Barbe thought she had done everything right. She had breastfed her three children, she was fit, didn’t smoke and didn’t drink (much). Still, before she reached her 40th birthday, she sat in a doctor’s office to hear the words “you have cancer”.
Throughout a rollercoaster of appointments and treatment sessions, Barbe’s concern was for her husband and their three children, who were still in primary school.
“Breast cancer took over my life, and my husband and children’s lives,” says Barbe. “Because cancer doesn’t just happen to you, it happens to the whole family.” Barbe juggled being a parent and a patient, facing chemotherapy and radiotherapy together with school drop-offs and parent teacher nights, proudly wearing her wig or a scarf.
Eventually, her body healed and her hair grew back. But just one week after celebrating being 5 years cancer-free, Barbe found another lump. She had no choice; it was strongly recommended she have a mastectomy. By this time, her children were a little older, and more aware of what was happening.
Looking to the future
For Barbe, the changes to her body were also hard to handle. With a background in the beauty industry, she took pride in her appearance. She was the only patient in the chemotherapy room with a face full of makeup, a leopard print head scarf and big hoop earrings to keep things glamorous!
But behind the mask of bravado, there was a sadness.
“It was hard to look in the mirror. I no longer looked like me,” explains Barbe. “I was bald, had no eyebrows, no eyelashes, no nails, a swollen face and a mouth full of ulcers … But I got through it!”
There is no doubt that breast cancer has changed Barbe’s life. She has discovered a courage and strength she never knew before. And she truly values time – time that she can spend with family and friends who walked with her during her breast cancer journey – and carried her some of the way.