From cancer to catwalk

17/10/2008

LIFE can, and does, go on after cancer. Frances Le Tissier, 52, was diagnosed with cervical cancer in her early 20s, but after a hysterectomy she made a full recovery, only to discover in her mid-40s that she had breast cancer.

‘The word cancer does seem to strike fear in people, but I’d already learnt once that it was not necessarily going to kill me,’ she said.
‘But it was a real shock. I had to have a mastectomy, which was devastating, but life goes on and so many positive things have come out of it. I now appreciate the small things in life much more and I am thankful for how lucky I’ve been.’

For every woman, the disfigurement caused by a mastectomy must take a lot of coming to terms with. But the simple truth was that she would survive for only two to three more years without undergoing the procedure.
‘I started regarding my left breast as a cancerous mound, thinking that it just had to go. I had to mentally detach myself from it and believe that it was no longer part of my body.’

The operation removed all the cancerous tissue and because the disease hadn’t spread into her lymph glands, chemotherapy and radiotherapy were not necessary.

Frances decided to have reconstructive surgery and opted for a relatively simple procedure that involved implanting silicone bags under the skin before inflating them with water using a syringe.  ‘Because I was so small-chested, the surgeon explained that an augmentation on the right-hand side would be needed to make them symmetrical,’ she explained.  ‘I would still rather have my own breasts back any time, but I am very happy with how they’ve turned out.’

During this difficult period, Breast Cancer Care became a valuable resource for Frances and her husband, Roger.  The charity’s website gave them access to invaluable information about living with breast cancer, the disease itself and how to fight it.  It was through this that Roger found out about the particular type of reconstructive surgery that Frances decided on.
‘All husbands must find it very difficult because they must feel like they have no control. I think he felt that the more information and knowledge he had, the more he would be able to help. He probably knows more about it than me now and he always made sure we were aware and informed about things as they happened. Breast Cancer Care was such a help.’

After recovering, Frances wanted to give back to the charity and offered to carry out volunteer work on its behalf in London, where she owns a flat. Staff asked her to take part in its flagship fund-raising event, the Breast Cancer Care Fashion Show. She’d attended the glitzy event the year before with some friends and jumped at the chance of modelling in it.

It took place on 1 October at London’s swanky Grosvenor House Hotel and, along with 22 other men and women, all of whom had been diagnosed with breast cancer, she took to the catwalk in a mix of designer and high street clothes donated by retailers.

‘It was an amazing experience and I think that everyone who took part said so. As soon as I was asked, I thought it sounded like a fantastic opportunity. It’s not often you get the chance to walk down a catwalk with professional hairstyling and make-up.

‘Part of the experience was swapping stories with the other women and the two men who were there who had also experienced breast cancer. We’d all been through different things, but we all walked out there feeling confident.
It was very uplifting.’

Frances Le Tissier modelled at Breast Cancer Care’s flagship fund-raising event, a fashion show at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel.    

GEP Article 17th October 2008



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