Vikki Hammond was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of just 33. The mum of two shares insights into her cancer journey and recovery, giving an honest account of her cancer diagnosis and treatment.
She believes in fate, and is hoping to inspire others and help them to cope by documenting her experiences on her Instagram account, Finding Myself After Cancer. By talking about her feelings in a public forum, she wants to raise awareness and encourage an open conversation about the effect breast cancer has on your body, your mind and also on everyone around you.
Vikki Hammond is Listed.
I’m a big believer in destiny. I could never be sad or angry that I got cancer, because I believe my cancer diagnosis was a twist of fate. It all began with my 6 week postnatal check up at the doctor’s surgery, where we discussed contraception. At this point the GP asked why I’d been prescribed the contraceptive pill Marvelon to which I responded, “I’ve been on it ever since I was 16”. Her face dropped and she mentioned that with my BRCA family history, I should not be on this pill. She referred me to the Breast Screening Unit and things progressed from there.
I can’t tell you how grateful I am that I chose that particular doctor for my postpartum consultation. Yes, there were delays due to Covid, but her actions meant my cancer was found at an early stage and I’m in no doubt that she saved my life. Now I feel that I’m meant to share my experiences to help others, because I want to inspire people. I want someone to look at me and say, “Because of your story, I didn’t give up.”
Would you believe that two hours after hearing my diagnosis, I was aimlessly wandering round the shop deciding what to buy for my family for tea? I think I was in shock and feeling numb after hearing the word ‘cancer’. My cancer journey has been, and still is, the biggest emotional rollercoaster of my life. I have cried so much over these past few years. I’ve been in tears, because I’m feeling sad or feeling scared - or because I’m happy. There have also been times when I don’t know what to feel and crying has been the only release. I've always been an emotional person, but this has been so different. So extreme. Sometimes you've just got to give into your feelings and let it all out.
For me, one of the hardest things was not being able to be fully present as a mother with my two little ones during my long months of treatment. Chemo took it out of me, followed by major surgery, all of which left me feeling like half the person I was. The long days of chemo and then the long days recovering in bed were the worst. I only really had enough energy to be a mummy for a few hours before I had to retire back to bed. I missed going for long walks and running around after my young children in the park.
Then there was the big absence; two weeks away from my family whilst I was in the UK for surgery. That was the longest I’d been away from them. Ever. It was lonely in the UK and all I could think about was being far away from my family and what I was missing out on. Would they remember me? Would they still love me? Coming home was amazing, but again having had major surgery I couldn’t function a hundred percent. My daughter Millie cried because I couldn’t pick her up, so gentle cuddles on the sofa became our thing. Even now I’m not where I was before. But I know I’ll get there.
"It’s just hair, it will grow back again". I knew this on a rational level, but the moment I heard the word 'chemotherapy', I broke down. Not when I heard the words 'Sorry, it’s cancer', but I broke down when I realised that I would lose my hair. Like many, my hair was part of my identity. It made me feel pretty and womanly. In fact, not many people ever saw my hairless head - only those closest to me. I didn’t even like my children seeing me without some sort of head covering.
But I recall one day when I was feeling low, I was sitting upstairs crying after my shower, watching my hair falling out in clumps. Millie came upstairs and said “Why you cry, mummy?” I told her I was sad about my hair so she went out of the room and got me a tissue and said “Here you go mummy”. That’s when I realised it was just hair and if my two year old could see past my lack of hair, I wasn’t going to let it get to me anymore.
The reconstructive surgery that I chose to have was a Diep flap, instead of your typical mastectomy and implants. This is a procedure where the medical team used my stomach fat to create new ‘belly boobs’. The surgery is major and I’m left with some pretty epic scars, but it’s all been worth it. It comes down to personal choice, but for me it was important that I didn't have anything artificial inserted into my body after the cancer was removed. I'm happy with the results, and I can live with the scars.
I’ll never truly be able to thank my friends - my angels - for all they have done for me and my family. I just hope they know how much I love them and how much they mean to me. I also found a new group of people - the 'Boobie Bunch’. I’d describe them as a community you’d never want to be in, but one that has helped me in more ways than any book or blog ever could. There were times I felt so alone and scared, and I am so grateful that I had this amazing network of special women to help me. Boobie Bunch for life!
Therapy has been my release. Many people find the idea of talking upsetting or uncomfortable, but for me talking to someone about how I feel has helped. I believe that talking about things can make you feel supported. It can also help you make decisions that are best for you. I’ve been very open and will continue to be. I hope my journey and my attitude to the biggest struggle anyone could endure will help others, because I have most certainly found a strength and an inner power I never knew I had. My cancer journey has made me realise what I can achieve.
Treating cancer is only part of the journey. I’m living with physical and emotional scars that not only affect my health, but also my confidence. I found this quote and it resonated with me so much with how I’m feeling in the life after cancer: “I can’t imagine ever feeling I'm ‘all-clear’... cancer will always be a part of my life, whether I like it or not”.
I can honestly say that I underestimated how hard the emotional and mental side of recovery would be. As a person who likes to get on with things, I didn’t think this would have been the hardest part of the journey. Chemo, compared to life after treatment, was a walk in the park. However, I’ve got this. I’ve just beaten cancer, I can achieve anything and everything I set my mind to. This is just another step in the journey. Another thing to tick off my list.
Follow Vikki on Instagram for more insights into her cancer journey and recovery.