‘I’m breastless, kidless and in the menopause at 36’

Lottie Rennie tells Philippa Blakeley about the trauma of being diagnosed with cancer – and her long journey to recovery.

Lottie Rennie and her husband, Tim, sat on the sofa in a dreary, sun-starved side room at the hospital – no windows, plain walls, nothing.

The only thing to look at was the empty box of tissues which sat on the table.

For Lottie, this was only the start of her long and often isolating journey navigating the foreign world of being a cancer patient.

Four weeks earlier in September 2017, Lottie had been going about her life as a 33-year-old, nothing out of the ordinary.

It was a Sunday when she first felt a shooting pain in her left breast. After feeling around, felt what everyone dreads.  A lump.  

After going to the doctors, Lottie was sent for core biopsies in both the right and left breast.

“This was first part which affected me the most, I wasn’t expecting it at all. Because I went to a private hospital, they were done there and then,

“My husband, Tim, said that after I just didn’t speak the rest of the day,” said Lottie.

Throughout her whole journey, she did all the procedural appointments on her own.

“I don’t know why I did them alone, I felt impulsed too, I think for protection really,” said Lottie.

At this first appointment, she was sat in the waiting room with another lady who said “you won’t have it, you’re too young.”

But cancer does not discriminate. Not on age, nor anything else for that matter.

Lottie was to find this out for herself when on Friday, October 13, she got told she had a two-centimetre tumour in her left breast.

However, she was told by the consultant it would likely be a small surgery and most likely she would just need chemo tablets.

An MRI scan later and she was sent to a breast cancer clinic. “The nurse took us into the side room, there was just a sofa, just an empty box of tissues and a sofa. Sat in that room made us feel like it was bad news. We’d already decided it was Stage 4,

“That when I was told the tumour was actually 8.7cm. That evening I felt like I’d been given a death sentence,” said Lottie, from Leicestershire.

After doing lots of research, she discovered tumours from lobular cancer can often be very large which meant while 8.7cm was bigger than expected, it wasn’t necessarily the “death sentence” she initially thought.

It was at this point Lottie was told she would need six months of chemotherapy and could possibly lose her hair.

Rather than taking the risk of losing her hair further down the line, she got on the front foot and had it shaved off.

“I wanted to take control. I enjoyed trying different wigs and hair colours. My hair did continue to grow throughout, but I never regretted shaving it off,” she said.

Then came the day, December 5, 2017, the first day of chemotherapy.

“The first two rounds, I was really emotional. I was always the youngest in the room and people would be staring. They were probably thinking who had it out of me and my husband,” said Lottie.

Three months in and Lottie, went for a mid-chemo scan. Despite the oncologist being adamant the lump wouldn’t shrink; Lottie was convinced it felt different.

Results day came. The oncologist was almost crying. “It had shrunk, she didn’t know why, she didn’t know how,” said Lottie.

After a further three months of chemo, discussions then started about the next steps. The discovery of Lottie having the BRCA2 gene meant that she was much more susceptible to the cancer returning.

She was given various options, a wide local excision, a single mastectomy or a double mastectomy.

“I remember as clear as day, I just said to the oncologist ‘you’re taking them both off, both off at the same time’,” said Lottie.

On June 14, 2018, Lottie had both her breasts removed.

She then began a three-week course of radiotherapy, which went fairly smoothly.

For the first four to five months post-surgery, Lottie wouldn’t look or touch her scars and her husband, Tim, did all the aftercare.

“I was happy with my decision, I found it easy because I am very much all or nothing,

“If I’d just had the wide local excision, I would have always been questioning if it was gone, I couldn’t have lived with not having it done,” she said.

Her team at the hospital knew this, so one time they were draining her wounds, they said it had started bleeding and asked her to put her hand over it.

From that point onwards, she gradually began touching them more and more.

Then in February 2019, Lottie decided to have a full hysterectomy due to the risks of having the BRCA2 gene.

“So now I’m breastless, kid-less and in the menopause at 36,” she said.

As time went on, Lottie realised she had less control over her emotions than she initially thought.

“We call them Lottie meltdowns

“I have this overwhelming feeling of hurt. People presume I’ve got a family, now people wouldn’t even know I’d been ill,” she said.

Lottie’s problems all came to a head last June.

“I had a really bad one, I smashed something and gashed my arm. I needed six stitches, I had flesh hanging out,

“It made me realise, even though I felt suicidal, I didn’t actually want to die,” said Lottie.

Since this, Lottie has made a conscious effort to turn her life around by going to the gym and continuing her cold-water swimming, something which she had loved doing prior to her cancer journey.

“It made me realise it’s not all about the breasts, but I’ve got an ass too,” said Lottie.

In the last three years since her diagnosis, Lottie has even swum in the Arctic circle – something which most of us could only ever dream of doing.

“There is more to me than cancer and being breastless,” said Lottie, her strength shining through.

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