Claire Hilton-Ellison, 30, from Huyton, in Knowsley, Merseyside, is urging other young women to check their breasts regularly after she found a lump which turned out to be cancerous
Image: LiverpoolEcho/ WS)
A mum feared not be able to care for her baby after she was diagnosed with cancer 31 weeks into her pregnancy.
Claire Hilton-Ellison said she was in ‘disbelief’ when she was told she had stage 3 cancer after feeling a lump in her breast.
She started chemotherapy while still pregnant with little Jude – and underwent further rounds of chemo, surgery and radiotherapy after giving birth.
The 30-year-old, from Huyton, in Knowsley, Merseyside, is now urging other young women to check their breasts regularly, the Liverpool Echo reports.
She said: “You hear about cancer all the time. It’s always on the news. You see the statistics, like one in two of us will be affected, and that’s a really, really high number.
“You always just think, ‘It’s not going to be me’. I think that’s me and, god, millions of others that would think that way, and you just don’t think it’s going to happen to you.
“But then when I did find a lump, obviously I was hoping for the best, but I just knew in my gut that something wasn’t right.”
Education worker Claire was diagnosed with breast cancer about a month after finding the lump.
The time in between was “excruciating”, wondering if she’d get to live the future she imagined. She worried about the baby growing inside her, and whether she’d be there to care for it.
Claire told the ECHO : “You go through feeling like the worst is going to happen, and then, ‘Oh actually no, it could be nothing, it’s going to be nothing’.
“And then the next hour, you could feel like, ‘Oh my God, is this going to be like stage four cancer?’ Like to be perfectly honest, am I going to die?”
There were moments when Claire felt overwhelmed by emotions.
She told the ECHO : “I remember moments where I’d be sat on my own in my bedroom because I wouldn’t want my husband, or my mum or my sister, to see me so scared.
“You know that they’re also fearing the worst but hoping for the best, and they don’t want to show you how scared they are.
“So then it’s like you’re kind of just playing it off against each other.
“They don’t want to show me, I don’t want to show them.
“It’s one of those moments where you feel kind of like, you know you’re not alone in it, but you’re the one that’s going through it.”
Aintree hospital breast care nurses and Macmillan Cancer Support put Claire in touch with a woman who was also pregnant when she was diagnosed with breast cancer the year before.
Meeting someone who’s experienced the emotions she was going through made Claire feel less alone as she went through treatment at Aintree Hospital and Clatterbridge Cancer Centre in Liverpool.
Claire went through three rounds of chemotherapy that is safe during pregnancy before giving birth to baby Jude. She then had another 12 rounds of chemo, followed by surgery and radiotherapy.
Now, over nine months on from her diagnosis, Claire is a week out of the third stage of active treatment. She will continue getting injections to try and prevent a return of her cancer.
Her baby is eight months old and “commando crawling” around the house, meaning Claire is having sleepless nights and is “running after Jude left, right and centre”.
But she’s glad to be out the other end of treatment, grateful that she caught the cancer in time and was seen quickly by doctors after she raised the alarm, an experience she admits isn’t true of everyone.
Now Claire is urging other young people to check their breasts regularly, because they won’t be invited for breast cancer screening until they turn 50.
She’s raised around £12,000 in the last year to fund cancer treatment and support, and groups like Macmillan and CoppaFeel.
Claire also runs an Instagram account sharing her story to raise awareness and inspire others to take their health into their own hands and be their own best advocate.
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She told the ECHO: “Mammograms in this country only start for women over 50.
“So there literally is no way of detecting anything that’s wrong, until you get to that point. The only way of finding something before that is self-detection.
“One thing that just frustrates me so much is how many women I speak to who have been told, ‘Oh it won’t be anything, you’re too young for it to be anything serious, or for it to be cancer’.
“And it’s just so not true, because the rates of cancer in young women are on the rise, especially with breast cancer.
“What I’ve been trying to shout from the rooftops ever since my diagnosis is just, make sure you know your own body, because that’s the only reason that I found my lump.”