A GIBRALTARIAN breast cancer survivor has raised more than £10,000 after bravely baring her chest and revealing her scars for a photograph to boost awareness of the disease and the need for women to undergo regular check-ups.
Wendy Joan Garro posed for the topless photograph which was shared by the Mayor of Gibraltar Christian Santos on his Facebook page as part of the We Are One Campaign during Breast Cancer awareness month.
The image was published alongside Garro’s words: “I am proud of my scar, it means I am stronger than what tried to hurt me. Be comfortable in your own skin and love your body, scars and all”.
Garro said she was “completely overwhelmed and speechless” after raising £10,234.18 for Breast Cancer Support Gibraltar thanks to the image.
She told the Olive Press: “I’m very proud of how much awareness has been raised with just one photo!
“I want to show women …that choosing to live without reconstruction is also a valid choice, we are still sexy and beautiful and our breasts do not define how sexy we are, but instead being comfortable in your own skin, and loving your body scars and all”, said Garro in an interview with The Olive Press.
Garro was diagnosed with breast cancer on November 20, 2017, when she was 49-years-old. She was told she had grade 3 ductal invasive carcinoma with four tumours.
However, it was a long journey from the first self-detection to her official diagnosis.
After a routine mammogram on March 20 2017, she was “called to come in for a repeat” only four weeks later which was “unusual”. That evening Garro described finding “a lump on her left breast”.
Returning for her repeat mammogram, Garro said the radiologist “took no notice” when she mentioned the lump. Stating that since the repeat was for her right breast she had nothing wrong with her left. “They repeated the mammogram and an ultrasound to my right breast, and told me that everything was ok.”
This gave Garro comfort that there was “nothing to worry about”. Later in June she felt “uneasy” about the lump so made a GP appointment “ to make sure the lump was nothing serious and that a mistake hadn’t been made.”
The GP checked Garro’s left breast but “could not feel anything” which left Garro “confused”.
“I felt it must be psychological on my part and would go away,” she admitted.
Instead six months later in October, Garro had “developed two lumps” after conducting a self-examination when she read a friend’s Facebook post saying it was vital we check our breasts during Breast Cancer Month.
Garro phoned for another appointment to “insist” she “wasn’t imagining” her lumps. However she was met with a reply that there were none available and she could only see the nurse practitioner.
Looking back to that moment she “wonders how acceptable that was”.
But Garro had her mind set that she “would not be fobbed off”, so visited the nurse and “insisted upon another mammogram.”
But as she had had one in March the nurse said that due to the radiation it “was not good to have one so soon”.
Garro felt she was “crying out for someone to listen”. The nurse did a check up and concurred with Garro, making a referral.
It was only then, more than 6 and a half months after she first found a lump that she was listened to for the first time.
Following an appointment at the breast clinic and two biopsies Garro was finally diagnosed “exactly eight months after my first mammogram” she noted.
As Garro already suspected she had cancer she “took the news quite well”.
Feeling she “didn’t need any support psychologically” as she had “inner strength” and was relieved that “she was going to get help” and that her cancer “had not spread”.
Post-diagnosis Garro said “I cannot fault the care I received to treat the cancer” which was now at grade 3. She had “fifteen sessions of chemo and fifteen sessions-of radiotherapy”.
Garro suggested the local medical system should “urgently take note” as people should be accountable for the “errors that could have cost me my life” so “lessons are learnt” moving forward.
“I am sharing my story not to find fault in others, but to make women understand that no one knows your body better than yourself and that you are your best friend and advocate” she said. “Listen to your body and listen to yourself.”
Garro’s final message is for “women who are going through this experience to have hope, to fight and remain positive!”
For more details about the fundraising effort go the Breast Cancer Support Gibraltar facebook page HERE or donate to: Breast Cancer Support Gibraltar, Account number – 10216701, Sort Code – 405178