Alison Hawkes, flanked by her husband, poses topless to send a clear message to other women facing breast cancer. She survived breast cancer, and has the scars to prove it.
After six rounds of chemotherapy, Alison decided to have both breasts removed to stop the deadly disease from coming back.
After the surgery Mrs Hawkes was forced to share this empowering image, to help other women facing breast cancer, to let them know ‘scars are nothing to be ashamed of’.
‘I wanted to show everyone that scars aren’t the end of the world,’ she said. ‘I’m proud of what my body has beaten.’
Alison Hawkes, flanked by her husband Ian, proudly shows off the scars left after she underwent two mastectomy operations.
Although she was tensed while posting the image, Mrs Hawkes said she was amazed at the response.
Alison Hawkes, a local of Dagenham, east London was first detected with the disease in May 2012, after spotting a lump in her right breast.
The disease runs in her family, and every female in her dad’s side has battled it at some point.
Nonetheless, when doctors at first diagnosed the lump as a cyst, she thought it was nothing to worry about.
Mrs Hawkes said she then began to note the mass swelling in size each time she was due to begin her period.
‘At that point, I still thought it was a cyst, but even so, I didn’t want to deal with it doubling in size every time I was due on, so I went to the doctor’s to see if they could remove it,’ she said.
Medics assented to remove the mass and a biopsy revealed the devastating reality – Mrs Hawkes had stage 2 invasive lobular cancer.
‘Hearing that was like being punched in the stomach,’ she said. ‘What’s worse is that I was on my own.
‘I didn’t think I’d be getting news that devastating, so I didn’t ask Ian to come to the hospital with me.
Mrs Hawkes was diagnosed after spotting a lump in her right breast. Following six rounds of chemotherapy she decided to have her right breast removed
And after her chemotherapy treatment and first mastectomy, doctors warned her the disease is most likely to return. Mrs Hawkes disclosed that her decision then was a ‘no brainer’ she chose to have her left breast removed to reduce the chances of suffering a relapse
‘He rang to check on me. I didn’t want to tell him over the phone, but he could tell by my voice that something wasn’t right.
‘As soon as I got home, he flung open the front door and we both just burst into tears.
‘We cried for days, then I realised I couldn’t keep feeling sorry for myself. It was time to fight.’
In June 2012, Mrs Hawkes underwent a single mastectomy on her right side.
Later, she underwent six rounds of chemotherapy.
‘Chemo hit me like a tonne of bricks.’ she said. ‘I’d felt fine up until that point, then suddenly I was nauseous.
‘I had heartburn – it was like having flu times one hundred. That’s the first time I truly felt like a cancer patient.’
Couple of weeks after the chemo her long, dark hair began to dramatically thin.
So she decided to cut it off rather than wait for it to fall out completely.
‘My hair was the one thing I could control,’ she said. ‘There was nothing I could do about chemo, or cancer, but I could choose to cut my hair before it fell out.
‘I kept asking Ian to cut it, but he didn’t want to. We put it off for days until I finally said, “You do it, or I will,” so he agreed.
‘He said that was one of the hardest things – cutting off his wife’s hair.’
Mrs Hawkes, pictured with her husband, said: ‘We cried for days, then I realised I couldn’t keep feeling sorry for myself. It was time to fight’
Mrs Hawkes wants to raise awareness of the reality that it can as well happen to those in younger age groups. ‘With my family history, I had an inkling I might be struck by cancer at some point, but I never imagined it would be while I was in my 30s,’ she said
Doctors have told Mrs Hawke that they can never give her a definite all-clear.
Nonetheless, following her last course of chemotherapy, they were hopeful that there was no trace of the disease left in her body.
She was put on a course of Tamoxifen tablets, which she will need to take daily for at least two more years to help prevent a recurrence.
She furthermore had a course of monthly hormone injections, that ended in December 2014.
In June 2013, she underwent testing to find out if she carried BRCA 1 or 2, the genes thought to escalate the risk of developing breast cancer.
Though the tests came back negative, doctors warned that, owing to her family history, she was still at a high risk of the disease coming back.
Therefore, she made the brave decision to undergo a prophylactic mastectomy, to remove the breast, on her left side.
‘It was a no brainer. I didn’t even consider the aesthetic side of things,’ said Mrs Hawkes.
‘All I could think was that there was no way I was going through this again – not if I could help it.’
Mrs Hawkes at the moment wears a bra specially fitted with prosthetic breasts to camouflage her outwardly appearance.
However, in the course of a photoshoot, she chose to discard her top, celebrating her scars and all that her body has been through.
Post surgery, Mrs Hawkes made up her mind to set up a blog called Mastectomy Girl, aimed at reaching out to other young breast cancer patients.
As per the Cancer Research UK, nearly eight in 10 instances of breast cancer are in women aged 50 or over.
Mrs Hawkes wants to speak out, to raise awareness of the reality that it can also happen to those in younger age groups.
‘With my family history, I had an inkling I might be struck by cancer at some point, but I never imagined it would be while I was in my 30s,’ she said.
‘I found it really helpful to speak to women at different stages of treatment, while I was going through it, and I want to offer that same support.
‘I’m now working full time again, my hair has started growing back and I’m looking healthy. I want to reassure ladies at the beginning of their battles that things can be normal again.’
Alison Hawkes is right now working full-time again and her hair has begun to grow back. She said: ‘I want to reassure ladies at the beginning of their battles that things can be normal again’