Boobless Bride: We Aren’t Just Brides, We Are Women

Today is a very significant day. Today is the 3rd March! Many of you won’t know the importance of this day but Dawn, our Boobless Bride, will explain all.

Hey girlfriends. Can you believe we are in March already?! Spring is fast approaching and March holds a very important date for me and thousands of other women across the globe. So, I hope you don’t mind… but I am going to throw a curve ball this time and not actually talk about anything Bridal and I will explain why.

Every bride is unique; her style, shape, height, complexion and preferences differ – resulting in every wedding being an exclusive event. But there is one thing all us brides have in common. We are women. Very busy women. We are Daughters, Girlfriends, Mums, Employees, Managers, Entrepreneurs, Friends, Trouble shooters, Role Models, Cleaners, Chauffeurs, Chefs, DIY experts, First Aiders, Wedding Planners… the list goes on. Our lives are crazy busy and we are often so good at looking after EVERYONE else around us that we neglect ourselves. That is why March is so important.11034194_10153208853417790_501822361999400863_n

3rd March is the Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) Awareness Day. Prior to November 2014 I had never heard of Triple Negative Breast Cancer. In fact I thought breast cancer was breast cancer… one potentially deadly disease that has a very good prognosis these days. My ignorance was short lived (probably not the best choice of words) – because I was told that not only did I have breast cancer – I had Triple Negative – arguably the worst type of breast cancer due to the nature of how it grows. Would you believe it…There are 8 different types of breast cancer?! And each cancer has sub groups so there are significantly more than 8 in reality. Each cancer has a specific course of treatment tailored to each patients’ symptoms, scan results and needs.

So what is TNBC?! Don’t worry – I won’t go too scientific as I am certainly not a medic, but there are 3 receptors in a cancer cell; Oestrogen, Progesterone or Her2 and the presence or absence of one or more determine the cancer type.

As explained by Cancer Research UK…Receptors are proteins that some cancer cells have. When specific substances in your body attach to specific receptors, they trigger a reaction in the cell. When they are triggered, oestrogen receptors, progesterone receptors and Her2 receptors can tell breast cancer cells to grow.

Oestrogen attaches to oestrogen receptors. Progesterone attaches to progesterone receptors. And Her2 attaches to Her2 receptors. Some breast cancers have one or more of these receptors. Triple negative breast cancers don’t have any of them.

Because there are no receptors this cancer grows incredibly quickly and aggressively, it is more common in younger women and is often a sign that you are carrying the BRCA1 (Breast cancer gene). As part of the process, I completed a medical family tree – no one in the family had had breast cancer so the oncology team were happy that it was unlikely to be genetic as my mum and nan had not had it or my fathers sisters. However, I read a lot about TNBC and felt with two daughters it was important to officially rule this out. Thank god I did as I was told (after several months) that I have the breast cancer gene. How is this possible? No women in my family have ever had breast cancer?! Well the sneaky git travelled down my dad’s side of the family so I was the first female to be affected. The genetics testing team were as shocked as I was. So frustrating as if I had known I had the gene I would have been screened regularly and would never have found myself in this position. But at least now my girls will be tested and if they have the gene they will be screened closely and given the chance to have elected mastectomies and reconstruction. The BRCA1 gene also increases the chance of ovarian cancer so I have had a hysterectomy and again my girls will need to decide if they have an elected hysterectomy in their 30’s. It makes me wonder how many other women are carrying this serial killer around with them – completely unaware that he may strike at any time and change your life forever.12509848_1058994464131839_1654582193702290218_n

I must point out that breast cancer in someone my age (33) is very rare – but not unknown. Because of this it is easily misdiagnosed. You know your body… so if you find ANYTHING that you feel is not ‘right’ or has changed. Get it checked out. I genuinely knew from the moment I found the lump that something was seriously wrong. It took 3 trips to the GP before I received an appointment to see a specialist as experience said under 40s don’t have breast cancer and with no breast cancer in the family it would almost always be a cyst. But my case is not exclusive so I beg you ladies…push to see a breast specialist.

