I had a party... for my BOOBS!
To say Charlotte has had a tough year would be an understatement. But even during a battle with breast cancer, she grabbed life with both hands and kept a smile on her face. She even threw a celebration party before she had a double mastectomy, to say goodbye to her breasts.
Charlotte wanted to share her story to bring positivity to others battling cancer. And what better place than in Britain's best-selling women's magazine, Take a Break, with its hundreds of thousands of readers. In helping Charlotte's story get published, Tell and Sell Stories secured her a good fee, raised awareness of the symptoms of breast cancer and succeeded in getting her Just Giving website a mention to help raise money for charity.
Here's her story:
I climbed into bed next to my husband Paul and, as we chatted about our day, I examined my breasts like I did regularly.
‘Hmm, feel this,’ I said.
Paul touched the pea-sized lump in my right breast.
‘Do you think I should see the doctor?’ I said.
‘If I found something you’d want me to go wouldn’t you?’ he said.
I nodded and agreed to make an appointment.
I was sure it was just a cyst.
But when I saw the doctor, he referred me to the hospital for a biopsy. Suddenly, I felt uneasy.
‘Don’t panic until we know what’s what,’ Paul said.
I waited for my results, but the phone call never came.
So I decided to ring the hospital myself.
‘An appointment has been made for you next week,’ the woman said.
My chest tightened and I struggled to catch my breath.
If they want to see me it must be bad news, I thought.
On the day, Paul came with me.
We were taken to a room and a doctor sat us down.
Then he said: ‘I’m afraid you have breast cancer.’
My mind went fuzzy as he carried on talking.
I couldn’t concentrate on anything but the word cancer.
I’d known there was a history of the disease in my family, but I’d never thought I would get it.
As I burst into tears, Paul hugged me.
‘We’re going to get through this together,’ he said.
Minutes later, a nurse appeared.
‘Can you come with me Charlotte?’ she said.
The news had barely sunk in before I was whisked off to a room with an X-ray machine.
‘You need to have a mammogram,’ the nurse said.
Still in shock, I sobbed while I was scanned.
In the last five minutes, my life had been turned upside down and I wasn’t sure how I’d cope.
Back home I could barely talk, so Paul phoned my mum Jackie and dad Peter to tell them the news.
Next morning, Paul and I returned to hospital and a nurse explained everything to me again.
Now I’d calmed down there was one thing on my mind.
‘Will I still be able to have children?’ I asked.
Paul and I had been hoping to start a family very soon.
‘You can undergo ICSI before you start chemo,’ she said. ‘We’ll collect your eggs and inseminate them with Paul’s sperm.’
Hearing about the treatment reassured me.
I longed to be a mum and it gave me something to fight for.
Two weeks later, I was at home when Mum rang me.
‘There’s something I need to tell you,’ she said. ‘I’ve been diagnosed with ovarian cancer.’
Hearing the words stunned me.
I had cancer and now she did too?
‘Oh Mum, I can’t believe it,’ I said. ‘What are you going to do?’
‘Don’t worry, everything’s going to be fine,’ she said.
‘I know it will be,’ I replied.
Over the years I’d been a typical teenager, wanting to spend time with my friends rather than my parents. But with both of us battling cancer together, we grew closer than we’d ever been.
My sister Lucy and I kept Mum in high spirits until her surgery, a full hysterectomy.
Afterwards we were told it was a success.
I was thrilled and it gave me just the boost I needed.
While Mum recovered, I started ICSI treatment and injected myself with hormones for ten days. The process produced six successful embryos that were frozen.
‘This is really exciting,’ I said. ‘I can’t wait for us to have a child together.’
‘Me neither,’ Paul beamed.
As my first session of chemo drew nearer, I began fretting about losing my long, brown hair.
So I bought a wig and said: ‘I might try it out before the treatment.’
Paul nodded and said: ‘It might put you at ease.’
I tied my hair back and pulled on the wig.
‘Cor it’s boiling hot under here!’ I said, adjusting it.
We went to Edinburgh and, as we walked through the city, I was sure people were staring at me.
‘Charlotte, no one’s looking,’ Paul assured me.
Days later, I started chemotherapy and it was horrible. I felt sick and spent a whole night throwing up.
I was told I’d lose my hair after a few weeks, so I made a decision.
A week later I sat in the dining room in front of a mirror.
‘You ready for this?’ the hairdresser said.
I took a deep breath and said: ‘Go for it.’
She began snipping away and I watched my hair fall to the floor. It felt good knowing it was going to charity.
Eventually, the hairdresser said: ‘All done.’
I got up and checked out my new pixie crop.
‘It’s not so bad actually,’ I said to Paul.
Soon though, it all fell out, as well as my eyelashes and eyebrows.
I grimaced in the mirror but Paul gazed at me lovingly.
‘You look absolutely beautiful,’ he said.
I continued chemo and made sure I saw as much of Mum and Lucy as I could. The last few months had made me realise just how important family was.
One day, we went for afternoon tea just the three of us. I knew it was tough for Lucy, with both her mum and sister having cancer.
‘I’m so glad it’s me going through this and not you,’ I told her.
She smiled and said: ‘How are you feeling about your surgery?’
‘Happy,’ I said. ‘It’s a positive thing.’
The doctor had told me I had an increased chance of having a faulty gene so I’d opted for a double mastectomy and reconstruction.
‘Before I have it, I’m going to have a Goodbye Boobs party,’ I said.
I didn’t want to sit at home feeling sad - I wanted to celebrate.
Everyone thought it was a great idea.
On the last day of my chemo, I came home to a letter from Paul.
It read: I’ve never loved you more. You are strong and so beautiful.
Underneath were clues to follow. They led me to letters hidden around the house, with messages from friends and family.
The final one was the biggest surprise.
They had all clubbed together to buy me a trip to Paris.
I clutched the letter and my eyes filled with tears.
I would definitely give them a party to remember.
When the day arrived, friends helped Paul and I decorate the house with pink balloons and bra bunting.
Later, our guests arrived and I led the girls to a table of jam jars.
‘You have to choose the jar that matches your cup size,’ I said, laughing as they opted for the larger ones.
I served up a big boob-shaped cake I’d baked and grabbed everyone’s attention.
‘Thank you all for coming and for being such a huge support,’ I said.
Then we played ze ‘bra’ pong and partied into the early hours.
Two weeks later, I went to the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh and had a mastectomy and reconstruction.
When I came around I was glad it was over. It was strange having new breasts but they filled me with hope.
With Mum and I both clear of cancer, we celebrated with a big family holiday to France.
Throughout our difficult time, Mum had remained so cheery and it was just what I’d needed to keep me going. I think we helped each other get to where we are now. We catch up far more than we used to and we share a newfound passion for healthy eating.
Now I’m keen to raise awareness and donations for charity. I've taken part in the Breast Cancer Care Scotland’s Fashion Show and I’m so grateful to the charity for all the support they’ve given me.
My advice to anyone battling the disease would be to stay positive, surround yourself with loved ones and to always try and make the most out of a bad situation.
Goodbye old boobs, hello new life.
Money raised from the fashion show will help Breast Cancer Care Scotland. To donate, visit www.justgiving.com/CharlotteHYoung