Not your typical breast cancer survivor, Gold Coast local Carla, is all about sharing the struggle women go through in accepting their post-cancer body. One of the biggest things that annoyed her was those who said breast cancer is a good chance to get a boob job!
Two weeks after being diagnosed with breast cancer Carla was in hospital undergoing a preventative double mastectomy. Like many Australian women, she then endured two years of life with prosthetic breasts as well as four surgeries to get them looking normal again. Later she found out it she had the BRCA1 gene (the same one as Angelina Jolie) and had a preventative full hysterectomy.
Through her videos and photos of her journey through breast cancer to now, Carla is helping women come to terms with accepting their body after it's been through aggressive cancer treatment – an issue which many suffer from long after they are in remission.
Carla doesn't hold back (baring her boobs and publicly sharing her recent lip fill and botox) and her Facebook page Cancer Unplugged, has become a forum for women going through breast cancer – with a lot of personal pictures as well as advice for patients and families to help them cope.
Question: Can you tell us how you've learnt to accept your post-cancer body?
Carla Mills: I am still struggling to accept the way I look, I constantly put myself down and ask myself, "who would ever think I'm attractive now when I can't even look at myself?" I don't think I will ever accept it… everything that made me look like a woman was taken away, my breasts, uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes. My hair fell out, I lost my eyelashes, eyebrows, put on weight from the chemo steroids and I thought I looked like a freakish boy - that image is hard to unseen and erase from my memory!
Question: What types of things did you struggle with most with your post-cancer body?
Carla Mills: Looking at myself the mirror, showering, intimacy, wearing sexy clothes and shopping for clothes.
Question: Are you able to talk us through why it annoys you that people said "breast cancer is a good chance to get a boob job" to you?
Carla Mills: A boob job is completely different to a reconstruction, you cannot compare the two; it's a whole different ball game and extremely difficult to create something out of nothing. There is also all the mental side of it, the fear, the frustration, the failure and the disappointment. A boob job is a choice - a double mastectomy is not; there is no feeling or sensation either.
Question: What inspired the creation of Cancer Unplugged?
Carla Mills: I wanted to be able to talk about what it is really like to have breast cancer and to have the conversations openly about things I never discussed. I kept so much to myself, I put on a brave face, smiled and told people I was okay, when in fact I was crumbling on the inside and crying myself to sleep every night. I want other women to know they aren't alone in how they feel and I want to give them a public place to have their say on what it's really like too. Also the people who supported me found it difficult in what to do and say and how to act around me, so this is an opportunity to educate them too.
Question: What is Cancer Unplugged?
Carla Mills: It was created with the intention of replicating an interactive online TV show with weekly live episodes covering different topics to do with breast cancer, however at times I found this emotionally difficult, so I am now using it as a platform to share experiences, content and to do LIVES when something comes up that I really want to talk about. Maybe I will resurrect the weekly segments - you never know!
Question: How did you overcome the anxiety associated with sharing such raw and personal photos, online?
Carla Mills: I have felt no anxiety at all towards sharing personal photos. It needs to be done, these images are real, and they haven't been fluffed up to be socially acceptable. The only way the message is going to get across is by sharing content like this.
Question: What do you hope to achieve through Cancer Unplugged?
Carla Mills: Awareness, education, support, healing for myself and others.
Question: Can you tell us about your current fundraising for not for profit Gold Coast Hospital Foundation in its Care For Cancer Appeal?
Carla Mills: I'm a big advocate for GCUHF, especially the patient transport service which is why I'm happy to share my story; without this service, so many cancer patients would not be able to get to their appointments or treatments. I had to pick up my life on the Gold Coast and move to my mother's in rural Victoria so that I had the support of family and friends to drive me three hours each way to my chemo treatments; if I'd known about the GCUHF transport service, I could've stayed in my own home.
The Care for Cancer charity luncheon at Palazzo Versace is on March 22nd and I encourage people to attend or donate to the Foundation at https://gchfoundation.org.au/donate/
Question: What advice do you have for women recently diagnosed with cancer?
Carla Mills: Reach out to and lean on your family and friends; don't go through it alone - talk to them. Also, find something you can do that gives you an outlet to release all the fears and anxiety. For example my medicine is exercise, I set myself goals and physical challenges and then I chase them, it gives me a sense of purpose and achievement when I complete them!
Interview by Brooke Hunter