- Kristi Grant
- BBC News
When Lucy sensed a lump in her breast, she had never thought it was a cancerous lump. She had sensed it by chance, and was not used to checking it out.
“I thought maybe I’d start doing this kind of routine when I’m in my fifties,” she told the BBC.
But after her examination, Lucy receives bad news. She had breast cancer at the age of 26.
Earlier this month, singer Sarah Harding of British pop group Girls Aloud died of breast cancer.
After her death, British charity CoppaFeel saw a massive increase in visits to its website.
More than 200,000 people visited its pages in just 12 hours after the news of the death was announced, which is eight times what they would normally visit.
The charity encourages young women to check their breasts periodically for any lumps.
Newsbeat says that despite being the most common type of cancer among women between the ages of 25 and 49, a quarter of young women do not realize that they may have breast cancer, adding that young women are more likely to be late to see a GP.
When Lucy examined the lump on her breast, it was just a coincidence, she got off work, and went off so happy that she was free from work that day.
“It’s going to be a completely different story at this point, which is why I’m here today,” she tells the BBC.
Even when her GP referred her to a breast clinic, it hadn’t occurred to her that she had breast cancer.
But when her sister insisted on getting an ultrasound, Lucy began to realize that something was wrong.
“The doctor met me with a deafening silence,” she says.
A week later, she was told she had cancer, and it quickly spread to the lymph nodes. They told her she would need chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.
“There were times when I couldn’t sleep and eat,” she says.
“I was awake for 20 hours a day, and I had to not move from where I was lying in bed.”
“My skin got really bad and all of my hair, including my eyebrows and eyelashes, fell out.”
After surgery and radiotherapy, last year, Lucy finally received some good news; There were no cancer cells left in her body.
Lucy is still undergoing hormone therapy and works with the charity CoppaFeel to spread the idea that breast cancer can affect younger female adults, too.
“Don’t think that this can’t happen to you,” she says, “and at the same time don’t be pessimistic, it’s just a wake-up call.”
A stigma in the black community
Lucy also wants to make more people in the black community realize the importance of breast screening for lumps.
“I think there is a lot of stigma around disease. We don’t want to talk about diseases, but it is important to do so.”
“When I see these ads about cancer, I don’t see or hear anyone from the black community talking about cancer, until I almost feel that this community has not had cancer.”
Fran didn’t think she’d get sick either, but when she was 24, she, too, noticed a lump in her breast.
At first the doctors didn’t send her to any mammology clinic, telling her it was a “hormonal mass”.
But after 18 months, the young woman found another symptom, so she took the test again.
She was embarrassed to waste NHS clinic time, having had normal test results the first time.
But after several medical tests and x-rays, they told her she had stage 4 breast cancer, as well as a brain tumor, and they estimated her to live for two years.
“I was 25, a personal trainer, fit and healthy I’ve never been better in my whole life, I was living proof that this can happen to anyone at any age.”
Fran underwent a “vigorous chemotherapy routine” and is now cancer-free. She has been sharing her story online, to spread the idea that younger women are also at risk of developing breast cancer.
“I’ve been very open about my journey on social media, documenting everything I’ve been through.”
“It always seemed to me that it was portrayed as an older women’s issue… A year ago, I thought of something like I shouldn’t have to worry about it until I was actually older.”