Interview: Sue Loosley

by Alice Rawsthorn .

The consultant did talk to me about reconstruction, but I didn’t want it. I’m quite happy as I am. It wouldn’t make any difference to the way I feel and I don’t want more scars.

‘It was about four years ago, I was sitting with my daughter one Saturday morning having a girlie chat, when I felt inside my arm and realised I had a lump. I went to see my GP in the next few days. He looked and said that I should get it checked out. A few days later I was told I had to have a lumpectomy.’

‘At the same time, my father was very ill, so I couldn’t talk to my parents about it. I’d just been in long term relationship, but that had come to an end. And I couldn’t talk to my kids about it. They’re twins, they were 15 then, and I’ve been a single parent really since the day they were born. I lied to them about how serious it was. I shouldn’t have done, but at the time I just tried to save them from hurt. I couldn’t deal with how upset they’d have been. When I eventually went into hospital for the lumpectomy, I did tell them. I said to the kids: "I told you a lie." I went into hospital for the operation the day before their 16th birthday.’

‘After the lumpectomy, I felt very confused. The man I was involved with at the time, who was a good friend, asked me to marry him. And because my esteem was so low I said "yes". I didn’t really want to. Then I came round and I knew I didn’t want to marry him. It was all called off. After that I didn’t have a relationship for about three years. I didn’t want one. I decided that I was going to do all the things I ever wanted to do. I haven’t done them, but it put the fight back in me.’

‘The consultant did talk to me about reconstruction, but I didn’t want it. I’m quite happy as I am. It wouldn’t make any difference to the way I feel and I don’t want more scars. I don’t want to have to go away again and re-heal after more surgery.’

When she found the lump in her breast, Sue had just finished a training course. She has since gone back to college to do a management course, and now does contract work. Sue has also become involved with cancer charities. ‘I do quite a bit locally – fund-raising and raising awareness, reminding people that it could happen to anyone. I always thought: "It’s never going to happen to me."’

After the lumpectomy, Sue had various treatments, including a course of radiotherapy. Later, it was discovered that that the radiotherapy had damaged her heart and she had to go back into hospital for more surgery. ‘I don’t know how serious the damage was, but I had to have a pacemaker fitted. I had that two months ago.’

‘I think my kids were okay with the cancer, but since the pacemaker my son has withdrawn from me. Until then he’d been very good, but I think it’s his way of coping with hurt and being frightened of losing me. It took him two years to get over the cancer, and then there was the pacemaker. I need to talk to him. We used to do that. I’d say: "Come on, let’s have a chat. Tell me what’s bothering you." I need to do that again. He feels he needs to be the man, but he’s panicking and feeling scared. My daughter is the other way. She is very affectionate with me. We spend a lot if time together and she’s always checking up. "Are you okay?" And if she goes out now, she’ll ring me to make sure that I’m okay.’