Bikers in Tutu

Ailsa, Kanashay Photography and Nick from Cheshire Biker Training challenged bikers from across Macclesfield to Take on the Tutu on Saturday 21st November 2015.

Bikers, bike shops and clubs pledged their support to the event. On their way around Macclesfield, bikers visited businesses to collect donations and to see if they would Take on the Tutu and don their tutus.

Ailsa and Nick chose to support Prevent BreastCancer as Ailsa’s Sister, Kathryn, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012 and subsequently underwent a double mastectomy. As a result Ailsa was sent to The Nightingale Centre and had a family history risk assessment. She was found to have a higher than normal risk of breast cancer and she now has annual mammograms as a result, but was so impressed with the service she decided to support Prevent Breast Cancer.

Please read Kathryn’s inspirational story on her journey through breast cancer.

Bikers in Tutu

“This is my breast cancer story.

I was 37 years old and breast cancer was never even a second thought – I never worried about it and certainly never imagined I would be writing my own breast cancer story.

I was at my family doctor for my annual check up, and on a whim she said my insurance paid for a baseline, one time mammogram between the ages of 35 and 40, so if I wanted to I could go and schedule it. My first instinct was what a hassle it would be to find someone to watch my 3 children, ages 10, 7 and 18 months, and my second thought was, what was the point? I have no family history of breast cancer, breastfed my 3 children and didn’t smoke. But then, I thought well why not? And when I called and the clinic had Saturday hours, it seemed like it was meant to be. So the following Saturday I went and had my large C cups squashed on a pizza sized plate. Even at that point, I was more embarrassed at the sight of my flattened boobs and the comment that the tech made about needing a bigger plate, than I was of having cancer. I left and the lady told me usually results are back in 7-10 days. And I thought that would be it.

On the Monday morning I received a call from the breast care center at the local hospital. They asked me if I could come in for some additional imaging. I immediately had a sense of panic. This wasn’t normal. What did they need more images of? Did they see something? Who’s going to watch the children? Where is the hospital? Wait, what?! My heart was pounding in the back of my throat, I thought it was quite possible I would throw up. Even pass out. They told me to come in later that afternoon, they could squeeze me in at 4:30 pm. I somehow remember thinking how ironic that was, squeezing me in, like my boobs on the plate.

I got there and was ushered into the back and given a napkin sized paper shirt to put on. They only wanted more images of my right breast. More squashing and ultrasounds. They told me the radiologist reads the scans right away so I would know before I left if anything else was needed. As I sat by myself in the paper napkin I remember feeling so alone and regretted not bringing someone with me. But living in a foreign country and having moved a lot I don’t have many close friends. And my family was an ocean away. I missed them intensely at that moment. And then in swooped the tall, grey haired doctor.

He shook my hand and stated there were multiple areas of calcifications and wanted to schedule me for a biopsy the following day. I just stared at him. I could barely put a thought together let alone respond with words that made sense. I don’t know how long I stared at him, but it was long enough for me to imagine never seeing my children grow up and of certain death. I somehow blurted out, was calcification just a fancy word for cancer, just not as scary? He said he could not determine or rule out an official diagnosis without getting pathology results from the biopsy I needed. He said I should come back the next day, but we were scheduled to leave for Florida the next day, with my Mum flying in from England and my sister and nephew from Canada. He told me to go but the biopsy was scheduled for the day after my return. I left the hospital and sat in my car enveloped in the most gut wrenching fear.

I would gravitate between this fear and a notion of stiff -upper-lip-everything-will-be-fine for the next two weeks. On our family holiday at an idyllic beach house, where the exquisite white sand flawlessly met the turquoise water, I spent a long time looking out at the horizon wondering if I would find an end to it. I watched my children play and felt I had to study their every move. I didn’t want to miss a minute.

Looking back now, I don’t know how I got through the holiday, the not knowing and waiting was eternal. I lived in a shadow of someone I didn’t know. Inside I was in crisis.

