Lindsey Bishop, 40, first noticed a strange ‘tugging feeling’ in her right breast back in October 2016, when she was working out to lose weight after having her daughter, Ivy.
The working mum, of Altrincham, Greater Manchester assumed the nagging pain was just due to a badly fitting sports bra.
Lindsey, who also has an older daughter, Isla, said: ‘I was a busy working mum, bringing up two children and felt perfectly healthy.
‘Then I started having a weird tugging feeling in my right boob in around October 2016.
‘I’d been exercising to try and lose my baby weight, so put it down to my boob jiggling around and an ill-fitting sports bra.
‘But in January, after a sleepless night with Ivy, and after it started to really hurt when I put roll on deodorant on, I phoned my mum and said, ‘Something isn’t right.’ She suggested I went to the doctor.
‘The GP could not feel a lump, but suggested I had a scan anyway.’
Referred to the Nightingale Centre at Manchester’s Wythenshawe Hospital, Lindsey was not worried and even considered cancelling the appointment.
‘I completely wasn’t taking it seriously,’ she said.
Again a physical examination found nothing unusual but, after an ultrasound scan, she was told something had been detected.
A biopsy revealed that Lindsey had HER2-positive breast cancer.
Following a CT and MRI scan, she was told her treatment would involve chemotherapy, a lumpectomy and radiotherapy.
On March 17, 2017, Lindsey started her chemotherapy, going to hospital once every three weeks from 8.30am until 9pm.
She had six rounds of chemotherapy in total.
Lindsey admits she was unprepared for the emotional and physical toll chemotherapy would take on her – leaving her in bed for five days after each session.
Her mental health deteriorated and she suffered from acute anxiety.
‘I felt unable to cope with the sheer enormity of what was happening, I felt so vulnerable. I was in a really horrible and dark place,’ she said.
‘It was my children that helped get me through it.’
Halfway through her treatment in June, Lindsey had a scan that showed the cancer had shrunk.
She recalled: ‘Even though this was such good news, I just couldn’t see it at that point. I was just angry and scared.
‘I didn’t even tell that many people. I would take my daughter to school in a wig and trilby hat and nobody knew.’
Lindsey’s chemotherapy continued until August, when she had the lumpectomy, and also had her lymph nodes removed.
Although successful, Lindsey developed an infection due to a build-up of lymphatic fluid and had to return to hospital for five days while it was cleared with intravenous antibiotics.
In the September she had 20 sessions of radiotherapy at Salford’s Christie Hospital, to blast the last of the cancerous cells.
Still struggling to cope mentally, she then saw a cancer psychiatrist, who helped her to reframe her diagnosis and gave her strategies to cope.
‘It’s taken me a long time to reach the point where I can talk openly about it,’ she said.
‘After 10 months of treatment, I was told it had been a success. I felt incredibly lucky, the treatment had saved my life. I would be there to see my daughters grow up.
‘But I was also absolutely worn out and worried about whether it might come back.’
Lindsey is now sharing her story and working with the charity Prevent Breast Cancer to raise awareness of less obvious symptoms of cancer – as she never found a lump and would not have guessed that a ‘tugging feeling’ was a sign of breast cancer.
She said: ‘I’m working with Prevent Breast Cancer to raise awareness and highlight the importance of early diagnosis so you can make sure you can get treatment for this disease.
‘We need to make sure we regularly check ourselves and to recognise changes, even if there’s no lump.
‘When my daughters are older I’ll be making sure I teach them what to look for and how to check themselves.’
Nikki Barraclough, executive director at Prevent Breast Cancer, stressed the importance of breast screening.
‘Prevent Breast Cancer is committed to funding vital research into the prediction and prevention of breast cancer and raising awareness of signs, symptoms and the importance of breast screening,’ Nikki said.
‘Our message to women is, do not ignore your breast screening invitation letter and attend your appointment. If you have any symptoms or concerns, speak to your GP.
‘Lindsey’s symptoms were unusual, and we’re pleading with women to be breast aware and to listen to their bodies and come forward if they discover anything different.’
Lindsey is continuing to fundraise for Prevent Breast Cancer and will take part in the marathon when it is rescheduled. To donate, head to her Justgiving page.
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