partly embarrassed about it. I also did not want to become ‘Michelle with breast cancer’, a useless and vain attempt to cling on to the person I used to be. Change was inevitable and I’m still trying to get to know the new me, I’m quite sure she can be pretty great, if not even better then the old one.
The first step in my treatment plan was surgery. I was given a choice between a lumpectomy or a mastectomy. If ever there is a time in life when being slim is bad, it’s having breast cancer. If I have a lumpectomy, my large lump in my tiny breast is gonna leave me with quite the disproportion. However, if I have a mastectomy I don’t have the body fat to rebuild my breast with, so my whole breast would be an implant. I was worried about how this would affect things like surfing, diving and yoga, therefore opted for the lumpectomy.
I am still adjusting to the change but I have decided to make a point of rejecting the feelings of self consciousness and be proud of my deformities. I have never really liked modelling SeaMorgens swimwear, it was always done more out of necessity then anything else (we didn’t have the budget to pay for models). However, I felt it was even more important now to find the confidence to carry on with this and be proud of my body. I have already done some home photos and videos on social media since the operation and I am feeling really good about it and also grateful nobody has mentioned how flat chested and skinny I currently look.
In November I started on chemotherapy. The part I (along with probably all other cancer patients) was dreading the most. Luckily I had a plan to make my body as strong as I could to help me cope with the nasty chemicals that were going to be pumped into my system for the next 4 months. Since finding the lump and being diagnosed, I decided to start down a journey of health and fitness. Mainly because it was the only thing I felt that I could personally do that may help in some way. My way of trying to take back some control in a situation that had tried to take complete control of my life and has actually still managed to take about 90%. This decision was one of the best I ever made, it’s impossible to tell how much it has helped with the chemotherapy side effects as I cannot compare it to anything. I do feel personally that it has helped my body cope, but I can 100% say it has had an effect on how I have mentally coped with not only Cancer but Covid too. After surgery and chemotherapy I am blown away by the human body and what it can actually withstand. I’m also amazed by how exercise, as well as positive thinking, can improve your mindset and mental health.
Cancer feels a little like somebody turned the world upside down (I now know the true meaning of the phrase) and I need to somehow try to embrace the new world that has been made for me as it’s something I sense will tire me out to fight against. Covid, lockdown and having to shield have been an added challenge to say the least and this is where SeaMorgens has stepped in. It has given me a purpose to get up everyday and challenge myself, even though some days I did not actually achieve anything due to lack of focus or chemo brain fog, I still tried. I have poured myself into the business and now after going through cancer with it, I’m determined to take care of it like it has taken care of me and make it work. I’m honestly not quite sure what I would have done without it and that’s why I need to let anybody that has supported SeaMorgens (however small or big it was) know that they have honestly supported me, even though they may not have known it, and I’m so grateful.
So this is where I am now, having a month recovery before my radiotherapy starts. The road has by no means come to an end, but I feel like I am on the down hill instead of the up hill now and I’m ready to start taking control of my life again. The lockdown in the UK is slowly being lifted which could not have come at a better time for me. I no longer have to worry so much about ending up hospitalised if I get sick due to a compromised immune system and I cannot wait to go into the ocean again. I have a wetsuit prepared for the cold and I’m going in one way or another. I have missed it immensely and day dreaming about being reunited with it has been a blessing throughout cancer treatments.
Is anybody currently wondering why I have hair, albeit funny hair? Well due to chemotherapy I lost about 70% of it, but thanks to the funny pink cold cap (head freezer) I managed to keep about 30%, which I'm so grateful to still have.
Of course there have been dark days, but the things that got me through it were my absolutely amazing family and friends (both near and far), fantastic medical staff, SeaMorgens and my own positive determination (most of the time). I want to let anybody who finds themselves in this same position know, that I’m always available if you want to reach out to me. It’s my opinion that talking to somebody who’s been through the same thing should be made mandatory it’s so important.
If you made it this far, thank you again, and remember to regularly check your breasts.