IT was 2013 when local bra fitter Ali Touzel decided to follow the same advice she had offered to hundreds of customers countless times before.
Noticing a pain in her right breast, the Atwell resident did not hesitate to seek medical advice.
A week later she was diagnosed with cancer and her treatment options were quickly laid out in front of her.
“It was an easy decision for me to have the breast removed,” she said.
“For some people it’s really hard.
“(The cancer) was in the top quadrant towards the middle of my chest, so to remove that whole section – then try to keep some sort of breast shape – was really tricky.
“I thought, ‘Cut it all out and make sure you get everything; let’s be thorough’.”
Six months of chemotherapy followed surgery.
Ms Touzel has since had her left breast removed too, with that occurring a little over 12 months ago.
“It was preventative,” she said.
“I thought if the cancer came back in the other side, I’ll most likely have to go through chemo again.
“I thought losing the breast meant that wouldn’t happen. It was a good trade.”
Close to 16,000 Australians were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016, including 1500 from WA.
Ms Touzel says she is doing well, with her focus always on the future.
“I’m very good at accepting stuff,” she said.
“It’s happening; I can’t fight it so let’s just accept it.
“It would have sucked all the life out of me if I didn’t accept it or asked why it happened to me.
“It was always about what was next.”
Breast Cancer Care WA support services manager Cathie Smith said women’s responses to a diagnosis variedy greatly.
“Every breast cancer is different and discussions with breast surgeons and breast care nurses will help patients understand the implications of their diagnosis and what treatment options are best for them,” she said.
“Treatment for the cancer is often the priority. However, dealing with surgery and then possible reconstruction options can depend on many different factors.
Even after treatment, many women fear the disease will return.
“After treatment has finished, living with fear and uncertainty can be an issue, as this is a time when everyone expects you to get back to normal,” Ms Smith said.
“Many women feel very lost after treatment, as life is so different and often feel guilty that they are struggling with these emotions.
“Seeking help from a professional can really help.”
Ms Touzel said reconstructive surgery was an option, but not something she was really considering at this stage.
She said she wanted to use her experience as a mobile bra fitter and training as a mastectomy bra and breast prosthesis fitter to assist women going through breast cancer.
“I don’t tell everyone. I can do a normal bra fitting and they would never know what I’ve been through,” she said.
“But if I do tell a customer, their whole body language changes.
“They’ll turn and face me, they’re not hiding anything. Their shoulders come down, they relax.”
For information, visit www.breastcancer.org.au.
To contact Ms Touzel, email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0412 679 776.