Breast Cancer Survivor Lucky Ndanu: “My Mastectomy was a New Beginning for me”

Photo provided by Lucky Ndanu

Lucky Ndanu was in her final year of college when she felt a lump in her right breast. Then came the diagnosis: breast cancer. She was only 22 and life was just beginning. The best course of treatment involved a mastectomy, her doctor advised. That was a hard pill to swallow. How would she look afterwards, she wondered? Eventually, she chose to look at the mastectomy as a new beginning.

Change can be hard. You may be beginning the year on a rough note but there is hope. Embrace the new. We hope Lucky’s story encourages you to look at your predicament differently.

Let’s talk about the moment the discussion of having a mastectomy came up. What was going through your mind?

After my diagnosis, the doctor basically mentioned that a mastectomy was part of my treatment. A wave of emotions swept over me. I felt some really deep sadness and frustration just thinking that I was going to lose a part of me that is quite essential. In as much as I knew the mastectomy was one of the best chances to save me and eliminate the cancer, it was still hard to accept.

Our culture associates breasts with femininity and sexuality. I was concerned with how I would look and how others would view me. Just the physical aspect was a big deal at the time.

In addition to sadness, I felt a lot of desperation and guilt. I remember crying a lot, and beginning to lose interest in interacting with family and friends.

How did you arrive at a place of peace with the new you?

Once the mastectomy was done, it took me quite some time before I could actually look at the scar. I was scared of what I would see. I honestly did not know how to react. It felt like being transported to an alien planet and being left to maneuver that world on your own.

Over time, I began to accept that the surgery was more like a rebirth in so many ways for me. I took time to introspect and reflect on what this chapter of my life meant and the lessons I was learning and was going to keep learning from it. I heartily embraced the fact that though I was losing a body part, I was actually gaining more in the hindsight; the lessons, the mental strength, the person I was becoming in the process. It gave me my life back.

Eventually, I accepted and embraced the new me but it was a process.

What is your relationship with your body now?

Today I love my body quite intimately. I appreciate and embrace it as it is, that’s my goal for always. I eat well, I exercise, I hike and push the limits, I dress my body well… the list is endless because it has served me well this far, this I can only do out of an abounding love for my body.

A breast is an organ and a symbol of femininity, beauty, motherhood, attraction and all these kinds of things but losing it gave me power and strength I probably would never have mastered had I not gone through this life changing journey.

The mastectomy itself was also a symbol of hope, a new beginning for me.

It opened new ways for me to interact with difficult situations. Every time I look at my scar, I see it as a sign of strength, resilience and determination. I look back and say, ‘This scar is a constant reminder that tough times don’t last but tough people do!’ I am a new person. I’m able to meet life’s challenges without fear, knowing that nothing is insurmountable in life.

What advice do you have for a woman who is struggling with a significant change?

We all at one time or another face life-threatening situations in life, some that may be quite scary. My first piece of advice is: acceptance in whatever situation. Getting to acceptance though is not easy, it is a process that can be emotional and painful but it is prudent to work towards it. Take time to pray, talk to people, research, do practically everything necessary to lead you to that place of acceptance.

Once that has kicked in, make up your mind to make the best out of the situation. Live your life. Life is for the living, and we can only live by consciously and deliberately making that decision to be fully alive despite whatever challenges we face.

I remember making the decision that cancer and mastectomy would not rob me my peace and joy. I was never going to look at myself as different, in fact, I chose to look at it as a gain. Perspective is very important always.

Read Lucky’s full story below!

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