Imagine going through the pain and uncertainty of your husband’s brain cancer diagnosis and conceiving via IVF, only to find out you have breast cancer
This nightmare scenario is exactly what happened to Sarah Mayfield, from Stapleford, Nottinghamshire.
Sarah, 33, discovered a lump in her breast at the gym while she was four months pregnant. She assumed it was a blocked milk duct, but received the devastating diagnosis of triple-negative breast cancer from her GP. Her partner Matt, 37, was already battling cancer, and now she too had to give up her job to tend to her health.
Sarah explains, “my husband had treatment last year for a brain tumour, and as soon as they did the operation they saw it was cancerous. They offered us IVF straight away as he wasn’t sure if the tumour had affected his fertility.”
They started the IVF process in January 2019 and were overjoyed to discover Sarah was pregnant with twins after their second cycle
However, she lost the pregnancy at eight weeks. After their third cycle, she fell pregnant again, and the couple were thrilled in anticipation of their first baby.
Their joy quickly turned to worry and fear when Sarah was diagnosed
“I was getting ready for the gym and found a little lump; I thought it was a blocked milk duct, which is normal in pregnancy. I thought it was nothing major, but they said it was grade three triple-negative breast cancer, I was shocked.”
While abortion was suggested so that she could undergo treatments, she was carrying the couple’s final embryo.
Instead, she underwent an altered course of treatment. She had a mastectomy and then began chemotherapy when she was 20 weeks pregnant
Thankfully, baby boy Elijah was born on June 5th, a healthy 7lb 11oz. She completed her chemotherapy treatments in July.
“It was quite isolating. My mum could take me to a couple of chemotherapies, but after March it was a case of going in wearing my mask and sitting there.”
She ultimately rang the bell to signify the end of her treatments on her own, but was thrilled nonetheless. She is now undergoing radiotherapy, and we are so happy to report that baby Elijah and husband Matt are also doing well.
Sarah’s story highlights the importance of fertility preservation, such as freezing eggs, sperm, or embryos when faced with a cancer diagnosis.
Looking out for triple-negative breast cancer
Triple-negative breast cancer is a tricky cancer to treat, as it does not have receptors for oestrogen, progesterone or the HER2 protein. Most hormonal and protein treatments work on these receptors, and so they are not suitable for this form of cancer.
Approximately 10 – 20% of breast cancers are classed as triple-negative, which is usually more aggressive than the other forms. It is most common in Black women and women under 40.
Symptoms to be aware of are the same or similar to other breast cancer symptoms:
Finding a lump in your breast
Nipple shape changes
Your breasts changing shape, size, or texture
Bloody discharge from your nipple
Armpit pain or swelling
A rash on your nipple
Do you know someone with triple-negative breast cancer or have you been through breast cancer yourself? Were you able to take steps to preserve your fertility? If you would like to share your story, we would love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org