‘If I don’t have to look at myself in the mirror, I won’t,’ cries breast cancer survivor

A 50-year-old woman from Cairns has hated how she looks ever since her double mastectomy in 2011.

Jeannie Christie was diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer and was put on a waiting list for breast reconstructive surgery, but she is still waiting.

On top of the mastectomy, Jeannie underwent chemotherapy which saw all of her hair fall out.

‘There’s nothing left that defines you as a woman. Even today if I don’t have to look at myself I won’t,’ Jeannie told ABC News.

‘I was sitting in the bath with my husband. That was the first time I actually looked down at myself.’

There are currently more than 100 far north Queensland women who are unable to access the surgery they need.

Queensland Health is blaming this on a lack of plastic and reconstructive surgeons in the region.

Now, women affected are working together to ask the proper officials why they are having to wait so long for their surgery dates.

Communications manager for the Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA), Kirsten Pilatti, said the main barriers were government funding and hospital communication.

There are not enough plastic surgeons hired in the region and more investments need to be made towards the hospitals.

‘We want to make sure we have open communication between the hospital and women, so there is no sense of false hope or misunderstanding of where someone is on a waiting list, or whether they are eligible,’ Kirsten told the publication.

‘Some of the women say if they had known what they do today they would’ve considered going private.’

This being said, the hospital has two part-time plastic surgeons, with a full-time surgeon to start in January and they are now recruiting another to join the team.

Unfortunately this doesn’t provide immediate hope for women like Jeannie, who have been waiting for years.

On top of this Jeannie’s daughter, Janelle Clarence, recently tested positive for a BRCA1 gene mutation.

This means it is likely the 27-year-old will get breast cancer unless she undergoes a preventative double mastectomy.

After watching what her mother has gone through, Janelle has given up on regional healthcare.

Luckily, she will be receiving breast reconstructive surgery at the end of the year after multiple GP visits and a referral for a double mastectomy.

Sadly this will be before her mother, who still does not know when she will be receiving it.

‘I felt like I was betraying my mum because now I’m able to have both surgeries, while she’s been waiting all this time,’ she admitted to ABC.

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