Mother who had a double mastectomy says reconstructive surgery has boosted her confidence

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Nicole Darnell, 30, from South Wales, had a double mastectomy, after discovering she carried the mutated BRCA2 breast cancer gene (seen before surgery)


A young mother of two who discovered she carried the mutated BRCA2 breast cancer gene took the brave decision to have a double mastectomy while still in her 20s – and says her reconstructed chest makes her feel ’empowered’.   

Insurance project manager Nicole Darnell, now 30, from Swansea in South Wales, said her decision to proceed with the life-altering surgery to reduce her high risk of developing cancer was a ‘no brainer’, and far from mourning the loss of her old breasts, she says her new 32C cleavage has boosted both her confidence and her sex life.   

Nicole, who is mother to four-year-old Indie with her fiance Lloyd Hancock, and seven-year-old Lilly Dicks from a previous relationship, said of her surgery in November 2016: ‘Lloyd finally has boobs to play with now that I have gone up two cup sizes and I have never felt better.

‘I feel powerful – I have made one hell of a decision to protect my future, and I would do it all again.’ 

Nicole and her two sisters, Jess Darnell, 21, and Louise Dalling, 28, all learned they carried the gene after watching their theatre nurse mum, Stephanie Darnell, 57, battle breast cancer twice. 

Nicole said that her decision was motivated by her desire to see her daughters grow up – but that her boosted confidence was a ‘happy side effect’.  

Nicole Darnell, 30, from South Wales, had a double mastectomy, after discovering she carried the mutated BRCA2 breast cancer gene (seen before surgery)

Nicole Darnell, 30, from South Wales, had a double mastectomy, after discovering she carried the mutated BRCA2 breast cancer gene (seen before surgery)

After having reconstructive surgery she says her new, bigger chest has boosted her confidence (seen after surgery)

After having reconstructive surgery she says her new, bigger chest has boosted her confidence (seen after surgery)

After having reconstructive surgery she says her new, bigger chest has boosted her confidence (seen after surgery)

Nicole watched her mum go through breast cancer twice, first on her right side in 2008, when it was triple negative, a rare form of the disease without hormone receptors which can be harder to treat. 

She then battled it on her left side, with oestrogen-receptor positive cancer in 2013, leading to a a double mastectomy. 

After her own 13-hour surgery to remove both breasts and reconstruct them at Morriston Hospital, near Swansea, her mum, who also had chemo, had looked into her family history – finding breast cancer to be prevalent on her father’s side.

As a result, she and Nicole’s dad, Kevin Darnell, 58, who works at Swansea University, advised their girls to be tested.

Nicole's theatre nurse mum, Stephanie Darnell, 57 - who had battled breast cancer twice – and her sisters Jess Darnell, 21, and Louise Dalling, 28, who work with her, were all diagnosed with the gene too( L-R: Jess, Louise, mum Stephanie and Nicole)

Nicole's theatre nurse mum, Stephanie Darnell, 57 - who had battled breast cancer twice – and her sisters Jess Darnell, 21, and Louise Dalling, 28, who work with her, were all diagnosed with the gene too( L-R: Jess, Louise, mum Stephanie and Nicole)

Nicole’s theatre nurse mum, Stephanie Darnell, 57 – who had battled breast cancer twice – and her sisters Jess Darnell, 21, and Louise Dalling, 28, who work with her, were all diagnosed with the gene too( L-R: Jess, Louise, mum Stephanie and Nicole)

'I feel powerful – I have made one hell of a decision to protect my future, and I would do it all again,' Nicole said

'I feel powerful – I have made one hell of a decision to protect my future, and I would do it all again,' Nicole said

‘I feel powerful – I have made one hell of a decision to protect my future, and I would do it all again,’ Nicole said

Nicole said knowing Dutch researchers had discovered that BRCA2 made women 69 per cent more likely to develop the disease by the age of 80, compared to 12 per cent for non-carriers, made the decision an easy one. 

‘Mum assumed she had the mutation, because she’d had breast cancer twice,’ said Nicole.

‘For us, three young women all under 30, it was a frightening prospect.’

And, in November 2015, Jess, then aged 18, Louise, 26, and Nicole, 27, were all told they carried the harmful BRCA2 mutation.

Nicole said: ‘The thing that scared us most was just one of us having it, especially if it was my younger sister, as it would have felt so unfair.

‘But when all three of us found out together, it was actually a relief, as we could support each other.’

Nicole immediately opted for breast removal and reconstruction, which, according to the charity Macmillan Cancer Support, reduces the breast cancer risk by 90 to 95 per cent.

