Tania Jacobs was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014 and again in 2016. Pictures: Supplied
“I am not my hair nor my breasts,” are the words that carried Tania Jacobs through her breast cancer diagnosis when she lost her hair.

As October is breast cancer awareness month, Jacobs, 33, told her story of being diagnosed with breast cancer twice.

She was 29 when first diagnosed. After treatment she remained in remission until she found another lump in her breast in June last year.

She said she had had a normal childhood and was not prone to any serious illnesses. However, her paternal grandmother had been diagnosed with breast cancer in her seventies.

It started in June 2014. “I discovered a lump in my right breast, which was quite painful.”

Tania Jacobs after her hair fell out due to chemotherapy.

However, she decided to have it checked only after some convincing from family and friends.

“I eventually had a biopsy done at Groote Schuur Hospital. I then received a call to come in for a mammogram and ultrasound. The results came back from the biopsy and it was breast cancer.”

When the doctor gave her the results, “I was surprisingly very calm; shocked but calm”.

“Luckily I had my mother with me when I received the results. I immediately went into ‘what do we need to do?’ mode. I know it would be a normal thing to freak out, but I did not.”

The treatment plan, she said, had been to shrink the lump with chemotherapy.

“I had seven rounds of chemotherapy, spaced out every three weeks. After I was done with chemo, I had a bilateral mastectomy (removal od both breasts) in December 2014. I opted for bilateral to decrease the chances of breast cancer occurring in my left breast. I then underwent radiation and breast reconstruction after radiation.”

Although the treatment helped her, she started losing her hair two weeks after starting chemo. “This was the most emotional stage for me. But she also realised that she was “rocking the bald look”.

Finding a second cancerous lump was emotional. “I felt I had just got my life back. My hair was grown and I felt like a woman again. But this time my hair did not fall out and I wasn’t nauseous. This was a relief.”

She underwent another operation to remove the lump. In August of the same year she married her best friend, Barry Jacobs.

“Right now I am in remission. There are days I don’t feel comfortable in my own skin, but it passes. I survived breast cancer twice, I will not allow it to get me down.”

Her body has changed and she has had to find ways to make it work for her.

“The battle I currently face on a daily basis is what to wear. At the moment I am flat chested on my right side so I generally wear bigger T-shirts and jackets. I am getting bras designed to fit a prosthesis.”

Living with the fear that the cancer will return is something she won’t allow herself to do.

“That is not living. You have one life and you need to make the most of it.”