Diagnosed with cancer while pregnant – Kate's story
Kate shares her experience of being treated for breast cancer at The Royal Marsden and giving back to the hospital by taking part in The Banham Marsden March.
“I’d just found out that I was pregnant for a second time with my son Felix, when I found a lump in my breast.”
“I went to the doctors about the pregnancy but mentioned that I’d found a lump. The doctor said she didn’t think it was anything nasty but referred me to my local hospital for peace of mind. The hospital agreed with my GP that the lump was likely nothing to worry about. At 35 years old, I was young to get breast cancer, and it was probably just related to the pregnancy. They told me to come back in two weeks to see if anything had changed. Two weeks later, the lump was very much still there, and I underwent some scans at the hospital, followed by a biopsy.”
“I got a call once my biopsy results had come in where they told me that I had Stage 2 breast cancer. This news came on 13 February 2013 when I was just nine weeks pregnant.”
“This diagnosis was devastating – my daughter Rosa was only a year and a half, and I kept thinking ‘Is she going to have a mum down the line?’ Also, 'what is going to happen with this baby I’m currently carrying, what sort of life is he going to have if I have to go through cancer treatment?'”
Undergoing surgery at The Royal Marsden
“It was such a traumatic time in my life but as soon as I got to The Royal Marsden, there was a sense of calm and confidence. When I first met my surgeon, Fiona MacNeil, I was immediately reassured and confident that I was in the best hands. She was clear about next steps and said she would do everything she could to help ensure my baby was fine too.”
“I had a wide local incision on my left breast, and the whole process was so respectful and so well-organised. My anaesthetist was great and all the nurses that looked after me were so kind.”
Going the extra mile
Kate then recovered from her surgery on the Ellis Ward, a world-class facility that specialises in the care of patients with breast, gynaecological, urological and gastrointestinal cancers. Funded by supporters of The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, the ward was redesigned and refurbished, creating a modern patient environment.
“Ellis Ward is such a lovely and calming environment. Miss McNeil asked one of the radiologists to come to see me and they did an ultrasound of my tummy so we could check that the baby was okay. I could see the heartbeat and we could tell straight away that he was fine. This really was going the extra mile.”
“There was a lot of discussion after my surgery about what would come next. My cancer was Stage 2 and they decided I didn’t need chemotherapy. There was also discussion about whether I’d be able to breastfeed, as they didn’t really have many people to compare it to as my situation was so rare.”
Kate had regular check-ups following her surgery, and her son Felix was born happy and healthy in August 2013.
Treatment with a new baby
Kate went on to have radiotherapy treatment: “I had Felix with me the whole time throughout treatment, this tiny baby, but the staff were so helpful and kind. After radiotherapy, I was put on tamoxifen, which I took for about five years. I’ve also had genetic testing done at The Royal Marsden. This is where they can identify whether you have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene which raise your risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer, which thankfully, I don’t have.”
Kate is still under The Royal Marsden’s care for regular monitoring: “I’m so grateful and thankful that I can still come back to The Royal Marsden. For my tests now, I have a mammogram and ultrasound.”
Taking part in The Banham Marsden March
Kate signed up to The Banham Marsden March in 2023, and was joined by her family and a 20-strong team called the Hakuna Ma-ta-tas, which raised £7,680.
“I wanted to do The Banham Marsden March to mark 10 years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer. A decade on, I continue to receive such outstanding care from The Royal Marsden."
"Taking part was really emotional. To think where I was when I first walked into The Royal Marsden, compared to now, it’s amazing how far I’ve come.”
Read more stories on our blog.