Your Inspirational Woman for March - Meet Julia

Meet Julia our Nicola Jane Inspirational Woman for March (she's a bit amazing!)
Nicola Jane Inspirational Woman March

 

Tell us a bit about yourself...


My name is Julia and I’m happily married with 2 children

 

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?


According to my friends, (as I couldn’t answer this myself!)  I am strong, loyal/trustworthy and determined. However, if my 12 year old daughter was to answer she would say I am crazy, funny and embarrassing!  

 

My diagnosis…


I was diagnosed in May 2008. It was the 13th, a day I’ll never forget. I was 30, my children were only 2 and 4 years old. Wasn’t I too young to have breast cancer? I certainly didn’t believe it could happen to me.

The breast surgeon sat my husband and I down and uttered the words “you have breast cancer... and you need a mastectomy, I’ve booked it”, he did say other stuff but I’m pretty sure I stopped listening and taking it in. I held tightly to my hubby’s hand as the breast care nurse led us to a quieter room, then the tears started!

 

My first worry was that of many…


Will I be around to see my children grow up? How do I tell them I’m poorly?
What am I going to look like with no hair? My hair!
Will my children still recognise me? Will my hubby still fancy me?
Can I do this?
My hair!  My crowning glory, my thick, waist length hair!

Of course I had two options... sink or swim! I’m not a great swimmer, but I definitely wasn’t planning on sinking either... so the swim of my life began!

 

My surgery…


I had to have an immediate left mastectomy and a sentinel node biopsy in June 2008. I later (in July) had my remaining lymph nodes removed as the doctors found that they too were cancerous. Luckily it hadn’t spread further than my nodes, so chemotherapy and radiotherapy would work.

Years later (Aug 2016), after not being 100% happy with my figure and lack of confidence, I plucked up the courage to have a delayed DIEP reconstruction. This is where specially trained oncoplastic surgeons take skin and fat from your tummy and utilise it to form a new breast. They have to reattach the skin and fat joining blood vessels back together to keep the blood flow. It’s a huge operation, but it gave me a fabulous result. I did struggle with the thought of having another operation, one I didn’t think I really needed, but I am so glad I went for it. My self-esteem and confidence is much better now - I can’t thank my surgeon and his team enough.

 

Who did you turn to when you first found out?


My mum was amazing! She altered her shifts at the hospital where she worked and helped with the childcare to take some pressure off my husband Gavin. I remember walking through her door to tell her the news and the tears fell. She put on her ‘nurse face’ and dealt with me, Gavin and the children, but I’m pretty sure once we were out of sight she had a tear or two as well.

I couldn’t have got through it without my hubby though. He still called me gorgeous, even when chemo made me puke and I lost all my hair. He picked me up when I was down and comforted me. He kept the shutters down when I needed to be alone but encouraged me to get out there and be myself still. He cooked when my mum hadn’t brought something round for us already. He even cleaned, did the school run and still went to work for some normality for himself.

I also had friends in the village who would call round to take the children for an hour or two to give me a rest or just come and make me a cuppa or a sandwich.

 

Was there anything that helped you through your treatment?


Having two small children, I think I just put on my brave face and carried on in true mum style. My youngest (2yr old) didn’t understand what was going on and just took it in her stride. My eldest who was 4, asked questions and understood bits of what we told him. I think they got me through my treatment, along with my family and friends who came round to visit and treat me as me, rather than a poorly person.

 

What Advice Would You Like To give your past self?


4 years after my diagnosis, I became involved with Bosom Friends and I wish I’d found them earlier! They are a small patient-led support group and I volunteered to be a model in their annual fashion show.  The fashion show only uses ladies who have had breast cancer and it’s a truly fantastic feel good show for all involved.
 
My advice to others, would be to find a support group - forget what you see on TV programmes, most groups I’ve heard about are fun! I had visions of everyone sat round in a circle, “Hi my name’s Julia and I have grade 3 cancer”. Needless to say, it wasn’t like that at all. Yes, we occasionally talk about breast cancer, but only to help others who ask questions. We have social evenings and that’s the whole point - being social! I now help to run this group. I’ve been involved with 6 fashion shows now and they keep getting better and better! In fact, Nicola Jane feature in our show! The Nicola Jane Leeds shop provides us with pieces from their post-surgery lingerie swimwear collection for 2 scenes!

Also make sure you get out there, even when you’re feeling down, and find others who have been through similar to you. You will find ladies getting on with life after diagnosis - it’s not all doom and gloom!

 

Biggest achievement in life to date…


Obviously fighting breast cancer but this was a biggie!


Nicola Jane Inspirational Woman March


I was also asked by my plastic reconstructive breast surgeon (picture with me above) to give a talk to his trainee registrars and surgeons. I hate public speaking, I get very nervous, stop eating and have hot sweats so when I was asked I thought was going to faint! But I decided I’d do it…or at least try!

So, just after my initial breast reconstruction (DIEP) I stood in front of a group of trainee registrars, surgeons, guest speakers, my oncologist and breast care nurses I’d got to know and I spoke for half an hour on my story. I spoke about how I’d dealt with breast cancer, my feelings, treatment and my family.

Whilst writing my speech, I did nothing but cry - too many memories came flooding back, so I knew I had to write the whole talk and practise it... over and over again! I read it to friends and family and still cried - but I didn’t want to cry on the day. I held my nerve and spoke. I couldn’t look at the guests, I explained why and just read from my script. I did it and it felt good! I told everyone how dealing with breast cancer is very difficult; appointments, money, everything... but I’m still here and very thankful to everyone involved in my care. Would I do it again? Of course I would!!

 

What have you got planned for 2018?


We’re going abroad on a family holiday to Gran Canaria (first one since breast reconstruction) and hopefully finishing renovating our house.

 

Do you have a favourite Nicola Jane swimsuit?


My favourite swimsuit is the Amazon. It’s flattering and long lasting. I’ve had a few versions of this style over the years. Since my reconstruction I’m now able to wear bikinis with confidence so I’ve bought almost every one in the catalogue... I can’t wait to get to the beach and poolside!

 

When purchasing a post-surgery bra or swimsuit what do you look for?


I look for something feminine, slightly higher at the bust area (to cover scars) and that makes me feel fabulous!

 

Do you have any advice to increase confidence post-surgery?


Get up
Make up
Show up
& Keep smiling

This kind of became my motto - I’m not the most confident of people in new situations, but after I’ve settled in, then I’m ok. I’d always slap the make up on and a smile on my face and have a go.

If you don’t try - how do you know you can’t do it? ... when actually ... you CAN!


Would you like to feature on our blog as a Nicola Jane Inspirational Woman or perhaps as a model in our catalogue? If the answer is YES, then we would love to here from you! Please email customerservice@nicolajane.com with photo and a little bit about yourself with the subject line Nicola Jane Inspirational Woman - model or Nicola Jane Inspirational Woman - blog 
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