A brave mum battling cancer was pictured smiling from her hospital bed and giving a thumbs-up, moments after waking up from major surgery – when she had her breast removed.
Kimberley Birkett shared a picture of herself lying in bed, bandaged across her chest with tubes running from her wound after surgery to have her left breast removed.
The 29-year-old was diagnosed with breast cancer in September last year when doctors discovered a tumour “the size of a tennis ball” in her left breast.
Following her operation last month, Kimberley shared the photo on Instagram and Facebook in a bid to encourage others to talk about the disease.
The mum-of-two, from Herne Bay in Kent, said: “You don’t often see things like that – I don’t want mastectomies to be a hushed subject.
“I would rather be published with a bald head and half my boob off to raise awareness than think about what random people may think of me.
“A woman losing her hair and her boob is very important but I don’t care what I look like any more or what people think.
“Cancer doesn’t give a sh*t who you are, but I want to make it not a scary thing to be spoken about.
“It happens to so many people, no matter their age, and I want people to realise and feel comfortable talking about it.”
Childcare worker Kimberley went under the knife at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford on March 14 and posted a picture of herself after surgery on Facebook and Instagram.
The nursery worker has shared updates on social media throughout her battle with cancer which she said the positive feedback “helped her through everything.”
Kimberley said: “I had strangers coming up to me in the street telling me I was brave and inspirational after I started talking about it.
“I had friends come up to me and say ‘you are amazing’ and I have friends in Ireland who are even sharing it over there.
“When I was first diagnosed, you get so scared you don’t want to talk to anyone.
“But for me, I realised talking about it and sharing it with other people helped – their kind words make you feel better.”
Kimberley was diagnosed with breast cancer in September after doctors discovered a tumour in her left breast – almost the size of a tennis ball.
Doctors initially thought the lump would be benign due to her young age, until the tests came back.
She said: “I felt distraught. The first question I asked was ‘am I going to die?’
“My doctor said he was truly shocked when he gave me the diagnosis because he thought I was too young.
“Mammograms aren’t normally available for women under the age of 30 because you’ve got denser breast tissue, but I’ve now had one.”
At the start of her treatment, Kimberley was given the option to have a lumpectomy, which removes the cancerous tumour, or a mastectomy which would lower the chance of the cancer returning.
She said: “Taking my boob off – I chose that option because I have children and I want to be in this world as long as I can for them.
“I got really scared before going into surgery, I started crying because it all got a bit too much.
“I had a female nurse and a male nurse holding my hand to calm me down – they had a hand each.
“Before the operation, I was looking online at pictures of mastectomies and they were all horrible and bumpy.
“Taking the bandages off, I was expecting a monstrous scar but it is like somebody has just drawn on me with a Biro. The scar is amazing.”
Kimberly is mum to Violet, three, and five-year-old Reuben.
She said: “My children are only three and five – they don’t know the whole shebang and they don’t know the ‘c word.’
“When I had my chemotherapy and I lost my hair, I told my little boy I was going to have a hair cut like him.
“Then I told them I was going to have a boob like them to make mummy feel better, that I would have a big boob and a little boob.
“It was a lot of pre-warning that mummy was going to look a bit different and they know it is nothing to be scared of or worried about.”
The brave mum is now set to have the first of 15 sessions of radiotherapy and a further round of chemotherapy before she can consider whether to have a breast reconstruction next year.
She added: “I’m hoping that by the end of this the cancer will be in remission.
“I won’t know this for certain though, until I go through scans.”
Kimberley continued to share her her experiences and fight against cancer in a bid to help inform and comfort others.
She added: “The second you hear cancer, you think ‘bed ridden’ and ‘gaunt face.’ You get so scared, you don’t want to talk to anyone.
“But the advice I would give is try to stay positive and talk about it – the best thing I did was to talk to a health consultant who took the scariness away.
“Before I got diagnosed, I didn’t have a clue what a mastectomy was, I thought after chemo you’d be done but there’s so much more to it.
“I wanted to share the photograph of me after surgery to raise awareness and let people know they can talk to me about it.”