Fern was diagnosed with breast cancer just weeks after her Mum had the same diagnosis. Breast cancer doesn’t discriminate no matter your age, proving how important it is to get to know your chest and check regularly. 

The day that Dame Deborah James died, my Mum was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer at 58 years old. I was naive at that moment, especially because I don’t have history of cancer in the family, and thought ‘they can do so much with medicine these days’ and ‘it’s fine, she’ll be able to get implants’. After a call to a lovely support nurse, our minds were put at ease when we learned that, as Mum’s cancer hadn’t made its way to her lymph nodes, she was in a good position for treatment. With Mum going through her diagnosis, I thought it best I check my own chest just in case and I found something. Fast forward a couple of weeks… I was also diagnosed with breast cancer, aged 34. 

Both Mum and I’s symptoms looked and felt different; Mum’s was prominent whereas mine was far more hidden. This proved to me how important it is to know what’s normal for your own body as I immediately knew that my breast felt different to how it had before. 

I have always been driven by empathy and wanting to make the world a better place, so why was this happening to me? I have three perfect children, a loving husband and a beautiful life so how could breast cancer be added to the mix? There’s also no history of breast cancer in our family so it seemed crazy that two of us were diagnosed within weeks of each other. It goes to show that your age doesn’t matter – the truth is breast cancer is so much more common than we realise, and yes, that includes younger people. I’d always assumed that breast cancer only affected women over fifty, simply because that’s when the NHS invites you for screenings. The reality is, it’s the most common cancer in women under 49. 

A picture of a woman standing in a hospital room, she is wearing black shorts and a pink t-shirt that has a picture of Phil Mitchell from Eastenders on with the caption 'Phil your tits'

A picture of a woman standing in a hospital room, she is wearing black shorts and a pink t-shirt that has a picture of Phil Mitchell from Eastenders on with the caption ‘Phil your tits’.

 

Mum and I went through our diagnosis, surgery and chemotherapy together. It was great to have someone beside me that just understood what I was going through, without the need for an explanation. We even bumped into each other at scans we didn’t know the other was having! The support, understanding and funny moments are what got us both through such a hard part of our life, particularly as there was always the looming shadow of facing mortality in the face at the same time as a parent. I wish for my children to grow up with me and their Nan, by their side for years to come. 

 

 A picture of a woman standing and giving a presentation in a lecture hall, on the projector screen behind her the presentation reads 'CoppaFeel! - The Boobettes'.

A picture of a woman standing and giving a presentation in a lecture hall, on the projector screen behind her the presentation reads ‘CoppaFeel! – The Boobettes’.

 

I’m currently training to become a counsellor after I was inspired by my own oncology counsellor, Martine! Not only that, but I also volunteer for the incredible CoppaFeel! as a Boobette and raise awareness of the importance of young people being confident enough to check their chests for any changes and take action if they do notice anything that’s not normal for them.