Beating breast cancer – part two

May 7, 2002

In part one of Julie Barter’s story we learned that Julie, like her mother and grandmother before her, had developed breast cancer. In this part, we follow Julie on her courageous journey of survival and through her treatment and recovery.

“I had both of my breasts removed,” says Julie who, while having cancer only in her right breast opted for this most radical treatment. Presented with various alternatives including a lumpectomy to remove the cancer (and her nipple) Julie decided to have both breasts removed and rebuilt. “Reconstruction which was the most amazing thing that I could have possibly had done,” she enthuses about the procedure that restored her curves – and confidence. I can’t resist the urge to find out whether she asked for an extra cup size in the reconstruction?

“I did! I did!” laughs Julie, whose ability to talk with such poignant honesty about breast cancer and her treatment in magazines, newspapers and on radio is helping women around Australia understand this disease and all it’s effects.

“I had fed both my babies, for 12 months, both of them because I wanted to give my children every chance of the best and I thought ‘Right, let’s feed them for that long.’ And of course, my boobs were sort of looking down at the ground for that reason. They were sweet little things, but nothing that I could say ‘Oh wow! I’m going to lose these!” says Julie, reflecting on her decision to have a double mastectomy.

“I finished reconstruction a year after I had my breast removed and I felt like I was losing everything. I had nothing left, in fact my little boy said to me I’m a ‘she-man.’ And it was just a little joke with him, but it made me feel ‘Oh, my gosh, I haven’t got much left that’s a womanly thing!’ With having breast cancer and having reconstruction, I am so happy I had reconstruction, I don’t think I would have coped so well without reconstruction. It has made me a much more positive person. I always say that my plastic surgeon who did my breasts is my creator because she created me again. It’s like a work of art. ”

“I’ll never forget the day I came home after having the final part when they put the implants in and I came home from hospital. It was my birthday. Megan Hassal, who is my plastic surgeon, said to me ‘Go home, it’s your birthday.’ So I went home for my birthday and we had a lovely barbecue out the back and I had my boobs out showing everyone, it was like the unwrapping of the birthday present! I was so excited! I was just thrilled with what I had, I mean when you go through all that, and it’s so devastating and you’re so petrified when they unwrap your breasts to see what you’ve got, and when they actually unwrapped them I thought ‘Ooh, they’re too small!’ Of course I was lying down and when they sat me up there was two lovely round melons! So I flashed them. I don’t know how many times I flashed them to people,” says Julie.

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