Breast cancer survivor told she has 'body image issues' after request to go flat

Source: 1News

Sue Garmonsway was in “complete shock” when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019, as she had no symptoms.

By Kate Nicol-Williams & Abbey Wakefield

Six weeks following the diagnosis, she had a mastectomy on her right breast and knew when she woke up from the surgery that she wanted the other breast removed too.

A year later, she asked her surgeon at Waikato District Health Board if she could have a secondary mastectomy.

“It’s about symmetry, looking in the mirror and seeing two sides that look the same,” she said.

Garmonsway said the surgeon shut down the idea as soon as the words came out of her mouth and said she was “struggling with body image issues”.

‘I did find that incredibly upsetting,” Garmonsway told 1 NEWS.

“The assumption was that I was struggling with body image issues and a referral was made for some psychological counselling which I found surprising,” she said.

In a statement to 1 NEWS, a Waikato DHB spokesperson said , “prophylactic (preventative) mastectomy may well be offered in a context of persisting high risk.”

Last year in October, benign cysts were found in Garmonsway’s left breast, and due to “delays” in the public health system, she decided to pay for private health care herself.

She asked her private surgeon whether she could have the secondary mastectomy she’d always wanted while receiving advice on the cysts.

The surgery is planned for May at this stage, but Garmonsway said she feels for patients that can’t afford to do that through insurance or savings.

“It’s just a constant feeling of being in limbo and wanting some closure,” she said.

A spokesperson for the Breast Cancer Foundation said breast cancer patients should be supported through the process.

“Our view on this is that women should be able to have thorough conversations with their breast surgeons about removing their healthy breast, and have the option to do so,” the spokesperson said.