Interview: Liz Bellamy

by Alice Rawsthorn .

The doctor asked if I wanted to consider breast reconstruction and I considered it for about 15 seconds. I didn’t want it. I’m perfectly happy with my body as it is.

‘I noticed that my left breast felt strange, really hard, as if I’d been breast-feeding. I went to see my doctor who said there was probably nothing wrong with me, but I refused to accept that. He said, "Well if it would make you feel more comfortable, I’ll refer you to a specialist." Two weeks later I was on the operating table. I had a very, very aggressive tumour that had already spread underneath my arm. So I had to have the entire breast removed.’

‘The doctor asked if I wanted to consider breast reconstruction and I considered it for about 15 seconds. I didn’t want it. I’m perfectly happy with my body as it is. I think if I’d had a leg removed it would have upset me more, but the only time anyone ever commented on my breasts was to say that I hadn’t got any. It doesn’t make any difference at all.

Also, I really love riding, and if I’d had reconstructive surgery, I wouldn’t have been able to go on my horse for a time, and I’d have hated that. I feel fine as I am now. Everyone we know knows that this has happened to me, and they’re fine about it, so why risk the surgery?’

‘The only time I’ve felt uncomfortable about my breast was when we went on holiday to Cyprus and saw all these young girls in skimpy bikinis on the beach. I’d had to buy this frumpy mastectomy bikini and, to make things worse, another woman was wearing an identical one. She was this huge German woman who must have been a size 20. I turned to my daughter and said: "Don’t say a word." Then I threw the bikini away. The only the thing that would worry me is how my daughter feels. She’s seven years old, and I’d never do anything to embarrass her like wearing a skimpy top or going into a communal changing room and making her realise that I’m different from the other mummies.’

‘There was no logical reason for me to have cancer. There’s no family history. It has changed me. I used to be the type of person who didn’t feel happy unless she was worrying about something, and that’s changed. I’m calmer and more contented. I think I’m a nicer person to live with, at least my husband says so.’

‘Why am I doing this shoot? I’ll do anything I can to make people more aware of the risks of having breast cancer.’