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‘I miraculously survived cancer during pregnancy - and now I’m giving birth again’

Sarah Boyd is ‘lucky and fortunate’ to be alive after being diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in August 2020

Eleanor Fleming
Saturday 23 September 2023 15:45 BST
Sarah feels ‘lucky and fortunate’ to be alive after she was diagnosed with breast cancer during her pregnancy
Sarah feels ‘lucky and fortunate’ to be alive after she was diagnosed with breast cancer during her pregnancy (PA Real Life)

A mother who ignored a pea-sized lump for nearly eight months says she was saved when diagnosed with breast cancer during her pregnancy – and she is now expecting her second child.

Sarah Boyd, 33, who works at luxury spa hotel Stobo Castle and lives in the Scottish borders, first discovered a small lump to the side of her right breast in January 2020.

“I’m the taboo that’s not really spoken about because I had a lump for a really long time and never dealt with it,” Sarah told PA Real Life. “For me, it wasn’t a case of, ‘Today I found a lump and today I’m phoning the doctors’, I waited almost eight months.”

But then after falling pregnant and later noticing “disturbing” brown-coloured discharge leaking from her right nipple, Sarah ended up calling and visiting her GP on August 5 2020.

She was then referred for further tests and scans on August 20, which revealed she had triple negative breast cancer and she was told she needed to undergo chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Sarah was fearful that she and her partner Harry, 35, a gym manager, “may have to terminate the baby”, but they were reassured by doctors early on that their child was “safe” due to the placenta protecting the foetus – and this gave her strength during her intensive treatments.

Sarah has since given birth to her “perfect” son Oscar, who is now two, been given the all clear, and is now expecting her second child who is due in October this year. Reflecting on her journey, she said: “When Oscar was born, I just couldn’t believe how healthy he was and how he just looked like a normal baby.

“He didn’t have horns or he didn’t have an extra limb – all the things that I thought he was going to have because of chemotherapy. Oscar will always have this ‘me and you went through that’ relationship, and I’ve said this many times, but I believe being pregnant saved me.”

Sarah nine months pregnant after cancer treatment - and right with her child Oscar ( (Collect/PA Real Life))

Sarah explained that phoning the doctors, for her, was the hardest part because she “knew (she) probably had breast cancer” and would need to undergo treatment. After discovering the lump in January 2020, she put it to the back of her mind and continually made “excuses” not to tell anyone, but her pregnancy changed everything.

“When I was pregnant, that took over and I just thought, ‘What happens if I was diagnosed and it was breast cancer? Would that mean we wouldn’t have this baby?'” she said.

“I never picked the right week or the wrong week to phone the doctors, but I actually ended up having discharge from my nipple, which was quite disturbing.”

Sarah phoned her GP on August 5 2020, when she was 15 weeks pregnant, and was booked in for an appointment that same day. She was then referred to Borders General Hospital for further tests and assessments on August 20 at 19 weeks pregnant.

The results of the biopsy confirmed Sarah had triple negative breast cancer and a 5.5cm lump, and she was advised she would need to start chemotherapy as soon as possible.

(Collect/PA Real Life))

Sarah started having chemotherapy every three weeks from September 16, and then once a week, up until December 20 when she had a break from treatment to give birth her healthy son Oscar on January 5 2021, and then started chemotherapy again on January 29.

She completed chemotherapy on February 23, underwent a single mastectomy and reconstruction surgery on her right breast on April 27, and then started the first of 15 rounds of radiotherapy on May 27.

After finishing her radiotherapy on June 17, which made her feel fatigued and nauseous, Sarah was then given the all clear in August – and now, she is pregnant with her second child.

While she feels incredibly “lucky and fortunate” to be alive, she said processing her journey, which took place during the Covid pandemic, has been one of the most difficult parts.

“When you’re going through it, it’s like being snowploughed,” she explained. “Somebody’s saying, ‘This is what’s next, this is what you’re doing, this is what you’re taking, and this is what you might feel’, and you don’t digest everything until you’re out of it.

Sarah, her partner Harry, and their son Oscar at the surprise baby shower (PA)

“End of treatment can be harder because you actually slow down and process what’s happened to you. I just felt so lucky that my body decided it was going to accept these drugs that were going to make me better, and I am getting better.”

Sarah said she is now focusing on “enjoying every moment” with her family and not taking anything for granted, as her journey could have been “very different”.

Her partner Harry recently arranged a surprise baby shower in London, and the couple are hoping to go abroad next year with their two children as they love “adventures”.

Sarah had another mastectomy on her left breast in June 2022 and is planning to have a hysterectomy – a surgical procedure to remove the womb – later on to prevent reoccurrence of cancer, and while she “cannot find the words to explain why (she) waited” to call the GP, she is urging others not to ignore their symptoms.

“For me, it could have been a much shorter journey, it could have been an easier journey, I could have not been pregnant,” Sarah said. “There are so many scenarios and ifs and buts, and hindsight is a horrible thing, it can destroy you, but I feel very lucky that I managed to get through it all.

“I hope that everybody is encouraged to get their symptoms checked because the sooner you deal with anything, the better your chances are.”

Sarah is supporting Breast Cancer Now and its fundraising prize draw with Omaze, which includes a giveaway of a £3.5 million house in Scotland, along with £100,000 in cash.

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