Ex-model, Faye gives BC hope


Faye Hillmeyer with Frank Sebastyan at the Golden Years of Modelling reunion.

My journey down the path of breast cancer began with the discover of a cyst in my left breast in 2001.
This lump bothered me because I had been on hormone replacement theraphy for 11 years plus a stressful divorce so  I requested a repeat mammogram from my doctor even though I was
not due to have one for another year.  The mammogram was all clear and I quote “No distinct changes, no direct or
indirect sign of malignancy”   However the person who performed the mammogram noted I had very heavy tissue on both sides (I believe caused by the HRT) which could easily hide a lesion and suggested a ultra sound, followed by a needle biopsy. It detected cancer in my
right breast.   I firstly underwent a lumpectomy which is the removal of the
cancer plus surrounding tissue and was told I would have six weeks’ radio therapy. I was still in hospital when my surgeon came into the room and said there was “bad news” as suspicious tissue had been detected and he would need to do a mastectomy of my right breast.   When  I asked him about the left breast he replied that I could go for years without a problem, however he pointed out there was similar looking tissue on that side.  My immediate reaction was to remove the other breast because I never wanted to face this crisisall over again.  I wept in my room and after the surgeon left a nurse came in and when I told her why I was crying, she sat on the bed and told me her story of breast cancer at the age of 43,  five years earlier. It was a much more horrific story than mine.   We had a connection, discovered that we shared other similarities such as a keen sense of humour and we remain good friends.  I believe it is important to have someone with you at the doctors appointments as about a quarter of what he said registered because I was floating along in a daze thinking this happens to other women not to me.    You tend to dwell on thinking what caused you to develop this disease.  I wonder why it is happening to so many younger women.  Some women suffer the indignity of a partner or husband who rejects them physically because of the change in or loss of their breast and this must add enormously to the trauma.  Other women are fortunate enough to have the love and support of a special man who looks beyond the physical and sees beauty in their heart and soul.
There are also women who walk down this path alone.    For me personally having been a model it was devastating to lose my breasts which were the core of my
femininity.  I went through a stage of looking in the mirror, one minute thinking the implant reconstructed breasts were o.k. but the next minute thinking the reverse. In the midst of my anguish I sought counselling which helped put things into perspective.  I met women whose breast cancers were worse than mine.   Today, rather than look at my breasts in the mirror, I tell myself “you are a survivor of  breast cancer” and to hell with the physical changes.   Those few close women friends who were always there for me through the tears and bad days were vital and my way of coping was to talk about it because I discovered the more I talked it empowered me. Listening is also important, because I learned so much about other women’s experiences.
However some women cope by not being open about it and only wishing
their family and close friends to know.   Breast cancer has changed me
in that my tolerance level is much less now and I give you a quote from the film star Joan Collins who is a woman I have admired for her qualities of tenacity and determination and I had the pleasure of meeting her during the 20 years I lived in London with my ex husband the late Charles Billmyer Jr.  “There are
drains and there are heaters.  Some people drain you and some warm you.  If people become too much of a drain, I say “that’s it.  Time to say goodbye. I am not really ruthless but  I do cut people out. I have
recently got rid of quite a few.”     Other changes have been that I am attempting to
become somewhat selfish because we women are known to be the nurturers who care firstly for other people and our needs are often ignored.  I now attend yoga and belly dancing classes and have a massage once a month.  I also believe it helps you mentally if you have a passion in life which
fills you with pleasure and for me it’s cats both domestic and the larger variety
such as tigers.  I found maintaining a sense of humour is essential.  Breast cancer is not necessarily a death sentence today. 
There are many more survivors like me.        Faye Billmyer

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1 Comment to “Ex-model, Faye gives BC hope”

  1. By Marie Jonsson-Harrison, 11/11/2010 @ 7:18 pm

    Thank you for sharing such a personal journey, I am sure it will bring comfort to many women who are facing a similar situation. Love Marie xx

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