This story really starts when I was 20, and at the end of my second year at university in Manchester.
Most of my fellow students had gone home, but I had stayed past the end of term to make a concerted effort on my dissertation (16,000 words about cultural geography and theatres in Manchester – yes, really), along with one of my best friends. I don’t remember the exact moment, but I found a lump in my left breast. It was a hard little thing that I could move around. The fear set in, and everywhere I looked I seemed to see stories about breast cancer and adverts for breast cancer charities. At 20 you’re not a fully formed adult and whilst you have the naive confidence of youth, you don’t have years of wisdom and resilience to draw on when you find yourself in such a frightening and unknown situation.
So, once home I told mum and in quick succession I’d seen the GP and been referred to a hospital to get the lump removed. My consultant did a super job, making his incision around the edge of my nipple; “you’re a young woman, you might want to sunbathe and not have a visible scar”.
It was an anxious time for my family and friends, but I was able to celebrate my 21st birthday knowing the lump was just a benign fibroadenoma, colloquially called a breast mouse.
Life carried on. I finished my dissertation, which I don’t think was very good, but I got the degree I needed to join Selfridges as a graduate trainee, something I was hugely excited about.
Over the years my left breast would have the odd twinge, which I always put that down to the scar tissue. And I developed the habit of checking my breasts on a regular basis.