So…why am I banging on about cancer…again…how boring I hear you cry. Well I found the lump in September 2014 the size of a pea. By the time I was diagnosed 8 weeks later it was 12cms and had spread to my lymphatic system – meaning my treatment needed to be quick and extensive. I acted the second I found the lump – and it was still touch and go. A tumour over 5cm in size generally means the cancer will have spread. I was extremely lucky that mine hadn’t and with only a 6% 5 year survival rate for my cancer and number of lymph nodes affected. I am definitely not out of the woods – but imagine if I had delayed seeking medical advice. I would almost certainly not be sat here in my pjs writing a blog to you lovely people or planning a beautiful wedding with my best friend.

So on the 3rd March it is National Triple Negative Breast Cancer Awareness Day. And I beg you to;

CHECK

YOUR

BREASTS

And continue to do so EVERY MONTH thereafter.o-BREAST-CANCER-CARE-900

I have been working with Breast Cancer Care – who have been my rock throughout my diagnosis and treatment and they have sent me details to help you know what to do.

• There’s no right or wrong way to check your breasts. Whatever your age, it’s really important to get to know your breasts and what’s normal for you.

• Breast cancer’s not just a lump, try to be aware of any changes that are different for you – things like puckering or dimpling, redness or a rash, your nipple becoming inverted (pulled in) or changing its position or shape, a change in the size or shape of your breasts or any discharge from your nipples.

• Remember to check all parts of your breast, including your armpits and up to your collarbone.

• Knowing what warning signs to look for can lead to earlier detection of breast cancer. This can be crucial in providing more effective treatment and, ultimately, saving lives.

• If you notice any unusual breast changes go and see your GP as soon as possible.

• Not all changes will be breast cancer, but if you are diagnosed your specialist team will then discuss your treatment options with you.

• Call Breast Cancer Care’s nurses free on 0808 800 6000 or visit www.breastcancercare.org.uk for more information.

We aren’t just brides, we are women and we need to look after ourselves.

Bride to be Diaries: Our Boobless Bride finds THE dress.

Our Boobless bride to be Dawn is back on the blog today with the second insight into her journey of wedding planning.  Dawn won a place in our recent competition to find our new Bride-to-be writers and wow did we have response from you all on her amazing story.  Here she tells us about her first venture into wedding fairs and how a boobless bride finds THE dress…

