A trip to the gym changed my life, I'm battling a deadly disease & facing menopause at 31, other women need to be aware | The Sun

HAD single mum Sophie Woodhouse skipped the gym in October 2020 she might not be here today. 

Sophie, 31, had no idea that she was battling a terminal illness until she stepped onto the treadmill and made a shocking discovery.

Brave Sophie, from Atherton, Manchester, had her ovaries removed and is in early menopause after she discovered a fast growing lump in her breast while working out.

But while Sophie says that a trip to her GP was what saved her life, she worries that too many women avoid visiting the doctor in fear that they are wasting their time. 

Speaking exclusively to Fabulous, Sophie reveals why you should always get a lump checked out – no matter how small…

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“I was sweating on the treadmill at my local gym when I grabbed my t-shirt under my left armpit to cool myself.

My hand brushed over a lump and despite the sweat I felt a chill run through me.

The lump hadn’t been there a week earlier.

Initially I thought it might be a pimple or ingrown hair.

I was only 29, I worked as a bar waitress and was mum to Emma, now 12 and Katie now 8.

Of course the c-word entered my mind but I quickly batted it away, I was convinced I wasn’t old enough to have cancer.

My hand brushed over a lump and despite the sweat I felt a chill run through me

With my heart pounding I headed to the changing room where I tried to inspect the lump a little closer.

As I felt the growth I couldn’t deny the fact it wasn’t normal. I’d found the odd lump and bump before but something was telling me this was more sinister.

It was October 2020 and the lockdown had been briefly lifted.

As I cooked my daughter’s dinner, I felt the world closing as if my body was telling me to act.

The next morning, I sat on the phone until I got a GP’s appointment. It would be a phone call which saved my life.

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My GP saw me immediately, felt the lump and sent me straight to hospital. Within two days I was having an ultrasound and biopsy.

Four days later I was told I had’ Stage 2 Grade Three’ fast moving cancer.

It’s also called HER2 cancer which means it was feeding off my oestrogen.

HER2-positive breast cancer tests positive for a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 or HER2. This protein promotes the growth of cancer cells.

It affects fifteen percent of breast cancer sufferers including men HER2 breast cancer is more prevalent in younger women. The exact cause isn't known.

My GP saw me immediately, felt the lump and sent me straight to hospital

The cancer was aggressive and was taking over my breast with my body making my cancer grow rapidly.

Instead of fighting it, the oestrogen I produced monthly during my period, was speeding up the cancer's growth.

I had also been on the contraception patch for many years, and it had always been placed on my left side.

That meant more oestrogen was coming into my body and that was fast tracking the cancer's invasion.

Within a week of the biopsy the lump had doubled in size.

I was lying awake at night feeling it pulsing and getting larger.

As a single mum I was terrified about leaving my daughters motherless and feeling like I was alone in this battle.

A week later I started multiple rounds of aggressive chemotherapy.

Getting my girls ready for the day, preparing breakfast, and heading to the hospital for treatment became my routine and my new normal.

I’d always had long hair, and it was my crowning glory stretching down to my bottom but within a month it had fallen out and I was bald.

I decided not to hide my cancer in a bid to encourage other young women to get suspicious lumps checked.

In between nausea, throwing up from the chemo drugs and looking after my children I took to social media to share my journey.

Within days of posting about my lump discovery and fast-track treatment my inbox was flooded with thousands of messages from other women under thirty saying how brave I was.

I decided not to hide my cancer in a bid to encourage other young women to get suspicious lumps checked

Many told me they had discovered lumps but didn't feel they should bother their overworked GP because they didn't realise they could actually have cancer.

Like me, so many people who messaged me assumed breast cancer only affected women over forty.

Many women messaged to say they didn't realise cancer could hit so quickly or that the NHS offered fast tracked treatment.

I was lucky my GP and local hospital could see me during lockdown and ensure treatment. They made it clear it was life or death and wait times became irrelevant.

In March last year I had surgery to remove the cancerous lump in my breast.

And on the 15th of September as the nation mourned Queen Elizabeth, I had my ovaries removed.

It was done to prevent a recurrence of the cancer due to the oestrogen the ovaries produce and to prevent cervical cancer.

The chemo was required to stall the cancer's spread and stop the tumour’s rapid growth to shrink it before surgery.

I had a port fitted and I have multiple scars on my left breast, and I had my lymph node removed.

Spread the message

BE HONEST: Having honest, open conversations are at the heart of this – talking to friends, family, colleagues . . .  but also with yourself.

BE AN AMBASSADOR: Use the knowledge you have gained and talk, talk, talk, TALK about it.

BE AN ALLY: It might be an unspoken hunch that something is wrong during a meet with a mate. Or you spot someone on social media who is having a tough time. Reach out and give some words of encouragement, some support, the offer of a listening ear.

BE LOUD: If you hear the same old myths being peddled, challenge them. Set the record straight. Offer an educated viewpoint, give people the facts, the stats, the information they need to make an informed decision for themselves.

The treatment caused early menopause and I will be receiving treatment until I am 50.

The HER 2 cancer I was diagnosed with means even after the lump is removed you need to continue treatment to prevent my body from producing oestrogen for the cancer to feed off.

At 30 starting menopause was a shock.

I had to give up the idea of having any more children and deal with night sweats and mood swings which women twice my age live with.

But it didn’t bother me, the fact I was alive and had my daughters was all that really mattered.

During my treatment at least two young women who contacted me on social media to share their cancer diagnosis have tragically passed away from the same cancer I had.

I continue my campaign not just for myself and my daughters, but for their memories as well.

I have learnt to live with medication, and surviving cancer.

Menopause symptoms (The ones you know and the ones no one tells you about)

  • Hair loss
  • Dry eyes
  • Tinnitus
  • Burning mouth
  • Bleeding gums
  • Palpitations
  • Sore breasts
  • Weight gain
  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Aching joints and muscles
  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings
  • Brain fog
  • UTIs
  • Low sex drive
  • Changing periods
  • Vaginal dryness

The amazing support I got from people all over the world on social media helped me get through some very dark times.

Many women feel they are alone when they get diagnosed but I want people to know cancer isn't a death sentence.

Of course it can be if you don’t check your breasts and put off seeing a doctor, you’re risking your life.

Doctors told me when you're young your breast tissue is formed closer knit which means lumps grow inwards and are not as easily detected. 

However, if you know what your boob and underarm feels like you can feel even minor changes.

My message is simple: check your boobs, see your GP and don’t be scared.

I’m in breast cnacer recovery, early menopause and been given all clear. 

That hasn't stopped my daily boob checks and you should do the same.

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Men should also check their own breast tissue because they can suffer breast cancer.

Save your own life by copping a feel. Or your boobs.  Keep ‘in touch’ with your body because it can save your life.

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