Miranda was training for a race when she first started experiencing symptoms of secondary breast cancer. After months of thinking she just had a cough, tests confirmed her biggest worry. 

Miranda, a Black woman with short, curly hair and glasses, poses while wearing a hospital gown and face mask

My GP didn’t link my cough to breast cancer 

In September 2018, I completed the Great North Run for Breast Cancer Now and I wasn't pleased with my time, so I knew I wanted to do it again. I began training quite intensely, going to extra gym classes, changing my diet.  

I managed to get my fitness up really quickly, and was soon at the fittest I’d ever been. 

Then, in around October or November, I developed a cough. I thought it was just the time of the year, or maybe I’d been pushing myself a bit too much. I was also feeling quite tired, but I had been going to the gym four or five times a week, so I put it down to that. 

When I went back to work in January, my colleagues pointed out that I still had the same cough from a few months earlier. They suggested I should go to the GP, which I did. He gave me some amoxicillin for a chest infection and told me to come back in a week if I didn’t feel any better. 

We didn’t discuss that I’d previously had breast cancer, and – looking back – I probably should have highlighted it, or he should have looked at my notes in a bit more detail. 

I was so worried my heart would stop 

By the end of the week, I was having heart pains and being sick so much I couldn’t even keep water down. I couldn’t physically make it to the GP, but my friends encouraged me to call 111. When I did, they told me to take some aspirin and that they would be sending an ambulance. 

When I got to hospital, an X ray found a massive build-up of fluid in my lungs and around my heart. I was there for a couple of nights and was practically bedridden as I was hooked up to all these drains that were in place to get rid of the excess fluid. 

Going through that was really scary. At one point, when they had to take the drain out of my heart, I worried I would die. I kept thinking, ‘What if my heart stops?’ 

When they went through my history and saw I’d had breast cancer, they realised they would have to run some tests to see if it had come back. However, they didn’t have the facilities to do it there, so they had to send some samples to another hospital. 

I worried it was my fault the cancer had returned 

When the results confirmed that the cancer had come back, it was my worst nightmare.  

I still had to have more tests after that to see whether it had spread, so I was given a CT scan. Just a day later, they told me that the cancer was in the lining of my lungs and also my liver.  

My mum was already with me anyway, and so she got the news that I had secondary breast cancer at the same time I did.

I was worried she would blame me, as I had come off my tamoxifen not long beforehand in the hopes that I would be able to get pregnant. However, my consultant told us that the tumours in my liver looked like they had been there for a while anyway. That was actually a relief, in some way. I knew it wasn’t my fault. 

I’ve learnt to roll with the punches 

It’s been just over three years now since my diagnosis. I’m still fighting, still having chemotherapy. I also have MRI scans as I later developed brain tumours – something I wasn’t even that surprised about when I got the news. 

Just before the first lockdown in March 2020, I started getting loads of headaches. Because my cancer was HER2+ and ER+, there was a high chance of me developing brain tumours, so it wasn’t a shock when they told me. 

Since I’ve had my secondary diagnosis, I’ve just had to roll with the punches. I had radiotherapy on my head, and when the headaches returned I was put on steroids. It’s taken a while to get to a suitable dose, but, other than that, I’m managing everything fine. 

Now I make sure to take care of myself properly 

After I received my primary diagnosis, it had almost seemed like a second chance at life. I became so much more independent – I went to gigs and galleries on my own, travelled to New Zealand, just made the most out of life. 

When I got my secondary diagnosis, I was rushing a bit to get back to work. I wanted to get back to normal, to make sure that the cancer wasn’t going to affect me. But my body was telling me to slow down and relax, so that’s what I started doing – and I’m loving it. 

I listen to my instincts and trust myself a bit more than I used to. I put myself first more often. So many of my friends have been absolute angels, too. They’ll just turn up with food or send you a nice message. You learn quickly who’s there for you and who isn’t. 

Cancer doesn’t discriminate 

I’ve always been quite a positive person, and I’m always keen to see the good in things. That’s why I like doing things for Breast Cancer Now: it’s a way of turning my negative into a positive. 

And representation matters as well. I was diagnosed with primary at 32 and secondary at 37, which surprises people. But cancer doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter if you’re Black, or LGBT, or non-binary, or disabled. If you’re going to get it, you’re going to get it. 

I have no choice but to deal with it now. I take my pills, I have my treatment, and I get on with it as best I can. But I’m not just a cancer statistic. I’m still a person, and I want to continue doing what I can to make a difference for other people like me. 

 

If you want to help women like Miranda, pledge to raise £1k and change the future of incurable secondary breast cancer, and take on the £1k Challenge. We need more research. More campaigning. And we need to make sure no one faces it alone.  

Learn more about the £1k Challenge