Tina is one of extraordinary women participating in my series FEARLESS, portraying women who live their own truth and make their own rules. Women who are fighters and warriors, not just survivors. And Tina is most certainly a fighter.
I was married for 23 years before I left my husband as it had been a difficult relationship. I was stupid enough to go into another long term relationship that was abusive mentally as well as physically towards the end. I had had my confidence knocked more than once. I was also dress size 28. On 1st July 2015 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. This is what made me stronger, it was fight or flight.
I have had a very full life with my work in the care field for over 30 years. However there is so much more to life than work. I feel I have been given a second chance and I want to live my life to the fullest and the best that I can despite having a number of health issues that limit me. I want to travel to all the places I have only ever dreamed of going to. I learnt to drive, passing my test just before my 60th birthday. I want to see my 3 wonderful children succeed and grow and to see my 5 grandchildren grow up and to do whatever they want in life. I want to support others who are going through their own cancer journey as I had the best support ever from my local breast cancer support group.
What brings you joy? What do you love about yourself most?
I am a people person. I love seeing my children and their partners and my 5 grandchildren. I love doing my voluntary work with breast cancer support and action groups. I know that we are helping those who are going through their own journey and any money raised through our registered charity goes back to the breast cancer services in my local hospital. I worked with a wide variety of people over the years and before I retired I worked with homeless services and I do miss this very much.
If I could change 3 things in the world, what would they be?
Well, we all want world peace, enough food and clean water for all, cures for all illnesses. Yes I want all those but I want more understanding of each other’s culture and religion, for there to be no poverty. I want anywhere for children to have a childhood and to have equal opportunity in life so that they can learn to keep the peace and help our planet stay green.
Why were the photographs important to you now?
I had these photos taken as I was left with a horrid scar after my surgery and my breast shrank. This was not something I was mentally prepared for and it made me feel very low in mood. I didn’t want anyone to see me. I wore really baggy clothes. Well my size 28’s when i had lost over 6 stone and down to size 18. I still saw myself as being really big. I realised that I needed to embrace the new me and these photos show my journey and that the scars do not define who I am. and I am very proud of myself and I show everyone the pictures.
You are a cancer survivor and it’s a big part of your story that shaped you in the last several years.
Did you ever think that you will loose this battle?
As a cancer survivor there was only one time that I felt I would not win. Due to me having chronic brittle asthma, having to have an anaesthetic is quite dangerous. and I had to see an anaesthetist who made it quite clear that if I stopped breathing on the operating table she would not be able to bring me back. I felt that I was going to die from cancer or during surgery. Those were my options. I called macmillan and had support and I put an official complaint in and I was given another anaesthetist who was amazing. I did have to go into ICU but this was a precaution and I was fine. My Breast cancer team were amazing.
Did you join a support group? If so, how did it help?
When I first found out I had cancer I joined the local breast cancer support group and never looked back. It was the best thing I did. The ladies are amazing. I have one lady who has helped me so much from our first meeting and she has been my inspiration and still is. Our group is more like a family and we welcome new members with open arms. We are there for each other when needed but we also have social events like going to the theatre, supper club. We can be ourselves with each other and if we are having a bad day we can say so and no one will judge us. We have a great WhatsApp group that has got a lot of us that are on our own through the lock down too.
Now that you are a survivor, how are you living your life differently and why?
After surviving cancer I think it made me strong and have a different outlook on my life (it’s different for each individual). I now try to do more for myself, put myself 1st and do all the things I have always wanted to do but never had the guts or the chance to do. Like driving I was scared to drive but it was something I always wanted to do. So I did it and I passed and I love driving.
I went to Mexico in 2017 and I am going to the Dominican Republic this year. I would never have my pictures taken but now I enjoy it and having this shoot has given me so much confidence.
I am living on my own now and life is there to be lived. I have a wonderful Family and amazing friends. And there is nothing to stop me doing whatever takes my fancy.
What three things would you tell a person who just yesterday learned of their cancer diagnosis?
It is very difficult to tell someone 3 things who has just had a diagnosis as everyone is different and our journeys are different. It is very difficult when 1st told to take everything in.
So I would say take time to go over your diagnosis and take time for yourself. When you are ready, ask as many questions as you want even if you think it may be a silly question as no question is silly. You must be kind to yourself too..
I would say contact your local support group. Our group has a contact number and you can call for any reason, even a rant and speak to a member from our action group. We would then when the person is ready and if they want to put them in touch with one of our ladies who has been through a similar diagnosis and treatment as there are many different types and as I have said each of our journeys are different and to let them know they are not alone.
A support group is not for every one but we would sooner they know we are there and not need us than to need us and not know we are there.
What advice would you give to your 20 year old self?
I would tell myself to follow my dream and my heart, live my life to the fullest and trust my decisions and not to be bullied by anyone.
Photo & Retouch Renata Clarke
Makeup & Hair Styling Aleksandra Guz
New 40 over 40 campaign for women in their 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond. Click here for more info.
Renata owns a boutique portrait studio in Worcester, UK, providing full service photography experience for everyday women and female entrepreneurs. She specialises in high end portrait and boudoir photoshoots and personal branding photography. Her main focus is to empower women through the tailored experience and beautiful fine art portraits and to help business owners build their brand and attract ideal clients. . Get in touch to reserve your complimentary consultation and talk about your personalised photoshoot.