NHS worker loses seven stone after patients thought she was pregnant

An NHS worker who was embarrassed when someone asked if she was pregnant while wearing her scrubs has lost seven stone.

Hannah Stewart, 42, lost the pounds and went from XXL-sized scrubs to a medium.

The mum-of-two used to binge on sugary cereal and biscuits for breakfast, buttery sandwiches for lunch and bowls of pasta with jars of sauce for dinner.

Hannah, a senior clinical photographer, from Birmingham, weighed 21 stone at her heaviest and decided to make a change.

After falling asleep at her desk, Hannah knew she had to make a change and set a good example to her children and patients – so she overhauled her diet in May 2017.

She ate nutritious foods like fruit and yoghurt for breakfast, and rice, couscous and vegetables for lunch and dinner.

Hannah has gone from a size 24 to a 12.

Hannah said: ‘My patients and colleagues used to ask me if I was pregnant and when the baby was due.

‘I used to laugh it off, but deep down I was absolutely mortified. I’d say “no, I’m just fat” but it made me feel awful.

‘Inside it was crushing and mentally it would really upset me, and it happened quite a lot.

‘I hurt everywhere and I just thought “enough is enough”. I need to be healthy for my children.’

Hannah also wanted to get fitter for her daughters as she could feel her size was putting a strain on her body and making her asthma and sleep apnea worse.

She recalls a time at a theme park where she wasn’t able to get on the ride due to her size, which left her humiliated.

In May 2017, Hannah joined Slimming World and found it helped her eat a better diet and encouraged her to start pilates and walk as much as she could.

‘It’s amazing what I can eat, I’m never hungry and I still fill up on carbs,’ she added.

‘It’s any meat without fat, rice, couscous, pasta, potatoes and then you have to have salad and vegetables to speed up your metabolism.

‘I also always eat yoghurt and fruit for breakfast as it’s so important and I do a lot of homemade soups for lunch.

‘Then in the evening, I can have a couple of treats to stop any cravings.

‘I also do pilates which has strengthened my core a lot and walk as much as I can which I increased at the start of the first lockdown.

‘I used to struggle to even walk to the front of the hospital from my car. I feel great now.’

Hannah continued: ‘I get members of staff asking “where have you gone?” and accepting those compliments is a new thing for me so it’s really lovely.

‘Now I can slip into a size medium scrubs – and thankfully no patients or colleagues are mistaking me as pregnant anymore.’

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Woman who thought sports bra fit badly discovers 'tugging' feeling was cancer

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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Mum thought daughter’s stomach ache was anxiety but finds it's due to cancer

A mum who thought her shy daughter’s stomach ache was caused by back-to-school anxiety during the holidays was horrified to discover the little girl had a cancerous tumour in her abdomen.

Siân Rodney began to fear eight-year-old Olivia might have appendicitis when her symptoms worsened over Christmas and they

But when the family, from Bedford, went to hospital, doctors discovered a watermelon-sized tumour in Olivia’s abdomen.

Tests revealed the mass was Burkitt lymphoma – a rare and fast-growing cancer of the lymphatic system.

Health and safety worker Sian, 39, said: ‘Nobody ever dreams they will have to deal with childhood cancer.

‘When it’s suddenly in front of you, you feel like a rabbit caught in headlights with no idea what to do.

‘But, through all of this, Olivia has shown us what a strong little superstar she is.’

Fortunately, following eight rounds of aggressive chemotherapy – all administered during lockdown – Olivia is now cancer-free.

Olivia started telling her mum that she was tired during their regular 20-minute walks into town at the end of the summer in 2019.

Then, in early October, she kept saying that her tummy hurt.

As Olivia was eating normally and did not show signs of a bug, such as vomiting, Siân began to wonder whether her daughter was just feeling anxious about going to school.

But by January 2020, Olivia’s symptoms had worsened, so Siân took her to see the GP, who referred her to Bedford Hospital.

A scan revealed a mass around her abdomen, which doctors initially believed to be an abscess that had formed around her appendix.

Next, she was given intravenous antibiotics in a bid to banish any infection and Olivia seemed to be responding well.

But, after five days, her temperature suddenly spiked overnight, and doctors raced her to theatre for emergency surgery.

Siân said: ‘They planned to remove her appendix, thinking it had burst.

‘As my husband Chris and I waited for her to come back from theatre, another mum said to us, “Don’t worry, my little one just had their appendix out and they were back within 90 minutes. It won’t be long”.

‘But 90 minutes came and went, then two hours, then two and a half. I began to really worry, and said to Chris, “This hasn’t been a straightforward appendix removal, has it?”

‘After three hours, a consultant appeared, ashen-faced. I took one look at him and just started crying, “Where’s my baby?”.’

Medics explained that the mass that was originally thought to be an abscess appeared to be something much more sinister.

As it contained blood vessels that were too close to major organs to be safely removed, they could only take a small sample, which they sent away to be biopsied, along with some of her lymph nodes.

Siân continued: ‘From the moment they said the word mass, my mind was whirring.

‘By then, I knew we were dealing with something very serious.’

The next day, they were referred to Addenbrooke’s Hospital, in Cambridge, where an oncologist officially diagnosed Olivia with Burkitt lymphoma.

Her parents were honest with Olivia about the diagnosis.

‘We didn’t want to hide anything from her,’ said Siân. ‘That was really important to us. We also tried to keep things as positive as we could.

‘Of course, she had her down days, where she’d say to me, “I just want to go to school and see my friends, mum”.’

