Today (March 8) marks International Women’s Day, which is a global day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.
Women’s Day is all about celebration, reflection and action, but here at QA Hospital we wanted to focus on an inspirational battle that one of our patient’s faced, to empower any other woman that may go through something similar.
One in eight women in this country will develop breast cancer at some point in the lifetime, and in Portsmouth we diagnose around 700 new breast cancers every year.
Survival rates are very good and much better than 20 years ago and this is down to both the availability of good treatments, but in particular early detection tests that shows if a person is a carrier to a genetic cancer gene.
Here is an inspirational story of one of our patients who had both her breast and ovaries removed after being told that she had a 90% chance of developing breast cancer and 60% chance of ovarian.
I had my breasts and ovaries removed for my children
Mother of three, Georgina Tuson, couldn’t believe it when her parents sat her down and told her that she was a carrier of a genetic gene which meant she had 90% chance of developing breast cancer and 60% chance of ovarian.
“My aunt died 20 years ago of breast cancer, and then 18 years later my cousin discovered that she had cancer in both of her breasts so had a mastectomy to have them removed. I couldn’t believe it when I discovered that myself, my father and brother also carried the gene.
“I have one boy and two young girls so I was instantly worried for them and what it could mean for their futures. The doctor talked me through my options and it was clear that both a mastectomy and hysterectomy would be needed. I didn’t want to take any chances. I wanted to see my children grown up, get married and have children themselves, and more importantly the odds were high that my daughters may too, one day suffer the same fate as I was. So I felt as though I had to have the operations for them so they could see that mummy was brave and was around to see them grow because of that decision. I didn’t want them to suffer the fate that my cousin had when as a child she had lost her mother.”
Georgina went for an MRI scan and two weeks later a lump was discovered on her left breast. “It was a huge blow and I was terrified as there I was doing all this prep to prevent getting cancer and unbeknown to me I could of already had it and it too late – I was petrified for my children,” says Georgina in between tears.
“The three weeks I had to wait for the results were dreadful,” continues Georgina, “and I found myself suddenly appreciating the mundane things in life like doing the hectic food shop with the kids, even late-night ironing and school bag packing – all the things you never really blink an eye at!”
Thankfully the lump was Benin and Georgina could concentrate on her impending operations. “I was over the moon, naturally, and felt as though life had given me a second chance. I knew that I had to be strong for my children, make the right decision and tell them what was going on.”
Georgina asked the children’s father to go to her house so together they could tell the children. “But how do you break that sort of news to children of between 11 and 13?”
Georgina says later that evening her 12-year-old daughter Olivia cornered her and asked if she too was likely to have the same problem when she was older. “Smart kid ay?” says Georgina. “I had to be honest and say that she very-well could, but what we needed to do was live for the day. The next day Olivia’s school phoned to say that she was upset so we ended up spending the day together and it was throughout this day that Olivia saw my strength in that I wasn’t being miserable and feeling sorry for myself, and instead was just getting on with things.”
Two days before Georgina’s operation and together with her partner Derek and the children, the family spent the day walking the dog along the beach and having lunch at a pub that resided along the water’s edge. “I spent the day abundantly happy and cherished every moment. What with having two operations only weeks apart I knew it would be sometime before the family could do that again, but I didn’t moan or look sad about it, and from the kids prospective I was happy and relieved that it would all soon be over.
Georgina says placing herself on the operation table just before the operation was a feeling like no other. “I was suddenly overcome with emotion and burst out crying.”
After two days in hospital Georgina says she very-much wanted her children to be a part of her recovery instead of being shocked by it. “They helped change my dressings and the like, and on the face of things we were all just relieved that the first operation had been a success. Behind closed doors however, I had a panic attack the first-time my dressings were removed and I took in the sight of my new chest, and I struggled to shower and touch and accept my new body. But to my kids I was just getting on with life and counting down the days until the next operation.
Just six-weeks later and Georgina was back in hospital this time having a hysterectomy. “It’s now seven months later and the effects of surgery still show. I still get phantom nipple pain, my chest feels numb and I get a tingling sensation under my armpit where my muscles need rebuilding, but I am alive. I’m healthy, my kids are happy and know that should my fate end up their fate, then they will handle it just as I did, and together we will get through it as I’m alive to now help them with whatever they face later in life.”
Georgina would like to thank her friends and family for their support.