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The sound of wedding bells had barely stopped ringing in newlywed Charlotte’s ears when she received the shocking news of her breast cancer diagnosis.
© Roger Brown Photography
I’m 35, fit and healthy. I don't drink or smoke, and enjoy a vegan diet.
Under three months ago, I married the love of my life, and we were about to start our family. Things were going perfectly.
We returned from our honeymoon the following week, and these dreams were shattered as I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
It was a stage one, grade two invasive ductal carcinoma (oestrogen and progesterone receptor positive but HER2 negative), which is why it thankfully can be treated with radiotherapy and long-term hormone treatment.
I'd noticed a lump only six weeks before the wedding, then the ultrasound revealed an abnormality and it was biopsied the same week of my big day. I tried not to worry about it during my wedding and just enjoyed the day, but during my honeymoon my husband and I started to grow concerned.
There’s no history to suggest I might be a breast cancer gene carrier, so being diagnosed so young has come as a major shock.
I not only need to fight cancer, but I’m in a race against time to create embryos to freeze before I start post-surgery hormone treatment!
Everything has happened very fast. I started my first round of IVF on the same day as my MRI scan.
I've had daily scans, tests and two rounds of IVF with limited results. We got four stage-one embryos that have been frozen, but you really need five to six to have a good chance of just one developing to be a viable stage-five in the future.
The NHS only funded the first round. For the second round, we were able to get some of the cost covered by our insurance and, thankfully, the head of the department was able to reduce the fee due to my unusual circumstances.
On 23 September they removed the tumour, and I’ve just found out that the surrounding tissue and lymph nodes that were connected, were negative. This is a huge relief and the best news I could have hoped for.
Since surgery, I’ve had to create a GoFundMe page so that family and friends can help raise the money for a third round of IVF, and I’ve just sold my car to make up the shortfall.
I need to do this before I begin the radiotherapy and hormone treatment, which will last five to 10 years.
Despite my brother also suffering from cancer at a young age, I was tested for the full board of known breast cancer-causing genes (BRCA1, BRCA2, PALB2, CHEK2 and ATM) but no alterations were detected.
I’ve volunteered to have more blood analysed, to check all known high-risk genes associated with cancer, just to be sure.
Although the timing of finding my tumour was bad, if I had not found it as early as I did, my story could have ended very differently. I’m extremely grateful to everyone involved who acted so quickly.
What I want to stress to other young people is they must check themselves regularly. Don’t assume that, just because you’re young, healthy and have no family history of cancer, that it couldn’t happen to you. An early diagnosis could save lives.
To try to turn my bad situation into a positive one, my brother and I started an audio podcast and YouTube channel called the Cancer Twins, documenting my progress from diagnosis until now. He’s a teenage cancer survivor of Ewing sarcoma and has been a great help to me.
Once Greg started his treatment, I had become his main support - taking him to appointments, staying overnight in the children’s ward, helping him keep up with school work and taking him out on trips. It was strange, but very reassuring when roles were reversed and he was there for me too.
That’s why we decided to start the podcast - we have each other and don’t want others to feel alone in this.
We’re now inviting others to talk about their own cancer journeys on the channel, including my mum's aunt, who was diagnosed during her first mammogram and is now four years into her hormone treatment; and another lady, who is also under 40, and wanted to talk about her experience as a stage 4 breast cancer patient.
I’m taking part in the Breast Cancer Now Walk 100 Miles October fundraiser and have been raising the profile of it on this platform. I hope I can help to raise some funds for others in my position, or worse.
The positive message with my story is check, regardless of your age, and catch it early!
For more information on Charlotte and her brother’s podcast ‘The Cancer Twins’, visit: https://linktr.ee/thecancertwins
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