At 19 years old, I came across a YouTube video from CoppaFeel! that completely changed my life. It was a video about checking your chest regularly and the importance of getting to know your body. My Auntie had died at a young age from breast cancer due to a late diagnosis, so the message hit close to home and prompted me to do something I had never done before – check my chest.
During that self-check, I discovered a lump but was in complete denial and I just wanted to ignore it; I think I tried to convince myself it wasn’t real and that I could just pretend it didn’t exist.”
After a few months of internal struggle I realised this wasn’t something I could ignore, so I plucked up the courage to tell my mum and she booked me an appointment with the GP. During the appointment they confirmed there was a lump and booked me for a biopsy which was actually a relief. Luckily the tumours were not cancerous but I was told I would still need to have them removed, so I went through with the surgery. Having the operation changed my life in many ways – in recovery, simple things like movement felt completely different post-surgery.
Exactly a year later I was faced with the same situation but this time round I knew what to expect. I was also doing regular self-checks which led me to find more lumps and resulted in the need for a second surgery. The tumours had returned and were growing quicker this time, they had become more of a problem but again, were not cancerous.
Fast forward to September 2023, I had another check up and had been referred once again to the breast clinic. This time I actually noticed different symptoms; I had a dip in my breast, I felt a change in size and I also felt pain. This combination of factors made me go to the doctor – I didn’t actually feel any lumps. The doctor confirmed she could feel something abnormal but wanted to refer me to get further checks. They have since told me to monitor these current tumours to see if they grow to the size where I would need surgery again.
I’ve found it a lot harder this time, I think because the symptoms are different. It’s also hard knowing that even if this isn’t cancer I could still have to go through more surgeries.
The conversation of chest checking and getting to know your body is really close to my heart. My Aunt, who passed away at the age of 36, was diagnosed with breast cancer at 30. Unfortunately it was identified as advanced and aggressive, so they think she might have had it as early as 27.
I now tell everyone I know to check their chests.”
I think to myself I’m not going let history repeat itself with the late diagnosis my aunt had and if I can help this by spreading awareness, I 100% will.
My Aunt’s passing has made the whole experience feel really personal because being diagnosed with breast cancer feels like a very real possibility. My middle name is Sarah – after her – so I have always felt really connected and linked to her in some sort of way.
Experiencing breast cancer in my family has allowed me to share my story with lots of people and I’m now confident in telling everyone I can about the importance of checking.
It was down to CoppaFeel! that I had checked that day when I found my first lump, so I want to do the same and raise awareness around such an important message. My journey has really made me want to do as much as I can, so even if my story helps one person I know it’s all worthwhile.
Ruby Sarah Woods x