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When Lynsey found a lump on her breast in January 2021, she thought it was just a cyst. Thankfully, she still went to the GP – but her treatment wasn’t as straightforward as she’d hoped.
I found the lump at the start of January 2021. Immediately, I thought it was weird, but I know people can get lumps and bumps around their periods, so I thought it could be that.
The first thing I did was Google it (obviously, because everyone Googles everything), and the NHS site said that if it felt smooth and was moveable, it was probably a cyst. Well, mine felt like a small ping pong ball and I could move it about, so I thought, ‘Sweet, it’s probably nothing.’
A few days later, however, I noticed it was still there. When I mentioned this to my boyfriend, he pointed out that, if it were a friend of mine who had this lump, I would be encouraging them to go to the doctor – and he was totally right.
Because it was lockdown at the time, I was only able to get a telephone call, which was quite useless as – other than the lump - I was physically fine. After the initial call, though, I was able to get a proper appointment quite quickly (which surprised me, as normally it takes about 7,000 years).
The GP was really nice and reassured me it was nothing to worry about, especially as I was only 24 and had no family history of breast cancer. Better to be safe than sorry, though, she referred me to the breast clinic and told me to let her know if the lump happened to go in the meantime.
I was fortunate enough to get an appointment in a couple of weeks, at which point I was pretty sure it was a cyst and I was just being dramatic. When I got to the ultrasound, though, the radiographer said that what she found wasn’t what she’d expected to see.
Even when I had a biopsy, I didn’t think it was cancer.
When I went to get my results, I actually went to the wrong hospital. I thought it would be the same one I had all my tests at, and when they told me I’d made a mistake I began running for the bus. As I was legging it over, I got a call from the hospital. They told me to stop running and go back to the first hospital, as I needed more tests.
I think this was the moment I realised the lump was more than a dodgy cyst.
Thankfully my boyfriend was with me when I got the news - I know so many people had to find out alone during COVID. They didn’t know what stage it was, so I still needed a CT and MRI scan. The results from that confirmed it hadn’t spread to my lymph nodes, which was great news, and that it was HER2+ and ER+.
When it actually came to treatment, it was a bit complicated.
The first step was to have a lumpectomy, after which they would assess the next steps. I was told I didn’t need chemotherapy, which was brilliant news, and would only need a course of radiotherapy. When that was done, I transferred hospitals from Huddersfield, where my family live, to London, where I live – just so I didn’t have to keep travelling back and forth for scans and things.
When I went to my first London appointment in August, I wasn’t stressed at all. Once I went in, however, they made me wait for ages – which I thought was a bit rude more than anything else.
It turned out I did need chemotherapy, and I should never have been told otherwise.
Without it, there would be an 85% chance the cancer wouldn’t return, but having it would boost that to 95%. The oncologist then explained that, if the cancer did come back, it would be more likely to become secondary.
By that point, I’d already been on Tamoxifen for four months. That was a problem because – due to the way chemotherapy affects you – I needed to freeze some of my eggs so that I could have a chance of having kids in future.
I suddenly had to stop the Tamoxifen and instead start having these injections two or three times a day to encourage egg production. They make you feel absolutely horrendous because you’re so pumped full of hormones; my emotions were all over the place.
Because of the treatment I’d already had, a lot of the eggs weren’t viable – but I have enough, so it’s fine.
Finally, I got round to having chemotherapy. I’d go in for a blood test on Mondays then the actual chemotherapy on Tuesday. It would have only taken an hour, but I chose to cold cap in order to prevent hair loss (which worked really well), so it took about three hours in total.
I did absolutely fine with it until about the fifth week, at which point I got horrible infections. As soon as I would get out of hospital for one thing, I’d get hit with chemotherapy again. There was no chance to bounce back.
Now that I’ve finally finished it, I feel so much better! There are still side effects to deal with, however, and the doctors can’t really tell you how long it’s going to take for them to stop.
I’m now going back on Tamoxifen and I have regular Herceptin jabs which I administer myself, but I’ve got through it, and I’m now at the point where I can step back and say I’m fine.
I’m grateful to have got through it, and I hope that sharing my story will show others – especially younger people – that they can get through it, too. When I talk about breast cancer on Instagram, I like to have a bit of a laugh. I think it’s important to do that: to show people that it’s not all doom and gloom!
Being a younger woman with breast cancer can be daunting, but you don't have to go through it alone. If you’re under 45 and have had a primary breast cancer diagnosis within the last three years, our Younger Women Together service is there for you.