Flat Friends founder Gilly is interviewed on the Eastenders website about her part in the Carol Jackson breast cancer storyline. Gilly speaks about how it came about and her role an adviser on scripts around Carol’s story, as well as playing Lindsey Coulson’s body double for the climax of the episode shown on Thursday 2nd July, 2015.
“I was diagnosed in 2013 with aggressive breast cancer, and had a single mastectomy and chemo. I knew right from the start that I didn’t want reconstruction, as I am very active with horses and dog walking, but I hated being lopsided.
I was lucky that my surgeon agreed to remove my other breast for symmetry – and I have not regretted it for a day. The only support I could find with other ladies who opted for no recon was in The States – and I found that their whole process was very different. So, in August 2014, I started the Flat Friends support group.
I became involved with EastEnders in February, through Macmillan, when I spoke to a researcher about the emotions surrounding living flat, without reconstruction. Then, a month later, I was asked if I would be Carol’s body double and film the scene that goes out tonight (Thursday) where Carol looks at her scars for the first time in the mirror.
They needed someone who had gone through the surgery – and I was honoured to do it. I really hope the storyline can go some way to changing people’s perceptions about women living without breasts.
The day at the studios was amazing; everyone was really kind. Watching the previous scene to mine being filmed was very emotional for me, as Lindsey got the emotions spot-on with how she felt about her new body.
It is how many ladies feel after surgery. I was also able to help her with what emotions she might feel when she looked in the mirror. I said she would feel relief at finally facing her scars and seeing that they were nowhere near as bad as she had imagined!
Flat Friends was initially a closed Facebook group where we could chat, advise on clothing and underwear etc. – and issues that affected us without reconstruction. We now have a website and public Facebook page – and ladies are finding us every day.
Most are finding that it is expected that they will automatically have reconstruction, but many don’t want it and are made to feel that they are not normal for not wanting it. They find refuge with us and are so relieved to find like-minded women.
We are also involved in a huge research project trying to change what women are offered surgically after breast cancer and we want to see a prophylactic mastectomy offered as an equal option to recon.
If, by getting our website, www.flatfriends.org.uk, out there, we can help more ladies, I would be really grateful.”