When Fay felt like she’d lost her sense of self, her husband wanted to help.
Here, Fay Cobbett, 37, tells the story in her own words.
A￼fter putting my baby girl Sophie down to sleep, I noticed something.
There was a hard lump protruding from my left breast. It’s probably just a blocked milk duct, I told myself. I was still breastfeeding Sophie, aged one.
But two weeks later, I asked my husband Tim, 40, to take a look.
‘That doesn’t seem right,’ he said, worried.
With a brain for science, my Tim didn’t like to take chances. So I booked an appointment with my GP, who then referred me to the breast clinic.
After I had an ultrasound, a doctor came back into the room.
‘We’ve noticed something in your lymph nodes. You’ll need a biopsy,’ he said.
The results would take a week, so I tried not to worry as I went to pick up my eldest daughter Zoe, five, from school and Sophie from daycare.
Maybe it will all be fine, I hoped. But a week later the doctor called.
‘It’s breast cancer, Fay,’ he told me. I completely froze. Did I hear him correctly?
Trying to keep calm, I took a deep breath. ‘And now what?’ I asked, my voice shaking.
‘The lump isn’t good, you’re going to need surgery,’ he replied.
I had infiltrating ductal carcinoma, which started in my milk duct and spread to surrounding breast tissues. Just three weeks later, I went under the knife for a lumpectomy on my left side.
The next battle was 18 weeks of chemotherapy. ‘Mummy has a grumpy lump,’ we told the girls.
Sadly, I had to stop breastfeeding Sophie.
After chemo, I was on the verge of starting radiation when I was hit with more bombshell news.
A histology report found there was still some cancer.
Now I needed a full mastectomy on my left side. I was devastated at the thought of losing my B-cup boob, but I knew I had to be strong.
‘I just want to get rid of my cancer,’ I told Tim.
When I woke afterwards, I struggled to adjust.
Looking in the mirror, I didn’t recognise the woman staring back at me.
There was a big, jagged scar where my breast used to be.
I even felt self-conscious while wearing clothes, as my lopsided chest was noticeable. This is your new normal, I tried to tell myself. You’re alive. I’d been fitted with a generic prosthesis to wear under my bra, but I hated it.
It was uncomfortable and misshapen, almost like I was carrying around a lumpy rock. ‘Has my fake boob moved?’ I’d ask Tim.
Walking around in public, I saw people look at my chest and my cheeks burned red.
I didn’t want a reconstruction as I couldn’t face more surgery, and Tim was upset I felt so self conscious.
‘I don’t like seeing you feel that way,’ he said, hugging me. ‘Well, why don’t you fix it then!’ I joked.
We laughed, but I could almost see the cogs moving in Tim’s brain.
He worked in technology, but he’d never had anything to do with boobs before!
Only a few days later, Tim and his colleague Jason came to me with an idea.
‘We’ve been researching and I think we can make you a new breast,’ he smiled.
‘What do you mean?’ I asked carefully.
Tim showed me all the investigating he’d been doing into breast tissue and prostheses and he thought he could print one with silicone.
He already had a background in 3D printing, so we had the resources. I agreed to let him take hundreds of photos, scans of my chest and measurements.
Before I knew it, there was a prototype sitting on the kitchen table.
‘Go on, try it!’ Tim urged.
Slipping it into my bra, I felt it mould softly against my chest. ‘I love it!’ I said, trying not to cry.
I didn’t want to part with it – but Tim said there was more work to do.
Finally, after a year of rough models, he presented me with the final product. It was like a dream. I finally felt whole again!
I fitted the prosthesis into my bra and walked around – even jumping up and down.
It was perfectly shaped to my body and didn’t awkwardly jut out.
Best of all, I wasn’t even aware of it being there. My husband had 3D printed me a new breast!
‘You’ve changed my life,’ I said, as a grin spread across my gorgeous hubby’s face.
It soon became a part of me – I’d wake up and pop it in my bra every morning and leave it on my nightstand each night. Talking about it, Tim, Jason and I agreed there were hundreds of women who would love new custom-made boobs like mine.
After doing some market research, together we started MyReflection. We wanted to give other breast cancer survivors the chance to feel whole again.
Launching the business in Auckland last month, we spoke to dozens of women.
After showing them my own prosthesis, one survivor even burst into tears.
‘I have hope again,’ she told me.
Having breasts doesn’t define being a woman – but we know how much it means to have control over your body again.
These women have been to hell and back and I am so proud to be able to help them feel beautiful again.
For more information, please visit www.myreflection.co.nz.
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