Interview with a CoppaFeel Boobette
1. Hi Maddie, thank you for talking to me. Firstly could you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am a 25 year-old, living in North Devon. I work in a local primary school as a TA and I'm starting my teacher training in September, which is very exciting. In my spare time, I like to run, explore and walk along the coast, spread the boob love and occasionally bake cakes!
2. Why did you get involved with CoppaFeel?
Over the years I have experienced multiple scares; my first when I was seventeen. When I checked my boobs for the first time I was unsure what I was doing or what I was even looking for, and I found a lump - the last thing I expected to find whilst doing my first ever boob check. I went into panic, I googled what it meant and I didn't know what to do. I told my mum and I went straight to the GP a few days later.
I was embarrassed and wasn’t sure if I’d be taken seriously because I was so young. 'Young people can't possibly get breast cancer', I thought to myself. I was referred to the breast cancer clinic for ultrasound scans and five months later I had the lump removed. I was very lucky and the lump I had removed was a fibroadenoma; a type of benign lump that is very common in young women. They are often firm, smooth, painless and move easily under the skin/around the breast, which is why they can sometimes be known as a ‘breast mouse'.
I learnt so much throughout my first scare and it highlighted the fact that self-checking was something that was never mentioned throughout my time at school and something that was never talked about amongst my friendship group. I clearly remember friends and teachers reactions and this was when I realised that something wasn’t right, something needed to change, motivating me to speak openly about my experience.
A few years after and around the same time as I experienced my second scare, I got involved with CoppaFeel! in my final year of university when I became a Uni Boob Team leader. I remember them phoning me to say I had been successful and would become the team leader at Plymouth University, on the exact same day I was told I would need to have a biopsy! It was fate and what I believed to be a positive outcome from a not-so pleasant experience. But I knew one thing; if I could share my experiences openly, help raise awareness amongst young women and men, and I helped just one person - I’d be happy.
I then became a Boobette shortly after I left university because I knew that more had to be done to spread the boob love and how vital conversations about regular boob checking really was.
3. What does a Boobette do?
There are over one hundred Boobettes spread over the UK - from Plymouth to Dundee. Each one of us have either been diagnosed under the age of 35, had a scare, preventative surgery or have a close connection to breast cancer in our families. We use our stories to educate, empower and encourage the people we talk to in schools, colleges, workplaces (or wherever we’re wanted!) to get to know their normal and regularly check themselves, because early detection can save lives! We explain the facts and myths around breast cancer and we have all the boob know-how about signs, symptoms and how to check.
We can hold talks and stalls for anyone, so if you fancy spreading the boob love to your students or colleagues, you can, by simply heading to the website: https://coppafeel.org/our-work/at-schools/the-boobettes/
4. How often do we need to check our boobs and what do we need to be looking/feeling for?
There is no right or wrong way to check your boobs; it’s just all about getting to know what’s normal for you and everybody (that's guys, gals and non-binary pals) has breast tissue so it’s important for us all to be checking.
You can check anywhere that feels comfortable for you; in bed, on the sofa, getting dressed or in the shower. Make it part of your normal routine and check once a month.
It’s important to remember that you are not looking and feeling for cancer, you’re checking for any unusual changes. Sometimes changes in our boobs are simply down to the time of the month and changes in hormones, so it's also important get to know your natural rhythm.
When checking (looking and feeling) your boobs, it’s important to remember that our breast tissue isn’t just at our boob. It runs all the way up to our collarbones and also into our armpits. So when you’re checking, make sure you FEEL all over for:
- any new lumps and thickening,
- any constant, unusual pain in your breast or armpit. (It’s really normal for people to experience tenderness and breast pain around the same time as their period, but if the pain is different or there more often, get it checked out by your GP.)
And LOOK for:
- any changes in your skin texture such as puckering or dimpling - like the texture of orange peel!
- any swelling in your armpit or around your collar bone,
- any nipple discharge,
- nipple inversion and changes in direction,
- any sudden change in shape or size,
- any rash of crusting of the nipple and it’s surrounding area.
We know it’s easy to forget to check with our busy schedules, so CoppaFeel! have a handy text reminder service that you can sign up to by texting BOOBS to 70300. Once you have signed up, you will receive a text at the same time, each month, reminding you to check your boobs!
(Your normal standard network rates apply when sending the first sign up message, but it’s free from there on in!)
Finally and most importantly, if you notice any unusual changes, don’t be embarrassed or scared, get it off your chest and book an appointment with your GP!
5. Finally, what do you always keep in your bag and never leave the house without?
I never leave the house without my phone, purse, or a few of CoppaFeel!’s handy checking cards - I never know who I’m going to stop and chat boobs with!
Thanks so much for chatting to us Maddie!
You can follow Maddie on Instagram @maddieroselewis or to find out more about CoppaFeel head over to https://coppafeel.org