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Nicole - A new lease of life

Curious, hungry for knowledge, cheerful, a bit bonkers, a bookworm, a loyal friend: that’s me,

Nicole V., 54 years old, married to Rudy and resident in Leuven, Belgium.

Books and travel are my main hobbies, and then of course there’s the modelling job for Anita.

I started doing that about a year after my operation, and it’s something I’m passionate about: setting an example for fellow breast cancer sufferers and showing them that there are stylish products on the market for women who have undergone radical surgery.

My own breast cancer diagnosis came in February 2009, when a ‘ductal adenocarcinoma’ and a ‘carcinoma in situ’ were discovered in my left breast. My whole world fell apart. I was 48 years old and I was going to have to have my whole breast amputated.

However would I cope? Uncertainty, questions about treatment and prognosis, fear of the future: I went through the whole gamut of emotions. Then I decided to make the ordeal a little easier by confronting the cancer head on. And I succeeded quite well, thanks in particular to the incredible strength I derived from those closest to me: my husband, family and friends.

The fact that I didn’t have an invasive tumour and my chances of recovery were very good no doubt also helped me get through this difficult period of my life and emerge from it a happy woman again. But first we – not only me, but my immediate circle – had to come to terms with the diagnosis.

For Rudy, it was especially hard to have to stand by helplessly while all this was happening to me. 

Unlike my husband, I knew what to expect, as at that time I’d been working in the oncology department of a university hospital for 17 years, so I was familiar with the medical terminology and knew what examinations I’d have to undergo and what the treatments entailed.

That made it all the more important to me to involve Rudy – and my family too – at every stage.

I even did some drawings to help them relate to it more clearly.

I have to say my experiences of the after-care at the hospital in terms of prostheses and corsetry weren’t good.

After brief individual “processing”, I was simply told to go to an orthopaedic store to buy my first breast form and bra.

And things weren’t any better there: the atmosphere was indifferent, the sales consultant impatient and lacking in empathy, and the range of underwear very limited.

 Out of desperation, I bought two of the same bra model and a breast form which was actually much too big for me. I was terribly unhappy.

But that all changed quite by coincidence: one day I received an invitation from my health insurance fund to a fashion show of underwear and swimwear for women who had undergone breast surgery. That was the evening I discovered Anita and its team of models! Watching my fellow sufferers confidently modelling lingerie and swimwear that fitted them like a glove filled me with admiration and respect, and brought tears to my eyes. I had finally found just what was looking for!

I realised that the lingerie and swimwear were not only attractive and high quality, but affordable too. The collection really does have something for everyone, whether young or old, super-slim or full-figured and curvy. And now I’ve been modelling for Anita for nearly four years myself!

Today, although I’m aware that a relapse is possible at any time, I also know that there is life after breast cancer. Once the grieving process is over and you learn to accept your own body again, life becomes fuller, richer and more intense than before. You enjoy things more profoundly and consciously than in the past.

What’s more, there are some positives to be drawn from all that heartache:

in the past, I used to be rather quiet and inhibited, but since my operation, I’ve really come out of my shell and developed into a fun loving person with lots of friends and a very active life.  

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