LIZZI England, 30, lives in Northamptonshire with her fiancé Taylor and three children Ivy, seven, Teddy, two, and Violet, nine months.
She tells Sarah Finley how the joy of getting ready to welcome a new baby with her partner was shattered by a breast cancer diagnosis after finding a lump in her right breast. The cancer was so aggressive, Lizzi needed a mastectomy and six months of chemotherapy while being pregnant.
Lizzi England with newborn baby Violet on January 26, 2020Credit: Lizzi England
“As I stroked my baby bump and gripped my partner Taylor’s hand, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The doctor had just told me that I had breast cancer – aged just 29, and 15 weeks pregnant.
“I met Taylor, in 2016 through work and we instantly hit it off. I already had two-year-old Ivy from a previous relationship, and Taylor and I agreed early on that we wanted a big family.
“So when I had our son Teddy in September 2018, and then found out I was pregnant again in May 2019, we were delighted.
“However, 12 weeks into my pregnancy, in July 2019, I came across a small, painless lump in my right breast. Worried, I booked an appointment with my GP the next day.
Lizzi had a mastectomy aged 29 and halfway through her pregnancy Credit: LIZZI England
Just 4 per cent of women in the UK diagnosed with breast cancer are aged 39 or under.*
Being diagnosed with breast cancer when pregnant is very rare – research shows it is 1 in every 3,000 pregnancies.**
- Sources: *Breast Cancer Now **Jama Oncology
“My doctor agreed she felt a lump too, but she said as I was under 30 it was unlikely to be breast cancer, so didn’t send me for tests. But after fretting for a few weeks, I asked her to refer me.
“The hospital consultant I saw a few days later told me he was sure the lump was nothing, but sent me for an ultrasound and a biopsy that day anyway. An hour after having the biopsy the consultant asked to see me and alarm bells started to ring.
“When he told Taylor and me that the ultrasound looked “suspicious”, but the biopsy results would take five days to come back, I dissolved in tears. All I could think about was leaving my kids without a mum and losing the baby I was carrying.
“Five days later, in early August, as I sat in the consultant’s room with my mum, Elaine, 57, and Taylor by my side, I was told that I had stage two, grade three breast cancer. I had no family history of it and felt healthy, so it was a huge shock. I managed to hold myself together, but my mum broke down.
Taylor stood by Lizzi’s side throughout her breast cancer treatmentCredit: LIZZI England
“The cancer was aggressive, so I was told I needed a mastectomy. I was devastated, but the doctors reassured me that there was no risk at all to the baby if I had treatment.
“I had my surgery in late September 2019, and five weeks later I was still in pain and couldn’t bear to look at my scar. I felt embarrassed that I only had one breast and I even stopped hugging people so they wouldn’t feel it.
“In November, at 27 weeks pregnant, I started six months of chemotherapy, as the lymph nodes that doctors retrieved during my mastectomy showed my cancer had spread.
“I felt so anxious, worrying it could harm my unborn baby, even though doctors reassured me it wouldn’t. I felt constantly tired and had mouth ulcers. But Taylor was great, looking after me and the children.
Lizzi with Violet now wearing a long blonde wig similar to her own hairCredit: LIZZI England
“I’d always loved my long blonde hair, however, when it began falling out, I decided to shave it off. Taylor would always tell me I was beautiful, but I could barely look at myself in the mirror.
“After a few months of searching, I found a wig that was very similar to my own hair, which gave me back a sense of identity.
“On January 26, 2020, when I was 38 weeks pregnant, I gave birth to Violet. As I heard her cry, I breathed a sigh of relief, and when the midwife laid a healthy baby on my chest, all my worries disappeared.
“I finished chemo in March, just before lockdown, though in June I had to return to hospital for radiotherapy to help shrink the tumours. The treatment drained me, leaving me sore and tired.
‘I hold my children extra tight now,’ the mum of three saysCredit: LIZZI England
“But later that month I was ecstatic when doctors told me there was no evidence of cancer, though I’ve been told there is a chance of it returning. I’ll have to take medication for the next five years to help prevent that happening.
“Sadly, the drugs have pushed me into an early menopause, so I won’t be able to have the fourth child we’d hoped for, though I feel so lucky to have three already.
“In July, Taylor proposed, so we’re now busy planning our wedding for next summer, where we’ll celebrate both our marriage and the end of my treatment. I hold my children extra tight now, and I’m just so happy I’ll be there to see them grow up.”
- Lizzi is supporting Cath Kidston and Breast Cancer Now’s Spot It campaign to encourage everyone to check for signs of breast cancer (Breastcancernow.org)
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