Sisters: L-R Nicole, Louise and Jess- her sisters haven't decided whether to have a mastectomy yet

Sisters: L-R Nicole, Louise and Jess- her sisters haven't decided whether to have a mastectomy yet

Sisters: L-R Nicole, Louise and Jess- her sisters haven’t decided whether to have a mastectomy yet

Nicole said knowing Dutch researchers had discovered that BRCA2 made women 69 per cent more likely to develop the disease by the age of 80, compared to 12 per cent for non-carriers, made the decision an easy one (Nicole in hospital after the operation)

Nicole said knowing Dutch researchers had discovered that BRCA2 made women 69 per cent more likely to develop the disease by the age of 80, compared to 12 per cent for non-carriers, made the decision an easy one (Nicole in hospital after the operation)

Nicole said knowing Dutch researchers had discovered that BRCA2 made women 69 per cent more likely to develop the disease by the age of 80, compared to 12 per cent for non-carriers, made the decision an easy one (Nicole in hospital after the operation)

'Watching my mum go through cancer twice was just so awful that I couldn't risk putting my little girls through it too', Nicole said (Nicole before her operation)

'Watching my mum go through cancer twice was just so awful that I couldn't risk putting my little girls through it too', Nicole said (Nicole before her operation)

‘Watching my mum go through cancer twice was just so awful that I couldn’t risk putting my little girls through it too’, Nicole said (Nicole before her operation)

Louise, who is married to quality manager Ashleigh, 29, and has a daughter Sophia, four, and Jess, whose boyfriend Luke Dyche, 21, works in injury claims, still want more time to decide.

Nicole continued: ‘It was a no-brainer for me. I had talked to Lloyd about what would happen if I had both breasts removed, but deep down I had already decided I would have a double mastectomy.

‘Watching my mum go through cancer twice was just so awful that I couldn’t risk putting my little girls through it too.

‘My sisters were both a lot younger than me so wanted time to think about it, but for me, I knew it was what I wanted.’

And for small breasted Nicole there were no fears about having them removed (seen before)

And for small breasted Nicole there were no fears about having them removed (seen before)

And for small breasted Nicole there were no fears about having them removed (seen before)

When, after her November 2016 operation at Morriston Hospital, Nicole came to with new 32C breasts, she felt empowered

When, after her November 2016 operation at Morriston Hospital, Nicole came to with new 32C breasts, she felt empowered

When, after her November 2016 operation at Morriston Hospital, Nicole came to with new 32C breasts, she felt empowered

And for small breasted Nicole there were no fears about having them removed.

‘I didn’t feel attached to my boobs, and didn’t care about not having them any more,’ she said.

‘Honestly, I had always wanted to change them, because I felt they were just too small – I called them ”tiny fried eggs ‘ and as I’d had kids, they didn’t really serve a purpose any more.

‘My dad always told me, when I was a teenager, that if I came home with a boob job, he’d kill me.

‘I had always considered it, but over time, I changed my mind and realised it wasn’t right for me.’

Nicole seen with daughters, Indie Hancock, four, and Lilly Dicks, seven, from a previous relationship, and her fiance Lloyd, 26

Nicole seen with daughters, Indie Hancock, four, and Lilly Dicks, seven, from a previous relationship, and her fiance Lloyd, 26

Nicole seen with daughters, Indie Hancock, four, and Lilly Dicks, seven, from a previous relationship, and her fiance Lloyd, 26

'My new boobs have also made me feel more confident and, obviously, Lloyd loves them, too,' she said

'My new boobs have also made me feel more confident and, obviously, Lloyd loves them, too,' she said

‘My new boobs have also made me feel more confident and, obviously, Lloyd loves them, too,’ she said

When, after her November 2016 operation at Morriston Hospital, Nicole came to with new 32C breasts, she felt empowered. 

Nicole is sharing her story as celebrities Michelle Heaton, Lisa Riley and Iwan Thomas have joined forces with Macmillan Cancer Support to encourage people to join #TeamMacmillan, by signing up to a fundraising challenge this summer, to raise funds to help people with cancer.

She said: ‘It was a weight off my shoulders and after my recovery I realised I felt so much better, knowing I’d massively reduced my risk of developing breast cancer.

Nicole  feels better than ever, seen with daughters Lilly, left, and Indie, right 

Nicole  feels better than ever, seen with daughters Lilly, left, and Indie, right 

Nicole  feels better than ever, seen with daughters Lilly, left, and Indie, right 

‘My new boobs have also made me feel more confident and, obviously, Lloyd loves them, too.

‘But, despite the welcome benefits, I made the decision to have a mastectomy for the right reasons – to improve my chances of being here to watch my children grow up.

‘But what I want to make clear to people is what I had done is not a free boob job.

‘I had a real risk of developing cancer, so it was about saving my life, but the way I look now is a happy side effect.

‘I’ve been to the gym and now I look after my body, I’m taking care of myself and it’s made me more body confident. My partner thinks I look great, which makes me feel amazing.’

Nicole feels better than ever after undergoing breast removal and reconstruction, which, according to the charity Macmillan Cancer Support, reduces the breast cancer risk by 90 to 95 per cent

Nicole feels better than ever after undergoing breast removal and reconstruction, which, according to the charity Macmillan Cancer Support, reduces the breast cancer risk by 90 to 95 per cent

Nicole feels better than ever after undergoing breast removal and reconstruction, which, according to the charity Macmillan Cancer Support, reduces the breast cancer risk by 90 to 95 per cent

'It was a weight off my shoulders and after my recovery I realised I felt so much better, knowing I'd massively reduced my risk of developing breast cancer,' the mother-of-two said

'It was a weight off my shoulders and after my recovery I realised I felt so much better, knowing I'd massively reduced my risk of developing breast cancer,' the mother-of-two said

‘It was a weight off my shoulders and after my recovery I realised I felt so much better, knowing I’d massively reduced my risk of developing breast cancer,’ the mother-of-two said

 





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