After saying goodbye to my family, convinced inside it would be the last time, we made our way back to Ohio. I had the biopsy the following day. Under local anesthetic small samples of breast tissue were extracted and sent off to some scientist at the Mayo Clinic. I remember thinking when they told me that, surely there’s someone at the lab across the street that can figure it out, why do they have to send it all the way to the Mayo Clinic? 2-3 days they told me, a nurse navigator would call me. It was Monday, so by Wednesday I would know. Or was Monday counted as a day or not? Was Monday day 1 or zero? Do I actually have to wait until Thursday? Again with the waiting. The phrase “time stood still” describes someone waiting like that. Sleep came second to google. Google is a wonderful resource and an evil tool for concocting the worst possible outcome. Breast cancer has a huge online presence and it is absolutely overwhelming. I made it to Thursday morning and having heard nothing, my husband convinced me to call. I phoned the breast care center nurse navigator who had given me her direct line. No answer. I left a message. I called my doctors office, again. Left a message. I was so anxious, so overcome with fear it took all I had to function, to just go outside the door and be normal. To get up and make breakfast for the children. To just breathe in and out without panicking.

Friday 13th July. My baby girls 18 month check up at our family doctor, who had sent me for the mammogram 3 weeks earlier. So I loaded up the children and off we went. We arrived five minutes before our time and we were called immediately into the room. How odd. No waiting in the waiting room. My older two kids waited in the waiting room and I took my happy giggling little girl in. Barely a minute passed and our doctor came in. I knew right away. She looked at me and didn’t speak, but her eyes were tear filled. I knew right then I had cancer.

Even writing that is still startling. She went over the pathology report. Ductal carcinoma. Lobular carcinoma. Were these words English? I wanted her to tell me what to do, what it meant. She couldn’t. She referred me to who she considered the best oncologist and surgeon in my area. She had called my husband to come home. She knew we had no family close by. And I left. I strapped the kids in their car seats, stopped at the grocery store for the donuts I had promised them and went home. And things would never be the same. I had breast cancer.

The next few weeks were a blur. Doctors. MRI scans. Blood work. Google. Waiting. Tears. I was afraid of the cancer in my body. I was afraid it was growing. Spreading. Taking over. Killing me. Right away I wanted a bilateral mastectomy. I wanted the cancer gone. Chop them off. I didn’t want them. They’d gone rogue. After reviewing all pathology and scans I was told my best option was, in fact, a bilateral mastectomy. The size and location of the tumors meant a lumpectomy and radiation would more than likely be unsuccessful and I wouldn’t get clear margins. I was scheduled for the surgery followed by immediate reconstruction. Major surgery. I didn’t care. Sign me up. I donated my own blood in preparation for the surgery. On September 12th I left my house at 5am saying a quiet goodbye to my mum who had flown out to be here. I peeked in on each of my sleeping babies. I was scared I’d never see them again. What if something went wrong and I died on the table? The fear and panic was always there.

As I changed in the prep area I looked down at my boobs. Even then, at that point, I could not quite believe what was happening. It’s like it was someone else and I was just watching it all happen. Things like this do not happen to me. I’m too normal. Too average.

After a nine hour surgery I was done. No boobs, lymph nodes gone, two tissue expanders and 6 drains hanging off me. Latissimus dorsi flap. The latissimus dorsi back muscle is cut and pulled around the front to form the new breast, under which the surgeon places a tissue expander. A painful process. A hard recovery for me, which resulted in me getting my own blood back and then some. It was a long, slow recovery. I couldn’t lift a cup or hug my children. I couldn’t raise my arms past my shoulders or get up from the bed without help. My Mum took over. Thank goodness.

Breast cancer is terrible. Cancer is a horrible, brutal disease. Awareness is the key to prevention and early detection. I often wonder what would have happened if my insurance didn’t pay for the baseline screening? Or what if I hadn’t gone to the place with Saturday hours? What if?

Breast cancer is preventable, and survivable. I’m proof of that.”

To find out more about the Bikers in Tutu ride out please visit their Facebook page.