June Higgs will strut down the catwalk tomorrow at a charity fashion show with a difference - all the models taking part have lost one or both of their breasts to cancer. She spoke to Health Reporter Emma Brady
"It's like being able to play with a massive dressing up box, it's a dream come true."
June Higgs is stunned that she's preparing to make her modelling debut at a celebrity-studded fashion show in London.
As the 66-year-old rummages through designer couture donated by Ben de Lisi, Catherine Walker and Betty Jackson, she can barely contain her excitement.
But behind the glitz and glamour the former NHS worker, of Great Barr, Birmingham, is only too aware of why she is taking part in the Breast Cancer Care event.
She is one of 26 models, including two men, who have had a mastectomy after being diagnosed with breast cancer.
Mrs Higgs was diagnosed and treated "within weeks" after she discovered a lump in her right breast in May 2001.
"I'd always had problems with lumps in my left breast, so when I found one in my right breast I thought nothing of it but I got it checked out anyway," she said.
"So when I was told it was the real thing, when I heard the word 'cancer', it was a very big shock.
"When I got home I looked in the mirror and thought 'There's something inside me I can't control and if I leave it there I'm going to die.
"I just wanted it to taken out, to be done and dusted, so I could get on with living my life.
"A week later, after having a biopsy, I was admitted to Sandwell General for a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery."
Surgeons took muscle from her back to cover a silicone implant, to give her new breast a more natural appearance.
"Well I didn't want to look like Jordan," she quipped.
Instead of being beaten by the disease, she became a 'phone buddy' for Breast Cancer Care, to provide support for other women in a similar situation.
She also provides complementary therapies at The Courtyard, the cancer information centre at Sandwell General, and works with charities Macmillan Cancer and Headstrong, which helps patients cope with hair loss.
But three years later in 2004, Mrs Higgs was dealt a cruel second blow when doctors diagnosed advanced cervical cancer.
"The only option was to have a full hysterectomy and my ovaries removed," she said. "That was an awful, bleak day, but again I chose to get on with my life.
"Despite all this I have really tried to maintain my femininity for me, for my husband, because I think that's important, which is why I am so excited about the fashion show.
"I may have lost most of my female anatomy but I wanted to feel like a woman, like me, again."
Mrs Higgs, in backing The Birmingham Post and Cancer Research UK's campaign for a second Cancer Plan, added: "I realise how very lucky I am, that I had excellent treatment, but it's vital cancer services should be the same across the country. It shouldn't depend on where you live.
"Patients have enough on their plates without having to worry about whether or not they'll get the drugs or treatment they need, it's tough.
"If the Government could bring an end to the postcode lottery that seems to go with cancer treatment that would make a big difference to lots of people's lives."