Last-date-before-chemo
Bridesmaids chosen… so it must be time for the obligatory wedding fair.  Although as you know I was married before, we got married in Cuba so none of the traditional planning was required. We simply went into first choice, picked the cheapest long distance venue and bosh…wedding done.  This time it is a completely different experience – which is wonderful!!!
I managed to arrange a weekend where the bridesmaids could get together – all 5 of them – and booked us in to a couple of wedding dress shops on the Saturday and two wedding fairs on the Sunday. (Beth – Sister-in-law and Maid of Honour, Lindsay, Jodie, Emma and Boon –
My besties and my mum Sue)  A pre hen gathering.
But that was weeks away…and I’m a little impatient so decided to start getting ideas. This is when operation ‘secret affair’commenced. Beth lured me into cheating on my bridesmaids, it is all her fault, she took advantage of my fragile newly engaged state. (Thrown under the bus Beth – sorry!)  We only ventured into Cardiff to visit the vintage fair for some inspiration, had no intention of looking at dresses – Eek. But having found the most amazing vintage petticoat it was only right we had a little look to see what vintage dresses may suit the petticoat…I won’t try anything on without my mum and other bridesmaids present….will I?! Well, one won’t hurt… Oops. Before I know it I’m knee deep in dresses and a fabric connoisseur able to differentiate tulle and organza.
The-ring
It has started…but I’m really doing the bridesmaids a favour – as now I know what style I want now so can concentrate on that on our bridesmaid weekend. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  So I now know the style I want, just finding it is the difficult bit.
Now you may think I’m digressing a little now – as I’m supposed to be talking about a wedding fair, but all will become clear…
I suspect I am not the typical bride. I find the whole finding ‘the dress’ thing tedious and frustrating for two reasons; firstly the women in the bridal shops want to put me in size 20 dresses and I’m sure I am a 12 (damn you steroids) and secondly I have no bloody boobs!!!
How do I drop that into convo when describing the dress I want… “Good afternoon, I’m looking for an ivory dress with a drop waist, lace and a design that cleverly masks the fact I have no breasts”. Beth suggested going to the place she had her dress, but I was a little reluctant as I didn’t want to rain on her parade – but Beth was adamant. So off I trot to ‘Do you Believe?’ in Newport, South Wales and my goodness am I glad I did!!!
I embraced the situation and told Helen I needed a dress that would hide my ‘knitted knockers’ (an amazing alternative to prosthetics – please pass that on if you know anyone who has had a mastectomy) and suck in my fat. In true Welsh Bird style, I tell Helen it all…what happened
to my ex-husband, my struggle after, my diagnosis and meeting my amazing man. Instantly we connected, Helen has always had a passion for designing dresses that have a functional aspect for women with problem areas or disabilities…but more than that…she wanted so badly to not only make me a beautiful dress, but make me happy after such a testing few years!!!  So, Helen is making me a dress…Yes, that’s right, my own dress!!! I choose EVERYTHING!!!! It is so exciting. My luck is changing…and as luck would have it, she isat the wedding fair on the bridesmaid weekends so my bridesmaid can pick dresses with her,and I can show the girls what we are thinking of doing. (See it makes sense now.)
So…back to the weekend!!!
     Do you believe
Friday night, the girls arrive and we do as any bridal group would that are consciously trying to lose weight for the big day… we have a monster take away and start watching ‘Yes to the Dress’ and ‘Don’t tell the bride’ to get us in the mood and start planning the weekend.
So on the Saturday we head to Cardiff, to be honest I knew at this point that I was only really trying on dresses to have that experience with the girls and get ideas for Helen. It was a surreal day really – didn’t feel like a bride at all, in fact just found myself dismissing everything I tried on almost immediately. All I could see was short hair – the aftermath of chemo, fat – the aftermath of steroids and comfort food and no chest – the aftermath of cancer. And of course all the young girls working in the shop are beautiful size 6 and about 19 years old. My poor bridesmaids having to put up with me grumpy and struggling with body image issues and not feeling too great on my medication. Not really the ‘moment’ I was hoping for. But we left the bridal shop and had a lovely day shopping.
Garter
Sunday has now arrived and I’m looking forward to a lovely day with my bridesmaids but still not feeling very bridal. The first fair we attended was the ‘Chosen Vintage & Bespoke Wedding Fair’ in the Paintworks, Bristol. It was a lovely event, smaller than I expected but I suppose it was quite a specific bridal genre so makes sense.
Wedding Cake
First thing – a goodie bag – that lifted my mood immediately, it had a jaffa cake in it…my favourite lol. There were some amazing stalls there…genuine 1920-1950’s dresses, a little too authentic for me but beautiful none the less, incredible wedding cake designs and stationary sets, great ideas for centrepieces and lighting solutions…one of my favourite ideas was a traditional ice-cream cart being pulled by an authentic 1930’s push bike.
Icecream Bike
Lots of photos taken and now I’m really feeling the buzz of being a bride. Off we go now to the ‘West of England Wedding Show’at UWE, Bristol….Wow!!! What an event!!! Professional stalls offering everything you can think of and a real life catwalk!!! I’ve never seen a fashion show so was looking forward to that! First find was a Bailey’s fountain!!! I know!!! Love at first sight and my bestie Lindsay decided to treat me to it for my wedding gift…she’s a treasure.
Baileys Fountain
One by one my bridesmaid took ideas and have taken on a little project of their own. (For now a secret) Then we found Helen at Do you Believe’s stand. She showed the girls a bridesmaid dress she thought would suit my dress and one by one the girls tried them on with me holding my breath…they loved it and all looked amazing!!! So…bridesmaid dresses…CHECK!!!
Bridesmaid
All bridesmaids are now beaming and we are all in full blown wedding mode. So Helen puts me in a dress that is close to what we are thinking to show the girls…a lot of changes to be made but the general idea could be seen.
There it was, that bridal moment. This is THE DRESS (kind of) – without a doubt. My mum is in tears, I’m in tears the girls are in tears and you can’t even get the full effect yet. Helen is truly making the dream dress for a boobless bride. I’m ecstatic… just the fashion show to go.
One by one the bridal shops show off their best selection of dresses, it was amazing. Such a diverse range of dresses…vintage, lace, sexy, daring, sparkly, short, long, full, fitting, you name it, it was there. Then unexpectedly the compere introduces the collection from ‘Do you
Believe, Newport’ with no thought at all, we all start cheering and whooping at the excitement that this was Helen’s collection!!! It never dawned on use for a second that this was not the kind of response given at bridal shows…the compere was stopped dead in his tracks, everyone staring at us in complete disbelief. Oops…we literally brought the show to a halt whilst he composed himself and ridiculed the fact we clearly did not know the etiquette at these events. Well… you can take the girls out of Newport….
The-proposed-proposal-oops

Bride to be Diaries: Introducing The Boobless Bride.

