A 59-year-old mum of two is reclaiming her body confidence after a double mastectomy by modelling bras for Cancer Research UK.
Fiona Fayker, a veterinary receptionist from Luton, Bedfordshire, first beat stage two breast cancer in 2017 but just three years later, in September 2020, doctors gave her the devastating diagnosis that her breast cancer had returned and was stage four.
Undergoing a double mastectomy and chemotherapy during coronavirus lockdowns, which meant she could not have any visitors, Fiona was finally in remission by May 2021 but doctors have told her that her cancer is likely to return.
Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Fiona has planned a return trip to her home country and has written a bucket list of things she would like to do with what could be a “limited” amount of time she has left.
Married to Darren Fayker, 57, who works in archive management, and mum to Martin, a 28-year-old chef and Lauren, 25, who works in design, Fiona has remained positive and is now reclaiming her body confidence by testing the new Cancer Research UK bra.
“The Cancer Research bra doesn’t have tags or seams so it sits on me without irritating my scars,” explained Fiona.
She added: “It’s designed by a patient panel, by people that have real experience with having a mastectomy which makes it special.
“When I had my right breast removed, I was concerned but mentally I was ok with it, I think it upset my husband more than me.
“After I had the first mastectomy, I wanted to go completely flat. It was scary and strange but I’m used to it now. If I was younger it might have upset me more, but it doesn’t bother me as much.”
She added: “I think it’s like when Davina McCall recently spoke about the menopause, we have to start discussing our bodies more.
“The more we discuss our bodies the more open we are about how they change.
“I hope this prompts more women to check their breasts.”
She added: “You need to check once a month at any age, it’s something even young women should be doing.”
Fiona is determined to reclaim her body confidence in her 50s by modelling the new Cancer Research UK mastectomy bra, hoping to prompt more women to talk more openly about checking their breasts at any age.
“When I was asked to try the bra, I thought ‘yeah why not’,” explained Fiona.
She added: “I’ve had a couple of mastectomy bras and they haven’t been very comfortable as they rest on my scars.
“You feel a bit down and uncomfortable when it happens. Sometimes I just wouldn’t wear one because it was painful and didn’t make me feel great.
“But the Cancer Research UK bra is great, it’s stretchy and comfortable. I feel good in it which is what you want.”
First diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2017 after a routine mammogram, Fiona was relieved that doctors had found the lump early enough to treat.
“When I turned 55, I got a letter inviting me to a mammogram,” explained Fiona.
“But they called me back. Everyone said it would be fine, so I didn’t bring anybody with me.”
She added: “I saw this big dark thing on the screen and thought this doesn’t sound good – without a mammogram I wouldn’t have known as it was quite deep.
“A nurse took me for a biopsy and then they called back to confirm I had breast cancer in my right breast.
“So they took the lump out and then I had radiotherapy. Five days a week for four weeks.”
She added: “After radiotherapy, I was put on Tamoxifen, which is like a hormone tablet to stop it coming back.
“I thought I would be fine, I just had to take my medication and come to the clinic every six months for a check-up.”
However, when her right breast felt itchy and hot in December 2019, Fiona went straight to the doctors who confirmed her worst fears that her breast cancer had returned.
“Just before lockdown I had a mammogram,” said Fiona.
“I was a little bit worried at the time because I’d noticed changes in my right breast, it was itchy and I noticed little bits of discharge.
“But everything came out normal, however, my right breast just didn’t feel right.”
She added: “Then during the summer, I spoke to a Macmillan nurse who got me an appointment to see a consultant.
“She looked at it and said that’s not right and did an ultrasound. I was diagnosed in September 2020, and it all started happening again.”
Undergoing two mastectomies and chemotherapy Fiona was determined to remain positive.
— Cancer Research UK (@CR_UK) October 21, 2022
“This time it was fast growing,” she said.
“A couple of weeks later I had a mastectomy on my right breast, but a day or two later I noticed changes in my left breast. The doctors checked it and it had spread.
“So they started me on chemotherapy a few weeks later. I had a hard time, during the final sessions, I got sepsis and was in hospital.
“It was really hard as this happened during lockdown and I couldn’t have anyone with me.
“But I try and stay positive. I had my second mastectomy in May 2021 on my left breast and I’m just looking to the future.”
Despite Fiona being cancer free, the doctors revealed a grave diagnosis leaving the mum fearful of only having limited time with her loved ones.
She said: “Nobody’s ever said it but I’m in remission,” explained Fiona.
“But it will come back at some point, I don’t know when it might be, it could be 10 years or next year.
“Because it’s a hormone-based cancer, I’m on a medication, Ibandronic acid, to sort of hold the cancer from coming back and prevent it moving to my bones.”
She added: “I’m hopeful it will work and it won’t come back for a long time.”
However, as a strongly positive person, Fiona has made a bucket list – including an overdue trip to visit her family in Australia.
“Life is to be lived,” she said.
Breast screening aims to find breast cancers early. It uses an x-ray test called a mammogram that can spot breast cancers when they're too small to see or feel. You might also have a mammogram to diagnose breast cancer if you have possible symptoms #BreastCancerAwarenessMonth 1/2
— Cancer Research UK (@CR_UK) October 21, 2022
She added: “Everyone’s life is limited, it’s just mine is more limited than somebody else.
“I’m from Melbourne in Australia and I haven’t been back to see my family since 2012.
“Now all their travel restrictions are lifted, I can get out there.
“I did start writing a list, I’m going to do Walk All Over Cancer for Cancer Research UK next year, and I want to do river drifting, where you float down a river.”
Fiona hopes to prompt more conversation about women’s bodies.
“I would hope because of this more women would check their breasts. People think it’s an old lady’s disease, but it’s not,” she explained.
We’re delighted to have had our softie featured on @Lorraine this morning 💗 Make sure to check out our cancer care range online – including our brand-new post-surgery bra that is currently discounted for #BreastCancerAwarenessMonth: https://t.co/7owgIN4u00 pic.twitter.com/o9y9fDXQUr
— Cancer Research UK Shops (@CRUKShops) October 26, 2022
“The more we talk about our bodies the more we can do to help spot early signs of cancer.
“You do need to check your breasts and when it’s time, go to your mammograms.
“I used to use an app that reminded me to check my breasts every month. I really think this is something that should be taught in schools.”
Fiona shares her advice to any other women who are going through a similar journey.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.
“It’s not pleasant going through it but think positively and just know it’s not forever.”
To purchase your own Cancer Research UK post-surgery bra online visit cruk.org/shop. Here you can also find other products in the Cancer Care Collection that can help aid all stages of cancer treatment and recovery.