When it comes to breasts, sexy lingerie sale June Kenton is something of an expert. She should be – she has spent the last four decades fitting bras for thousands of women. Kenton, 72, set up Rigby & Peller, in 1970 and since then it has become corsetières to the Queen, and the go-to brand for women of all ages in search of a brassiere.
And because of her business, Kenton has always been keen to promote breast cancer awareness, at one point hanging “Be Breast Aware” swing tags on a million of her products. It’s an entreaty that she follows religiously, with yearly medical checks that began when she discovered a lump in one of breasts, then the other, in 1972.
“They were totally benign, but from that moment on, I decided that I was going to sort myself out and see someone every year,” she says. And it’s thanks to this hands-on approach to her health that Kenton is now in recovery from the grade three cancer that her doctor discovered last November.
“I’ve been with my breast surgeon Murid Chaudary for 16 years and for all that time he’d shaken my hand and said, ‘Goodbye, see you next year’, at the end of my annual appointment,” says Kenton. “Last November, he didn’t. Instead, he told me there was a hardness in my breast, which I hadn’t felt myself.”
Chaudary suggested that Kenton have a mammography, which came back clear. Still not satisfied, the surgeon recommended an ultrasound. This showed some tiny grains, which looked like sugar, in the breast. When these were removed, he told Kenton that these chalky deposits can be an earlier indicator of cancer. Further tests revealed that the cells were cancerous. “I would never have known, because there wasn’t a lump,” says Kenton. Because the cells had spread throughout the tissue, Kenton would have to have a mastectomy.
“That was the biggest shock,” she says. “I’ve seen so many mastectomy patients – I call them customers – that I felt that I had to see if I could have a reconstruction straight away.”
First, Kenton had to find out whether the cancer had spread, so she went to hospital to have her lymph nodes sampled. The sample showed that the cancer was contained, so Kenton could have a reconstruction at the same time as a mastectomy. But she was adamant that she didn’t want a silicone implant if she could possibly avoid one: “The implants can move, and often the two sides don’t match up.”