Ahead of LBT Women’s Health Week, North Hearts FM radio presenter Mel Switters shares her breast cancer story
BY MEL SWITTERS
I’ve always loved my boobs. Yes, I disliked them slightly when I was 14 due to the fact that I was an early developer, but mainly we have always got along. I never suspected they would come to cause me so much grief.
Checking my breasts in the shower had become a bit of a routine. I can’t remember why but it was something that I did, and in October 2016, I felt it. A small pea sized lump. I wasn’t worried. Cancer could never happen to me.
After an initial visit to the GP I was referred – very quickly, I might add – to the breast unit. One mammogram and biopsy later, I took myself off to get the results. A feeling of invincibility led to me stupidly going on my own. It was only a cyst after all, right? How wrong I was. “You have breast cancer”. Those four words hit me like a train.
Everything moved quite quickly from then on. With the help of my family, I shaved my head ready for chemo in an effort to take back what little control I had left of my life. I set up a positive cancer Facebook page, and began vlogging my journey. I started juicing and became vegan to help with the side effects of Chemo.
Looking back now, I know those changes made a difference, as my side effects were minimal compared to other people. Yes, I was tired – hey, that’s what Netflix is for! – and I went bald, everywhere, but I totally ROCKED my bald head.
Next came a lumpectomy to remove the cancer, then three weeks of radiotherapy. Slowly, my hair grew back and in April 2017 I was given the all clear. Finally, my cancer journey was over.
Then I started to change. I began to dislike everyone, and I wanted to run away. Who was I? This was not me. After a tearful chat with my breast nurse, I was referred to a clinical psychologist. Everyone needs one of these in their lives.
It took three months of therapy to work through things. I began to realise that I had been through a lot, and putting myself first was now the priority. Time for the happy-go-lucky mask to come off and be true to myself.
Life went on. I married the woman of my dreams, and new doors started to open. My cancer page was gaining attention and I was asked by a local radio station to present the breakfast show. Life was getting good again.
My shower checking continued, and in October 2018 I found another lump. Same breast. Same place. Not again, I thought. It had to be scar tissue. But it was not. The battle was back on, and on 10 November that year I had a double mastectomy and reconstruction surgery. After an initial worry regarding a liver scan in December, I was given the all clear again.
As always, life goes on. My wife became my co-host on the breakfast show, and we were slowly getting recognised. But I still struggled emotionally at times. I needed my therapist back, and still today she helps me work through the trials and tribulations of life after cancer.
I’m having chemo now for belts and braces. As I look back on my thee-year journey, I have no anger about it. In fact, I thank breast cancer. Without it I would not be the woman I am now. Cancer gave me the courage to be who I truly am and cancer helped me start a career in radio. But most of all cancer helped me to love myself and appreciate every day I’m alive.
I don’t know what the future holds for everyone, but I do know that checking yourself for lumps regularly and going for your smears can help save your life. Cancer does not discriminate. Do you want to live? Check yourself now…
LBT Women’s Health Week 2019 takes place 11-15 March. Find out more at nationallgbtpartnership.org
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