Oh my, I cannot tell you how much I’ve been looking forward to introducing this special lady to you all. She had me in tears when I read her entry into our recent competition to find our new Bride-to-be writers. Not only did I want her to write for the blog but I needed to meet her… straight away! We did, hit it off and here we are…

Dawn is an extraordinary woman and she has one hell of a story to tell you. 

Enjoy!

Maria x

New Bride To Be Diary

Introducing The Boobless Bride


Last date before chemo

I’m delighted that you will be joining me on my journey from engagement ring to reception. Sharing my laughter, stress and tears – being an eccentric control freak with a creative flair, often with ideas too big for my bank balance – what could possibly go wrong? Eek.

I vowed to myself if I had such an amazing opportunity come my way I would write my blog honestly, from the heart and bare all. The past 5 years have been horrendous and I’m living proof that laughter, positivity and great friends and family can not only get you through – but enable you to have a fairy tale ending (well not ending really, it’s just the start of my new life). So, let’s hope you are not easily offended and enjoy this adventure with me.

It would make sense at this point to tell you a little about me I guess…I’m Dawn, 33, Design Technology teacher in a secondary school in South Wales and am planning my wedding to Stephen, 33 who does something in IT – he has tried to explain it several times but by the time he’s about ten words in I yawn and stop listening – thinking about what I could cook for tea or another idea for the wedding. We got engaged in August, and are planning a wedding in May. But before I tell you our love story I need to give you some background info that makes this, my second marriage equally as important as anyone getting married for the first time.

3 girls

I married my childhood sweetheart at 21 and thought we would be together forever.  Two beautiful girlies later and our family was complete – chaotic, but definitely complete.  Never a dull moment, a house full of laughter.  Then my bubble was well and truly popped!!! BANG!!! When I was 26 he got diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease and fell into a deep depression – after 2 years trying to save my marriage it broke down to a point where we were all suffering – particularly the girls – and reluctantly we decided it was best if he moved out.  The sense of guilt was truly incredible – I broke my vows (in sickness and in health), I’d abandoned him in his hour of need.  I knew I had no choice as his behaviour was affecting the children, but it was so hard.  Only someone who has been in this situation could understand the emotions racing through you at every point; guilt, anger, anxiety, disappointment, love, hate, frustration…the list goes on. I went through so many stages of grief – it was like being bereaved but being haunted by his presence.  NEVER, EVER, EVER will I marry again!

I became very lonely and eventually started the singles scene, partying when I didn’t have the girls and dating again.  I hate to be a stereotype but you know what is coming…. yep, I did the cliché rebound much to my own annoyance and had a truly destructive relationship and I sank into depression too.  After counselling and support from my incredible family I picked myself up and after a while decided I was strong enough to rebuild my life.

How I looked when we met

 How we met

Then came the next stage of my cliché…I became desperate, registered with online sites and set out on my mission to find a fella (cringe) – I was worse than good old Bridget Jones, I became the queen of first dates – must have had 20+.  I just genuinely believed that when I met the right guy.. I would just know!!!  My friends teased that I watched too many Disney films but I believed it so badly!!! Sooooo many dates later; I liked them, they didn’t like me or they liked me and I didn’t them – the whole dating thing just becoming so frustrating.  Then I took the decision to delete my online profile and leave it to fate.  As I was logging on to delete it, a guy I had spoken to a while back was online again – I remembered we had chatted but for some reason never met (probably around the time I did my epic rebound boyfriend – fail) so I thought I’d see how he was.  We hit it off straight away – we cross examined each other to see why we never did meet – put it down to wrong timing – just one of those things.  I decided to seize the moment – I’m deleting my profile, if you want to chat you’d best text and handed out my number.  I was introduced to the world of What’s App (life changing moment) and we messaged constantly for a few days.

