Friday, 18 April 2008. The day my life changed completely.
I heard the words “I’m sorry, you have breast cancer”.
I was 37 years old when I was diagnosed. At the time my life was great, brilliant. If I was to have a dream board or a written description of my ideal life, this was it. It was pretty close to everything I wished for and wanted.
I had a home, family, friends and work I enjoyed. I clearly remember before the diagnosis thinking to myself that I am one lucky girl. Little did I know how lucky I really am.
Then one night I felt a painful lump in my left breast. I had a bit of a feel and it was quite painful. I checked the same spot in the right breast but there was no lump. I decided to wait until my next cycle and see if ‘disappears’. I also did not want to go the GP as I knew that would mean the dreaded mammogram.
Well, I waited to the next cycle, and sure enough, the painful lump remained. I tried to find every excuse possible not to check it out. There is no history of any type of cancer in my family. My thought was breast cancer does not hurt and my lump does, so it just can’t be breast cancer. How wrong was I?
So off I went to my GP.
She examined me and said yes, there is a definite lump and we need to examine it. She gave me a referral for a mammogram and ultrasound. I made the appointment and returned to her with the film and report. She looked at it and said nothing to worry about. The result was that I had a fibroedomena which is typical in women in my age group. Here is where my ‘good luck’ started. My GP said that although the results are nothing to worry about, she is referring me to a breast surgeon for a second opinion – and thank God she did! My GP saved my life and I am eternally grateful for her.
I made the appointment to see the breast surgeon. He looked at the film and report and said the same thing. Nothing to worry about, a typical result for a woman in my age group. He then examined me and found a second lump – one that was not picked up in the mammogram and ultrasound. The surgeon was calm but said he wants further investigation just to be sure and referred me for a biopsy.
So, I made the appointment for the biopsy and off I went to ‘another’ appointment! A few weeks later I returned to the surgeon. I remember that day clearly. I went in to see my surgeon and he told me there was no easy way to say this – that the results show that I had breast cancer. I had two tumours grade 3 and that I would need to have a mastectomy, reconstruction, chemo and tamoxifen. I burst into tears. I honestly did not think for a moment the result would be breast cancer. There is no cancer in my family. I actually said to the surgeon, ‘No, there is no cancer in my family. I am preparing for heart disease as an old woman!’ It was 10am on Friday, 18 April 2008 and it was pouring rain. It was like the gods were crying with me that day.
I walked home in the rain and then called my family.
They descended on me and we cried a lot, laughed and ate. After years of trying to be an equal to my sisters, in that moment I returned to being the baby sister.
And the roller coaster journey started! A week and half later I was in hospital having a mastectomy and immediate reconstruction.
I was then referred to chemo. Again, another appointment. So, my family and I went to meet the oncologist, praying that I will not need to have chemo. I definitely needed chemo and was to start the next week. In my family we have this silly ’thing’ where we give people, incidents, events etc nicknames. So, I decided my breast cancer drama was to have a name. The cancer was known as the bastard, the chemo was known as the AVO and the tamoxifen is known as my insurance policy.
The chemo was harsh.
There were constant blood tests, side effects. The side effects weren’t too bad in the beginning, but unfortunately, they had a cumulative effect and after each treatment, it took longer for me to recover. I also lost my hair, which funny enough did not bother me too much. I was more devastated about losing my eyebrows and eyelashes. Every morning I would wake up and on a ‘good’ day forget for a moment that I was a cancer patient having chemo and then I would see myself in the mirror – bald, no eyebrows, no eyelashes, and bloated. I didn’t recognise myself.
My life has drastically changed.
I am even closer with my family and friends. I have left the corporate world and started another roller coaster ride of starting a new business to help women heal from breast cancer and reclaim their body confidence through the beauty of lingerie.
My dream board still exists but with different goals. Now my goals are living and enjoying my life, health and fitness, family and friends and most importantly, a world without breast cancer.
It has been ten years since I heard the dreaded big C word.
If a fortune teller told me a few years later I would create and launch a new lingerie brand, Red Fern Lingerie….I would definitely have thought they were nuts!! But that is how my personal journey evolved.
To know Red Fern Lingerie, you need to know my love of beautiful lingerie
I love the lace, the delicate fabrics, the way that just putting something nice on changed my day and how I felt. So you can only imagine how I felt when I went for a fitting post-surgery and saw the limited styles available. Basically, my choice was bras that belonged on my great great great grandmother, not a 37 year old woman used to wearing beautiful lingerie.
I was unable to understand why lingerie that has a purpose of being functional could not also be pretty, stylish, modern. It was like mastectomy lingerie was a taboo within the lingerie industry.
From my frustration and wanting to provide a real choice to my sister survivors I started Red Fern Lingerie.
My goal is to create lingerie that is modern, stylish and sexy. My goal is to return the choice to my sister survivors when shopping for lingerie, the choice we enjoyed before cancer took it away. My goal is to allow my sister survivors to feel like the amazing women they are despite what the disease and treatment took away.
I officially launched Red Fern Lingerie in May 2015.
I spent nearly four years planning, research, testing and sampling. As a survivor, I understand the struggle to find lingerie post-surgery and treatment that meets the needs of functionality and comfort and combines this with our desire to feel like the women we are by wearing modern and stylish designs.
In 2016 I was invited to participate in the gifting suite in honour of the 2016 Academy Awards and I was also interviewed by the panel on The Project TV, Channel 10. I also exhibited in New York City at an international lingerie trade-fair and Red Fern Lingerie was the only mastectomy brand exhibiting and was also the first ever brand to be modelled by breast cancer survivors at the event.
On a personal level, creating Red Fern Lingerie has helped me reclaim the confidence in my body, self and soul.
By creating a brand that truly understands my sister survivors it brings me joy to see women feel fantastic again. It was amazing to watch Lisa, my model, on the day of the photoshoot. By the end of the day, she was confident and happy. You can see her confidence and the joy in her eyes in the photographs. It made me emotional to see that the lingerie I created helped her feel that joy again.
I honestly love what I do and how it is helping many women to feel fabulous again.
I have received many emails, letters and telephone calls from women who love wearing Red Fern Lingerie. In essence, the messages are always the same from the women; it is thank you for helping me feel like a woman again. It is thank you for finally giving me a real choice in lingerie.
Tina Doueihi was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008 at 37 years of age. There was no family history of the disease. She was the typical 1 in 8 statistic. Tina had two tumours, 2.4cm and 2.6cm, grade 3 and hormone positive cancer. Her treatment was a mastectomy, immediate reconstruction (lat dorsi with silicone), chemotherapy and tamoxifen for 10 years,
Tina’s personal journey led her to create a new mastectomy lingerie brand, Red Fern Lingerie. She created Red Fern Lingerie because she was unhappy with extreme limited choice available to women post-surgery and treatment and wanted to help women heal and reclaim their body confidence through the beauty of lingerie.
Since its launch, Red Fern Lingerie has brought mastectomy lingerie into the mainstream. They were featured in the 2016 Oscars Gifting Suites and was the only mastectomy lingerie brand at industry trade-fair in NYC. At this event, Red Fern Lingerie was the first mastectomy lingerie brand to walk the runway with breast cancer survivors as models. Red Fern Lingerie has been featured in many blogs and reviews and Tina was also interviewed on The Project TV, channel 10.
Tina is the youngest of 5 daughters, has 13 nieces and nephews. Tina always jokes that her family is a blend of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” meets the TV series “Brothers & Sisters”. Tina’s absolute guilty pleasure is eating chocolate while watching one of the Real Housewives series.