Gina's story

Gina is a qualified skipper and a mum of 4 from Northumberland. She was diagnosed just over a year ago at her first routine mammogram.

Getting to know you:

Tell us a bit about yourself
My name is Gina Davidson and I am 53 years old. I was born in Hertfordshire and moved to Northumberland 23 years ago when I was pregnant with our 1st child. I am married to Philip (24 years in August). We met in October 1995 and were married in August 1996 - it was love at first sight (for me anyway!) and we have 4 ‘children’ who are now 19, 20, 21 and 23.
What is a normal day for you?
I work full time for the local Council in the Education and Skills Service and my role is to ensure children maximise their opportunities in receiving their education. It is a tough and emotional job but it can also be very rewarding. I have 2 of my kids still at home so I am still ‘mum’ to them and still do their washing and cooking for them everyday because I like to be needed!

What do you do for fun? Any interests or hobbies?
I love to go for walks with my 2 Westhighland Terriers on the North East Coastal beaches. The beaches are stunning and very quiet even in the height of the season.

Unusual/fun fact about yourself?
I am a qualified Skipper! 100 years ago, before children came along, I used to work for John Lewis. The company has a fleet of 5 yachts and I learnt to sail on them. When I got my skipper’s ticket, I would take employees sailing for the weekend. That was how I met my husband - he was in my crew - the cabin boy haha!

Biggest achievement in life to date?
Without a doubt my biggest achievement is raising my kids to be the people they are today. The 4 are all confident, happy and healthy and pursuing their own individual paths and goals.

How would you describe yourself in three words?
One of my daughters has said: caring, efficient and stylish. I think my boys would say: annoying, nagging but makes a good Sunday roast. I would say loving, caring and mum.

How have you kept yourself busy during the lockdown?
During lockdown I have been working from home ensuring children on ‘my patch’ are all safe and well. I have had 3 of my kids home with me which has been lovely and we have had quality family time with many laughs along the way and beer pong competitions! Rory was not home with us as he was working - he is in the RAF and stationed in London.

You and Nicola Jane:

What do you love about the Florence bra you won through the FutureDreams giveaway?
I love the fact that the Florence is very feminine and that the band is wide so that it doesn’t press on my scars.

What do you think are the most important aspects of a mastectomy bra/what do you look for when purchasing a new mastectomy bra?
I have really found it hard to find a bra since my mastectomy as I am still in a lot of discomfort and cannot stand tight things around my chest, so for me it is important that it is 100% comfortable.

What type of swimsuit do you find works best with your type of surgery?
Currently, I do not feel confident enough to wear a swimsuit. I have looked through your brochure and there are a few styles that I might choose in the future but I am not ready just yet.

What advice would you give to other ladies trying to find the right fitting post-surgery bra or swimwear?
I had a bad experience in a well-known high street department store when they offered me a breast-feeding bra. After breast feeding 4 children, I found this to be highly insensitive. Make sure you use a company that specialises in post-surgery bras as they will be more in tune with what you are going through.

Your diagnosis and surgery:

When were you diagnosed with breast cancer?
I was diagnosed a little over a year ago, in April 2019.
How old were you?
53, it was at my first routine mammogram.
What type of surgery did you have?
I had a mastectomy on my right side with immediate reconstruction using the muscle from my back. This was a 5-hour operation. 4 hours after surgery, I had a haematoma so I was rushed back into surgery for another 5 hour operation. Since then I have had day surgery for fat transfer to increase the size and a nipple reconstruction and have been told I will need a further 2 surgeries at least. I hate the way it looks, feels and makes me feel, so after many sessions with a health psychologist, my consultant has agreed to take it all away and leave me flat - this is what is best for me. I was due to have this procedure in May but it was postponed due to the lockdown and I am waiting for a new date asap!
Can you tell us a bit about how you felt when you first found out?  - What was your first thought/worry?
I had a routine mammogram and was called back for further investigations. I had ultrasound scans and a biopsy by the radiologist, who said there and then (without consulting the oncologist) that I had a very busy breast with 2 tumours. This was a complete shock and I was told without my husband being present. I think this has played a huge part in why I have been struggling with poor mental health since.
Who did you turn to when you first found out and who helped you the most throughout?
My husband and 4 children have been amazing. Philip was made redundant the month before my diagnosis, so putting a positive spin on things, he was there to take me to all my appointments and was at home to look after me following my surgeries. 

Was there anything/anyone that helped you through your treatment?
 have a few friends who have been through breast cancer themselves, so they have been an amazing support. Most of all was my dear friend Cath who is a sister in charge of an oncology unit at my local hospital in Alnwick. I used to volunteer there, just making tea and chatting to patients whilst they were receiving chemo. Since my diagnosis, I have not felt up to returning there, however Cath has been a tremendous support to me. And the rest of my family: my mum and stepdad, my sister, my parent’s in law and brothers and sisters in law and my gorgeous nieces - they have all been there for me every step of the way.
Having been through your journey if your present self could give your past self, advice on something you will experience during the time from diagnosis until now what would it be?
Take time to make your decisions about your options. Do not let anyone try to convince you to do something that is not right for you. It is very hard to think clearly and take everything in but take your time. In hindsight, I would never have had the reconstruction surgery and the door to that chapter of my life would have been closed a long time ago. 

Do you have any post-surgery styling tips?
Comfort, comfort, comfort is my new mantra! I have found that you can be stylish and still be comfortable.
Any advice for other ladies who have or had breast cancer?
Talk to people - let people know how you are feeling because if they don’t know, they won’t be able to support you in a positive manner. Also, stop, chill and take time for you.

A bit of fun:

If you could be a superhero, what would you want your superpowers to be?
My superpower would be to fix things - fix cancer, fix poverty, fix abuse, fix wars, fix climate change, fix racism, …………. I could go on and on!

If you were holding a dinner party and could invite any 5 guests (dead or alive!) who would you invite?
Nelson Mandela, Oskar Schindler, Helen Addis (@thetittygritty), Barak Obama and Idris Alba (but in reality it would be my family: Philip, Helena, Owen, Rory and Esther as nowadays it is rare that we are all together).
5 quick-fire questions:
  • Cats or dogs? Dogs
  • Coffee or tea? Tea - Darjeeling only
  • Books or movies? Movies
  • Scrambled or fried? Poached
  • Spring or Autumn? Spring
Anything else you would like to share?
Check your boobs regularly and act!
Attend mammogram appointments and any other screening appointments.
These things can save your life!
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