What I learned from my breast cancer scare
When I found the lump in my breast, purely by chance, I immediately ran in to my mom to see if she could feel it too. I was only 23, and the shock and surprise that this thing could have formed inside me without my knowledge or prior consent was worrisome. Right up until I had it removed and declared to be a fibroadenoma (or non-cancerous tumor), I could have sworn I could feel it burning in there even without touching it. While the lump was benign, it taught me a lot.
When I told my friends I had found a lump in my breast, they were as stunned as I was. As young women, it had not yet crossed our minds that we should be checking our bodies and making ourselves aware of the signs of possible disease. While many of our lives had been touched by cancer in some way through relatives or family friends, it seemed like it belonged to an older generation. And yet reports show that there are increasing cases of breast cancer in 25 to 39-year-olds. My friends all checked themselves as a result, and my lump definitely made us all aware of the fact that you only get one body and you have to know it and care for it. We are not invincible, and we all need to look after ourselves.
I had a long and agonizing wait for my appointments and resulting lumpectomy. Those few months were honestly awful, and during them I re-evaluated my entire way of living. As a vegetarian, I have always been careful about the kinds of foods I put in my body and have always been active in knowing where my food comes from and what is in it. However, I had a very half-hearted approach when it came to what I put on my body. Many of the products I used were governed by convenience and cost, and at the time I put them down as a factor in the growth of my lump.
I did a lot of research about links between products and health, especially things like deodorants and creams that go into your bloodstream through the skin. I completely stopped using any products I felt could do my body harm and switched to more natural versions instead. It was very much a trial and error journey — anyone who has ever tried out natural deodorants can appreciate the very real struggle to find one that actually works for you! I switched out all products I put on my skin and learnt a lot about the standards in the beauty industry.
Several years later, I still research products before buying and take time to ensure I am happy with what is in anything I put on my body. There have been compromises along the way — my boyfriend is not keen on aloe vera toothpaste, for example! I do think as young people growing up in today’s world, we are increasingly reliant on technology and accepting of advertisements, and we don’t always stop to think about what the things we’re buying may contain. I am more than ever a firm believer in knowing about what goes into any of the products I use. My lumpectomy has taught me to know my body better; I check my breasts regularly and listen to my body when it needs rest, nourishment, or movement. It is funny how it is often a specific event, like a health scare that pushes you to become tuned in to your body. I now wear my scar with pride and as a reminder of what my body has taught me and what I know it is capable of.
Laura Thompson is a photographer who loves to draw and write stories. Big fan of a light jog, red wine, a good film and being outdoors (barefoot). Find her on Instagram.