Breast cancer at 30, double mastectomy – and removing implants ‘best thing I ever did’ –

Posted: March 22, 2020 at 4:45 am

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Kylie Tolman has started up a charity which cares for cancer patients once their treatment is finished.

When Kylie Tolman found a lump in her breast 12 years ago at the age of 30, she assumed it was a cyst.

She was too young for cancer, there was no history of the disease in her family, and she'd hadcysts before, so feltno need to panic.

But when she went to have it checked by her doctor, she was thrown a curve ball that turned her life upside down.


After having both breasts removed, Kylie Tolman has learned to love her body and hopes by showing her "battle scars" she will inspire others.

"Luckily my GP was really onto it straight away and sent me for a biopsy and a mammogram," she said."Within seven days I was diagnosed."

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It was stage three of an aggressive triple negativebreastcancera rare form of the illness that does not have any of the receptors commonly found in breastcancer.


Kylie Tolman, happy, healthy and confident after breast cancer.

"It really hadn't been on my radar so it was all a real blur.

"Making the call to my mum was really tough."

Tolman had no time to process the diagnosis as she went from one appointment to the next on auto pilot.


Tolman founded C.A.R.E.S. Charitable Trust to help cancer patients adjust to the new normal once their treatment is finished.

Her best chance was a full mastectomyand, because of the cancer's aggressive nature, she had no time for breast reconstruction before her treatment needed to start.

She had one breast and18 lymph nodes removed from her armpit.

"Losing my breastdidn't worry me, I just wanted [the cancer] gone."


With mental health services stretched in Canterbury, the charity fills some of the gaps.

After chemotherapy she looked into reconstruction and had her other breast removed, which alleviated worry about whether the cancer would return.

She had silicone implants fitted two years after the surgery but never felt comfortable with them they always felt tight. Shehad them removed when they rupturedin 2018.

"I told my surgeon 'I want them out and I don't want them back'. It was the best thing I ever did."

Rhea Duffy - Photographer

With the support of husband Andrew and sons Olly, 14, and Louie, 6, Kylie Tolman has learned to love herself again.

Her husband, Andrew, was 100 per cent behind her decision, she said, and never thought she was less of a woman he was just focused on her health.

"My breasts don't define me. Everyone is different but you can learn to embrace your body, and you can still look sexy without breasts," Tolman said.

"Everyone comes in different shapes and sizes anyway, so what is normal?"

Rhea Duffy - Photographer

Tolman had both breasts removed and received implants, but later had those removed too.

But Tolman hadn't always been as accepting of herself. Back home and recovering after the initial treatment and hospital appointments, she began to feel quite low.

She had the Cancer Society meetings and great family and friends supporting her, socouldn't understand why she was so emotional.

"Mental health, or PTSD, it wasn't talked about much, and I really struggled emotionally. I felt like a failure for not feeling happy to be alive."


Kylie Tolman says her breasts do not define her.

About four years ago, Tolmanwent on a personal development journey and began to accepther feelings werenormal.

"I started sharing my story and got a life coaching certificate to get the tools to help other people find their new normal."

She formed C.A.R.E.S. Charitable Trust in July to fill the gap left by overloaded mental health services, particularly in Christchurch.

She now coordinates speakers, helps establish local networksand provides support for anyone who has finished cancer treatment.

The charity has a closed Facebook page for people to share their stories and support each other.

"Cancer is becoming more prevalent, and over time the needs are going to be bigger and bigger.

"[C.A.R.E.S.]in North Canterbury at the moment but I would love to take it nationwide."

Tolman said there was already some supportavailable for people who had finished treatment, but it included people at various stages of the illness and treatment process.

"For some people they don't want those triggers, to be reminded of what they went through, so [C.A.R.E.S.] is specifically for people who have finished treatment."

The charity is a finalist fora MainPower Community Grant, voting for which closes on Friday.


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Breast cancer at 30, double mastectomy - and removing implants 'best thing I ever did' -

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March 22nd, 2020 at 4:45 am

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