I never thought it would happen to me – the day before my 52nd birthday, two days before the start of our holiday, breast cancer was diagnosed in my body, not in a friend, or a friend of a friend – this time it was me!
What an irony! When Jen, Mel and I decided that beautiful mastectomy swimwear was in short supply it was because Mel had drawn a blank on finding the sort of mastectomy bikinis and mastectomy tankinis that would make her feel as beautiful as normal again following her double mastectomy. We trawled the world looking for the sort of mastectomy beachwear that any of us would wear and Caleya was launched.
Little did I imagine that just 8 months later I would become a customer – not just because I loved the mastectomy swimsuits, bikinis and tankinis but because I also had had a mastectomy and had joined the club that no one wants to join.
I’m now half way through chemo, and feeling good. My hair is like chewing gum but a baseball cap and a selection of wigs are standing me in good stead and I’m feeling really good so far. I want to share my experiences of this “Blip” in my otherwise happy, healthy and forward looking life because it’s such a strange time and so many ridiculously bizarre things have happened. I know these memories will make me laugh for years to come. If they make you laugh or remember too then please share with friends – if you have your own experiences then share with all of us. I am sure that smiling and laughing out loud will help us all live longer.
Sometimes you think everything is running along normally and something happens that stops you in your tracks. Just such a moment happened almost exactly two years ago to the day when we officially launched Caleya.
I was driving home, worrying about stuff that seemed important, thinking about the summer hols and the gang of very good friends we meet every year. My thoughts turned to Mel and Steve, how lucky they are, lovely family, lovely home, thriving business – how nice it would be to have no worries.
I got home, wandered into the kitchen to pour the essential glass of medicinal merlot and Tony, my husband came through to tell me he’d had ghastly news – Mel had found she was not only carrying the dreaded cancer gene that put her at high risk, but had found lumps and had immediately gone in to hospital to have a double mastectomy. Wow did that silly stuff I had been worrying about seem so very unimportant, school and money concerns – what’s that all about!!!
Cut to a couple of months later – the sun is out, the beach is filling up, we’re chatting to friends we haven’t seen since last year and sipping hot coffee from the little café on the corner which also does lovely light baignees – I have to honest I was a bit nervous. How would Mel look? How would she feel? What do you say first? “How are you” just doesn’t seem enough!
Toby always turns up first, a bit like the Brough’s own private scout checking out the jelly fish situation, then the girls Zoe and Mimi, wandering along the seafront chatting, wondering just how early in the day it’s feasible to ask for an ice-cream. Then along comes Mel, looking tanned and gorgeous and just no different from last year – she looked great. Steve was carrying a few more bags than usual, but that wasn’t too shocking he normally has at least one mission to accomplice before midday and that’s often just finding what he lost last night!
Later, as we all settled in to the casual routine that revolves around Es Dofi, the full story would emerge. Mel made us laugh and cry through the horrors of the surgery and the challenges of telling the kids and then we focussed on an all- together new problem – Mel really did look the same, she was wearing the same Bikinis as last year. As hard as she had tried she could find nothing in the suggested mastectomy swimwear ranges that she could bear to wear. Mel wanted to feel good and look great and to believe that the beach was still the place to go (Quote Beach Boys c. 1978 – sorry!). She’d ended up getting out the needle and thread and adapting her existing swimwear.
There and then the idea for Caleya started and we really hope you like what we are doing – Caleya is named after a wonderful beach which we all love, the beach is beautiful whether the seas are stormy or swimming pool calm and we want Caleya to reflect that feeling that after the storms the skies are almost always the most amazing blue.