A brave mum has shared a powerful post online, opening up about how she is still learning to come to terms with her body after life-altering surgery and being diagnosed with breast cancer.
Emma McKeown, from Sydney, shared a striking photo of herself crying in the days before she was due to have a mastectomy, taken by a close friend who is a photographer.
“We were talking about everything as she took the photos and I guess everything just got overwhelming for me in that moment,” Emma tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
“They are real tears, raw emotion that she captured while she cried with me. It was a moment of realisation that this was really happening and I would never be the same again.”
Alongside the image, Emma shared a post explaining how she felt ‘betrayed’ by a part of her and is still coming to terms with her ‘new’ body:
It felt like there was something invading my body and I didn't have any control over it.
I didn't have time to absorb all of the information. I didn't have enough time to prepare to lose a part of me. A piece of my body. Something that made me feel feminine, that fed my children, and that had now, all of a sudden, betrayed me.
I put on a brave face, because that's what we do. We don't always let people see how much things affect us. We think our friends and family only want to see us happy and smiling through trials.
But...this is me...real and raw.
I did a WHOLE LOT of ugly crying.
The surgery is over, I have physically recovered and things seem normal from the outside, but this has changed the way I look and the way I feel about myself. This is not something that you just get over and move on from. It rocked our world, and continues to affect me.
The ugly cries have settled but the struggle to love the ‘new me’ continues.
Emma tells us she decided to share the photo because often people only show the “good stuff” on social media.
“Truthfully, I am happy and feel good most of the time, but cancer isn't something that comes into your life and you just float through,” she reveals.
The 34-year-old had been doing regular self-checks for a few years, when she noticed a lump on her left breast in December last year.
“I was checking myself before a shower one evening and noticed one side was different to the other,” she tells us.
“There was a lump on my left breast that wasn't the same on my right. I got my husband to check it too and he agreed I should go to the doctor about it. There were no skin changes and it didn't hurt to touch so I wasn't too worried to begin with.”
Emma decided to enjoy Christmas with her family, before going to see a doctor on January 6 and after multiple scans, a mammogram, and biopsies, on Jan 14 the shocking diagnosis came.
“We were called into the room, sat down and he said ‘I'm so sorry Emma, it's not good news’,” she recalls.
“I took a big deep breath and burst into tears. I had tried to prepare myself for the worst but there is nothing you can do to be ready for the ‘C’ word.”
They had found two lumps that were malignant and Emma was diagnosed with grade 2 Invasive DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma In Situ) and was told she possibly faced chemotherapy, surgery and radiation.
“My eldest son immediately broke down in tears, worried that I was going to die,” Emma says, adding they told their immediate family and close friends straight away.
On January 28, the mum had her first appointment with her surgeon where a third lump was discovered in an MRI. And on February 17 she had a CT scan followed by a unilateral nipple sparing mastectomy with immediate reconstruction.
“The type of surgery I decided on didn't come easily,” Emma admits.
“The most important thing to my husband and I was that the cancer was gone as soon as possible.
“I got to the point where I was confident in our decision, but physically losing a part of me played on my mind.”
Luckily the cancer had not spread to her lymph nodes, so Emma didn’t require chemo or radiation therapy and was given the all clear on March 5.
“I was given two different options for ongoing medication to try and stop the possibility of the cancer returning,” she explains.
“I am now on anti-cancer medication for five years. I have a needle in my stomach once a month and a pill everyday.”
She hopes the photo, along with sharing her story will remind more women how important it is to check your breasts.
“I want people to look at this picture and feel something,” she says.
“I would like to make a difference, even if it means just one person starts checking when they haven't before. That was how I found mine.”