It was May 2015 and I was sat at home one evening with my husband Tony and our then two-year-old daughter Poppy watching TV. As I leant on the side of the sofa, I felt a lump I hadn’t noticed before. The next day I told my mum and she told me to book an appointment to see my GP.
I went the following day and my GP decided to book me into a breast clinic, I went along two weeks later with my mum and had an ultrasound and a mammogram. Before they even told me my diagnosis, I just had a gut feeling. I was sat having coffee between tests and I said to my mum, ‘I think its cancer’.
As I expected, the results came back confirming that I had breast cancer and it had also been detected in my lymph nodes. I was surprised that I could have Breast Cancer when I was only 34, but I soon learnt that it is more common than you think. As the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes the doctors advised that we start the treatment as soon as possible, which included surgery.
I was in complete shock at the news, but things were about to get even more complicated. The following week we went to Centre Parcs with the family to celebrate my birthday. We wanted to carry on as normal following my diagnosis and try and remain positive, but while I was there I found out I was pregnant.
I just sat and cried. We had been planning for a second baby and what should have been a moment of joy and happiness for us, was overshadowed by my diagnosis. I feared my treatment would affect my pregnancy and potentially hurt my baby. Everything seemed hopeless.
As soon as I was home I sought professional advice and my surgeon and medical team were brilliant. They reassured me all would be okay and I could continue receiving treatment while pregnant. I have a close friend who is an anaesthetist who also helped ease my worries. I remember, she said “I was really hoping you weren’t going to say you were pregnant” but she did confirm that I could have a general anaesthetic whilst pregnant although there was a risk of miscarriage.
On the 29th May my surgery went ahead. I had a mastectomy and axillary node clearance. I had to wait for further treatment until I was fully recovered from surgery, but I wasn’t going to let it stop me from taking part in Race for Life.
I had already signed up to run that summer with my local Bootcamp training group and with my recent diagnosis and surgery, it seemed even more important. At the time no one knew that I was pregnant. I completed the event less than two weeks post-surgery and seven weeks pregnant. I was not in my best physical shape but I was determined to get my running shoes on and help beat cancer. I walked the course with friends from my Bootcamp and we crossed the finish line hand in hand – those ladies would become such great support in the seven months that followed. It was a great day, seeing so many women coming together and reading their emotional back signs really brought it all home to why we were there.
To say that time was a whirlwind would be an understatement. Within two weeks I had been diagnosed with breast cancer, found out I was expecting a baby and then not long after my surgery did a Race for Life event.
However, this wasn’t the end of my cancer story. When I reached the second trimester of my pregnancy I began six cycles of chemotherapy. I tolerated the treatment well and was fortunate enough not to have much sickness, I continued to work full-time and just took a couple of days off with each cycle of chemo. I did lose my hair and was limited to what I could be given to treat some of the side effects.
As I was pregnant they wanted to keep a closer eye on me during chemo so I was transferred from my local hospital to a local cancer centre. I remember getting a few sympathetic looks as I sat there with my head scarf on and a pregnant belly. During that time, it often played on my mind about how bad my cancer could be and whether I was going to be around for my new baby. But in November 2015 I completed chemotherapy and delivered our beautiful healthy baby girl Millie on New Year’s Eve that year via planned caesarean.
Three years on I am cancer free and have just had reconstructive surgery.
Having cancer completely changed my outlook on life and I realise how lucky I am to have children and not have had that choice taken away by treatment. I also fully understand more than ever how important Race for Life is, as the money raised helps fund Cancer Research UK’s work to help people like me beat cancer. I believe it’s thanks to research that I am here today.
Louise is supporting Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life in partnership with Tesco. Sign up at raceforlife.org and make a difference in beating cancer.