Our Trustees, Patrons & Ambassadors

Our Trustees

Sarah Coombes
Chair, and Founder Trustee

I was diagnosed with Grade 3 invasive breast cancer in my right breast in December 2014 at the age of 35. I knew instantly that I wanted a bilateral mastectomy without reconstruction for both peace of mind and symmetry. Whilst my surgeon was supportive, a remark from a breast care nurse – that I should reconsider my decision to live flat because I would struggle to find nice clothes – inspired me to set up the website Flatter Fashion in January 2015, where I shares ideas on which styles suit post-surgery body shapes. I’ve been a member of Flat Friends since April 2015.

Since finishing active treatment I left my job in corporate project support to retrain as a social worker. I live in Norfolk, and when not trying on clothes I enjoy walking my two dogs.

Clare Jacobs

I was 44 when I was diagnosed in 2013 with Grade 3 ER+ IDC with lymph node involvement in my left breast. My treatment plan started with 6 rounds FECT chemo, left mastectomy with full axilla clearance and finished off with 3 weeks of radiotherapy and I’m currently on tamoxifen.

I didn’t want to put my body through the process of reconstruction, so after giving my body time to recover from all the active treatment I had a right prophylactic mastectomy in 2015 for symmetry.

I have been a member of Flat Friends from the start, and I try to help others who face a breast cancer diagnosis with my own experience, so that they can make an informed decision with regards to the path they wish to take.

Odile Wittemans
I was 49 when I was diagnosed with stage 3 HER2+ cancer in my right breast, with several lymph nodes involved. I started chemotherapy in December 2019, followed by mastectomy, targeted therapy and radiotherapy. Originally I was going to have reconstruction as part of my mastectomy, I was never told there was an option not to go down that route. Because of COVID, reconstruction could not happen and with hindsight I am glad because being flat on one side and my scars are part of who I am now. I believe we all should be told ahead of surgery what the options are and be supported to make the right decision, and I hope that being one of the Flat Friends trustees I will be able to contribute to that.
Sam Brunsden
Sam Brunsden

The opportunity to join the trustees at Flat Friends arose in 2021; five years after my diagnosis with grade 3, multifocal, invasive breast cancer.

I was fortunate to achieve flat symmetry at first surgery and following adjuvant therapies was happy to be able to return quickly to a very full and active life with my three boys.

This choice is not widely available and very rarely discussed at diagnosis. It is usually a patient-initiated conversation and can be met with a measure of incredulity. Flat Friends are partnering research and campaigning for all choices to be fully presented to every breast cancer patient and I am very pleased to be able to continue the momentum and help push the charity’s agenda forward.

Whilst I am a physiotherapist by profession, I have spent the past decade managing a gynaecological oncology practice; negotiating patient pathways and liaising with hospitals and funding bodies.

Our Patrons

Professor Dame Lesley Fallowfield
DBE, BSc, D.Phil, F.Med.Sci

I am Director of Sussex Health Outcomes Research & Education in Cancer (SHORE-C), a research group dedicated to exploring the implications of a cancer diagnosis and the benefits and harms of different treatments.

I have worked in breast cancer research for more than 30 years and was author of one of the first studies showing that breast conserving surgery did not prevent the anxiety, depression and sexual difficulties associated with mastectomy.

I am never afraid to challenge orthodoxy through good research and am delighted to be a Patron of Flat Friends.

Lindsey Coulson

I have been an actress for over 30 years and in that time I have been lucky to have played a wide variety of characters both on stage, television and film.

More recently I played DCI Newman in a new series called ‘The Level’ for ITV, although I’m probably best known for my role as ‘Carol Jackson’ in the BBCs ‘Eastenders’. It’s here that I met Gilly Cant when she advised on the storyline for my character’s double mastectomy, and she helped me understand how important it is for women who decide against reconstruction to be properly supported.

Along with other charities that I support, I am honoured to be a Patron of Flat Friends UK.

Ash Subramanian
BSc (Hons) MBBS (Hons) FRCS (Gen Surg)

I am a consultant oncoplastic breast surgeon based on the south coast of England.

Although I offer reconstruction to my patients, I consider myself a cancer surgeon first and foremost and I’m a strong advocate for patient involvement in decision making. I believe patients should be offered all choices available to them, including prophylactic mastectomy as an equal option to achieving symmetry. Supporting patients through their choices is of paramount importance – living ‘flat’ should not be seen as a stigma.

My research interests focus on the reasons for and barriers to prophylactic mastectomy. Gilly Cant was my patient and through her initial research concept and SHORE-C I have engaged with surgeons and nurses to help investigate this important question.

I am delighted to be involved as a Patron of Flat Friends and spreading their message both nationally and internationally.

Our Ambassadors

Gilly Cant
Gilly Cant
Founder of Flat Friends and Ambassador
On 24th August 2014, Gilly set up a Facebook group for women living without breast reconstruction after mastectomy. Two years later Gilly was the founding Chair of Trustees when Flat Friends became a registered charity. In 2015, Gilly became body double for Lindsey Coulson on Eastenders, when the character Carol Jackson undergoes a mastectomy for breast cancer. Later that same year Gilly gathered a group of Flat Friends to take part in a topless photoshoot for The Sun to raise awareness of life post-mastectomy. In 2016, Gilly gave a talk at the Association of Breast Surgery conference about surgical options, and attitudes to flat closure as a valid alternative to breast reconstruction. In 2017, Gilly organised the first Annual Meet-Up
Our private Facebook group now supports around 3,000 women at any one time, regional face-to-face groups meet up across the UK and British Isles, our patient information booklet is handed out to women facing mastectomy in hundreds of breast care units and hospitals, and we are involved in the development of guidelines as an alternative to reconstruction to achieve symmetry.
After 7 years as a trustee of Flat Friends, Gilly Cant has stepped down from this role with the charity. Flat Friends’ board of trustees thank Gilly for her determination and all that she has achieved over the past 9 years. Whilst Gilly leaves her role as a trustee, she will be taking on a new role for the charity in the future doing what she does best: representing women who are living flat, promoting our charitable aims, and inspiring others.

“After my own diagnosis in 2013 and my decision to live flat, finding other women who had chosen the same prompted me to start a group for women to chat. Then finding that many members were denied contralateral symmetrising mastectomy so they could live flat, drove us to formalise Flat Friends UK as a registered charity, so we could work to change surgical options for women, so they would be given a choice for flat symmetry, alongside reconstruction options. Charity status came in 2016 and since then Flat Friends UK has gone from strength to strength and I have been proud to be a part of a strong team of Trustees over the years, who are passionate and pro-active in making changes and supporting women, some of whom we have sadly lost in that time. Heading into our 10th Anniversary, I have felt it is time for me to hand over the reins and step down as a Trustee of the charity, but will remain at its’ very heart in my new role as an Ambassador, which I am extremely proud to do. I will work to raise awareness and organise fund raisers and use my passion and knowledge for a healthy lifestyle after treatment, to continue to support our members.”

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