Supermodel Naomi Campbell inherited her good looks and exquisite physique from none other than her mother — Valerie Campbell — who is no stranger to the catwalk or cancer.
Valerie, diagnosed with breast cancer at age 53, strutted her confidence into the surgery room when she underwent a mastectomy recommended by doctors. The still-active supermodel was referred to Mayday Hospital in Surrey, U.K., after she stumbled upon a lump on her breast while bathing. Doctors conducted a biopsy and revealed that she had advanced invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) — cancer affecting the cells lining the milk ducts.
“My younger sister, Yvonne, who came with me to get the diagnosis, was bawling her eyes out, but it felt like the doctor was talking to someone else. All I heard was ‘cancer’ and ‘advanced’” Valerie told the Daily Mail.
IDC is the most common invasive breast cancer, and occurs in 65 to 85 percent of all cases. IDC begins in the breast’s milk ducts and invades the surrounding breast tissue, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. If the cancer is not treated in the early stages, it can move into other parts of the body through a person’s bloodstream or lymphatic system, like in Valerie’s case.
Immediately following her mastectomy, Naomi suggested her mom to get breast reconstruction surgery. Even eight years after Valerie’s diagnosis, the supermodel will still call her and say “Mum, why don’t you have a reconstruction?”
Contrary to popular belief, Valerie did not skip out on reconstructive surgery because she had concerns about the procedure herself — she just felt it was unnecessary.
“I can live without my breast. It hasn’t changed my character or affected my body image. I still wear low-cut tops and swimming costumes - I use prosthetics. If I’m not bothered about what my chest looks like, why should a man? If someone comes along who’s right for me, he won’t care,” said Valerie.
According to the American Cancer Society, breast reconstruction is a surgical procedure for women who have had all or part of a breast removed. The surgery is intended to rebuild the breast mound so that it is roughly the same size and shape as it was pre-surgery. Patients can even have the nipple and the areola added to their new breasts.
Valerie isn’t the only breast cancer survivor who has undergone a mastectomy but not breast reconstruction. Less than one-quarter of women who have a mastectomy undergo immediate breast reconstruction, according to the 2011 CTRC-AACR San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium. Women are less likely to undergo immediate reconstruction if they are older, black, treated at a rural or non-teaching hospital, or had multiple other health problems.
Currently, the supermodel’s mom has a clean bill of health after doing her regular check-up five years after her surgery.
“I’ve found myself again and I want other women going through it to know that’s possible - with or without your breasts,” said Valerie.
In the U.S., women between the ages of 50 and 74 should get a mammogram every two years, according to Womenshealth.gov. Women who are younger than 50 are advised to talk to their doctors about when to start mammogram screening and how often it should be done.