So… 7th November 2014 there was a knock at the door – and in the doorway a tall, handsome guy with the most beautiful blue eyes.  In true bunny boiler style, I thought… I’ll take him please.  Yep, he’s gorgeous and has old school manners.  Yummy!!!  Our date was incredible; easy, fun, full of laughter and this spark thing people talked about… EXPLOSIVE!!!  This is what I was waiting for.  Date 3 came and went and I knew this was something special.

For our fourth date, he accompanied me to a routine hospital appointment as we’s arranged to go for food after.  Little did I know that the routine examination of a cyst would change our lives forever. I was being rushed for a mammogram, biopsy and I started to get an incredible sense of fear.  What a 4th date… me inconsolable, frightened to death and time just standing still.  A few days later my fears became reality – grade 3, stage 3 breast cancer with significant spreading to lymph nodes… Double mastectomy, chemo and radiotherapy to follow with a survival rate of under 10%.  Steve drove to see me, held me so tight and said he knew we were meant to be together and would be by my side through it all.  (I’m not sure if you are crying yet – but I am).

 The Big C

Bad days made great

Where did this angel come from, he came from nowhere and was by my side every single step.  He was there to shave my head before I lost my hair, he put cream on my bed sores during chemo, he led in bed with me the days I was too ill to move, he got me fruit pastilles (my favourite) when I had no taste buds left, he drove me to hospital for every appointment and made me laugh every day, looked after my kids when I was in hospital for 2 weeks, he bathed my wounds when I was weeping, he told me I was beautiful when I stood in front of my mirror with no hair, no eyelashes, no eyebrows and no boobs and 4 stone heavier from steroids.Kids adding my eyebrowsHe drove my children so see their dad every week as he knew how important that was to me and the girls.  Meaning I still have a great friendship with my girls daddy and can support him as he deteriorates.  This man is just so selfless – he would do anything for me.

My rock when I was bald

In my darkest days he picked me up by talking about the wonderful future we were yet to have together.  He came with me for my scans to see if it had spread during treatment – it all boiled down to this one day.  Against the odds – the big C had disappeared.  Still high risk – but I’ve won this battle with Steve by my side!!!

So…How did we meet?  He is an angel sent from above – he saved my life.

 The Proposal

Well, unknown to me, Steve has tried on 4 different occasions to propose, but because I had just had the all clear and the kids were off school – I kept bringing the girls along to our ‘date day’ – oops.  So eventually Stephen put his foot down – “I haven’t had a day on my own with you since your ‘all clear’ so we need some ‘us’ time.  I agreed, and we decided to celebrate by climbing pen-y-fan, it would be symbolic of the journey we have climbed.  True Welsh style, it hammered down with rain. Someone got struck by lightning up there during the last storm so we both agreed that I have danced with the devil lately as it is so this would be stupid.  So instead we would head to Neath Waterfalls.  8 Miles we walked – 4 waterfalls later and a beautiful day had by all.  The proposed proposal - oopsSoaked through we went back to the car, changed into dry clothes and went into a little hikers pub.  We had a beautiful meal and I said – as if setting the moment “this is a beautiful pub, warm, lovely and full of character – if I ever get married again I’m going to take up hiking to shift the weight” with that he said – best start walking then and put a little black box – not the type that find aeroplanes – this is the one that finds tears, immediately.  Tears rolling down my cheek he asked if I would marry him – of course I said yes.The ring

But this is not the real story of the proposal – the real story is how I ruined the intended proposal.  Picture this – beautiful waterfall, full as it was raining so heavily, no one around, beautiful sounds of wildlife active in the storm…I’m stood on a little bridge gazing into the waterfall.  Steve walks to me, puts his arm around me (in his head this is the moment) – “Dawn” Steve said… “Yes babes” I said…. then before he could say another word I interrupt him – I’m known for it, I’m an excitable person – to advise him that I would like to head back to the car soon as I’m that wet my pants are soaking and its chaffing my arse.  NOOOOOOO!!!!! Moment killed…so that was the end of the beautiful waterfall proposal.  Oops.  But to be honest, it makes the whole ordeal more ‘me-like’.

So, that’s the story to date – time to start planning. God help us!

 Huge thanks Dawn. I for one cannot wait to read your next post! This going to be an emotional one for me and i’m so pleased and proud of you for sharing this journey with us all.