Just by chance, Stacey came across a lump in her armpit. After months of putting it off, she had it checked out and got the news she had primary breast cancer.
Can you tell us about your diagnosis?
In November 2019, age 35, I was lying in bed one night when I had an itch in my left armpit. It felt different somehow and I eventually felt a lump. I spoke to my husband and he thought it could be hormonal, or a lymph swelling after a bad flu I'd had.
I left it for a few months and it didn’t seem to grow, but it didn’t go away. I eventually saw the GP in February after people pushed me to go. The GP thought it was fatty tissue, but he referred me to the hospital just in case. Around a week later, I had 2 ultrasounds, 3 mammograms and 2 biopsies, all in one day.
I’ll never forget 20 February, the day I got my results. I had grade 3 invasive ductal carcinoma, ER-positive, HER2-positive breast cancer. It was just behind my left nipple and it had spread into my lymph nodes. My world came crashing down. I was numb and I cried a lot.
What happened next?
In March 2020, I went to speak about my treatment options. I chose to have chemo before surgery to shrink the tumour. That way, I wouldn't need a mastectomy.
Starting in April, I had 6 rounds of chemo. My side effects were mainly tiredness and hair loss, including my eyebrows and eyelashes. It was hard having to go in alone during the pandemic.
The hardest part was telling our children - we didn’t tell them until we had all the answers. But a nurse gave me a book about it which my youngest son read, and that was really helpful.
By September, the chemo had completely killed my cancer. The team removed some tissue and lymph nodes but didn't find cancer in anything. I started my 20 radiotherapy sessions in November and finished my treatment on 15 December. We had the best Christmas we could manage in 2020, and it was definitely time to celebrate.
Where are you now?
3 years on and my hair is growing back. And I’m now on Tamoxifen tablets which I’ll be taking for 10 years.
I feel good at the moment and I'm living life to the full. I’m so grateful to the NHS, the chemo team and the radiotherapy team.
What advice would you give to other young women?
Before my diagnosis, I thought I was too young to get breast cancer, so I didn’t check my breasts. I was just lucky I felt the lump when I did. But now I check regularly and I look out for symptoms. It’s something all women should do.
And you need to know your ‘normal.’ By checking regularly, you can get to know your body. And if anything looks or feels different, you need to get it checked. It might be nothing, but it’s not worth risking it - getting a diagnosis sooner rather than later is the key.