Within days of the diagnosis, Siân and her family were put in touch with CLIC Sargent – a cancer charity supporting young people and their families – who assigned Olivia a social worker.

Siân added: ‘CLIC Sargent was incredible. They helped us with everything you could possibly imagine, both practically and emotionally.

‘They were always at the other end of the phone if we had a question. They even gave us a grant of £170 when she was first diagnosed.’

As Olivia continued with chemotherapy, which she coped with remarkably well, and Siân found strength and solace through talking to other families in the ward.

Watching other families ring the bell at the end of their cancer treatments was emotional for Siân and her family to witness.

By April, after five rounds of chemotherapy, Olivia had a progress scan, which revealed that much of the original tumour had gone.

Ordinarily, surgeons explained, the tumour would be removed using keyhole surgery, but with operations on hold due to the pandemic, they decided to opt for three more rounds of chemotherapy instead.

Siân thinks the pandemic and lockdown has been good in a way as it has kept Olivia, who has a weak immune system, from picking up germs from people.

Thankfully, tests at the end of June found Olivia to be cancer-free – and she has remained healthy ever since.

Now back at school, she is having regular meetings to monitor her progress, but doctors are confident that she has beaten the disease.

Siân, who is keen to offer hope to other parents having a similar experience and to promote the work of CLIC Sargent, said: ‘Staff from the charity have been absolutely invaluable to our family.

‘Now I want to make sure other parents know about CLIC Sargent, too.’

If you’d like to support the charity, you can donate through their website.

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Sperm don’t swim anything like we thought they did, new study finds

Under a microscope, human sperm seem to swim like wiggling eels, tails gyrating to and fro as they seek an egg to fertilize. 

But now, new 3D microscopy and high-speed video reveal that sperm don’t swim in this simple, symmetrical motion at all. Instead, they move with a rollicking spin that compensates for the fact that their tails actually beat only to one side. 

“It’s almost like if you’re a swimmer, but you could only wiggle your leg to one side,” said study author Hermes Gadêlha, a mathematician at the University of Bristol in the U.K. “If you did this in a swimming pool and you only did this to one side, you would always swim in circles. … Nature in its wisdom came [up] with a very complex, ingenious way to go forward.” 

Strange swimmers

The first person to observe human sperm close up was Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, a Dutch scientist known as the father of microbiology. In 1677, van Leeuwenhoek turned his newly developed microscope toward his own semen, seeing for the first time that the fluid was filled with tiny, wiggling cells. 

Under a 2D microscope, it was clear that the sperm were propelled by tails, which seemed to wiggle side-to-side as the sperm head rotated. For the next 343 years, this was the understanding of how human sperm moved. 

“[M]any scientists have postulated that there is likely to be a very important 3D element to how the sperm tail moves, but to date we have not had the technology to reliably make such measurements,” said Allan Pacey, a professor of andrology at the University of Sheffield in England, who was not involved in the research. 

The new research is thus a “significant step forward,” Pacey wrote in an email to Live Science. 

Gadêlha and his colleagues at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México started the research out of “blue-sky exploration,” Gadêlha said. Using microscopy techniques that allow for imaging in three dimensions and a high-speed camera that can capture 55,000 frames per second, they recorded human sperm swimming on a microscope slide. 

“What we found was something utterly surprising, because it completely broke with our belief system,” Gadêlha told Live Science. 

The sperm tails weren’t wiggling, whip-like, side-to-side. Instead, they could only beat in one direction. In order to wring forward motion out of this asymmetrical tail movement, the sperm head rotated with a jittery motion at the same time that the tail rotated.The head rotation and the tail are actually two separate movements controlled by two different cellular mechanisms, Gadêlha said. But when they combine, the result is something like a spinning otter or a rotating drill bit. Over the course of a 360-degree rotation, the one-side tail movement evens out, adding up to forward propulsion.

“The sperm is not even swimming, the sperm is drilling into the fluid,” Gadêlha said. 

The researchers published their findings today (July 31) in the journal Science Advances.

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Asymmetry and fertility

In technical terms, how the sperm moves is called precession, meaning it rotates around an axis, but that axis of rotation is changing. The planets do this in their rotational journeys around the sun, but a more familiar example might be a spinning top, which wobbles and dances about the floor as it rotates on its tip. 

“It’s important to note that on their journey to the egg that sperm will swim through a much more complex environment than the drop of fluid in which they were observed for this study,” Pacey said. “In the woman’s body, they will have to swim in narrow channels of very sticky fluid in the cervix, walls of undulating cells in the fallopian tubes, as well have to cope with muscular contractions and fluid being pushed along (by the wafting tops of cells called cilia) in the opposite direction to where they want to go. However, if they are indeed able to drill their way forward, I can now see in much better clarity how sperm might cope with this assault course in order to reach the egg and be able to get inside it,” Pacey said

Sperm motility, or ability to move, is one of the key metrics fertility doctors look at when assessing male fertility, Gadêlha said. The rolling of the sperm’s head isn’t currently considered in any of these metrics, but it’s possible that further study could reveal certain defects that disrupt this rotation, and thus stymy the sperm’s movement. 

Fertility clinics use 2D microscopy, and more work is needed to find out if 3D microscopy could benefit their analysis, Pacey said. 

“Certainly, any 3D approach would have to be quick, cheap and automated to have any clinical value,” he said. “But regardless of this, this paper is certainly a step in the right direction.”

Originally published in Live Science.

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