Mother of two makes 'life list' after terminal cancer diagnosis

Mother, 26, diagnosed with terminal cancer weeks after giving birth shares a ‘life list’ of goals she wants to achieve before she dies – including reaching her 30th birthday and seeing her sons start school

  • Rebecca Broughton, 26, was four months pregnant when diagnosed with cancer
  • The nurse from Ayr, Scotland, had chemotherapy and surgery while pregnant
  • Despite treatment she was told the cancer had spread to her lungs and terminal 

A mother-of-two diagnosed with terminal cancer just weeks after giving birth to her youngest son has created a ‘life list’ full of goals she wants to achieve before she loses her battle with the disease. 

Rebecca Broughton, 26, of Ayr, Scotland was four months pregnant with son Rory, now eight months, when she discovered she had breast cancer. 

She endured four rounds of gruelling chemotherapy and underwent a mastectomy while expecting but was told shortly after Rory’s birth in January that the cancer had spread to her lungs and was terminal. 

While she says statistics suggest she has less than two years to live, Rebecca is determined to see her 30th birthday and has created a ‘life list’ of things she wants to enjoy before she dies, including seeing Rory and two-year-old son Joseph start school.   

Mother of two Rebecca Broughton, 26, was four months pregnant when she was received the devastating news she had stage 3 triple negative breast cancer in September last year – despite having just a 0.06 percent chance of developing the disease. Pictured: Rebecca and husband Barry, 29, with sons Joseph, two, and Rory, eight months

After she was given the cancer diagnosis, the nurse, from Ayr, Scotland, endured four rounds of gruelling chemotherapy and underwent a mastectomy after finding a large lump in her right breast while in the shower. Pictured: Rebecca wearing a cold cap during chemotherapy 

The new mum set herself a heart-breaking ‘life list’ of things she would like to achieve after being told she was dying of breast cancer – challenging herself to see 30 and watch her two baby sons’ first days at school

Rebecca said: ‘I want to see Rory get to school and I would love to make it to 30. That would be my goal. 

‘I work at the local hospital where I receive the treatment and some nurses were supposed to be climbing Goat Fell in the Isle of Arran, but because of coronavirus, they’re all going to split off and do the equivalent instead. 

‘They’re raising money for me and my husband and the boys to do the things on my Life List. They’re all amazing. I’m so grateful. 

‘I want to take the boys to Disneyland, I want to see the Northern Lights so we’re hoping to go to Lapland. I want to go on honeymoon with my husband because when we got married I was eight months pregnant with Joseph. 

‘I’ve got smaller things like plant a tree, get a star named after myself. Some friends online have raised £1,000 for me so far. 

‘I’d like to sleep on a beach, sleep on a train. Just smaller things I’d like to tick off.’

A year on from her diagnosis, Rebecca is sharing her heart-breaking journey in the hope more women in their 20s and 30s will check their breasts – warning ‘cancer doesn’t discriminate’. 

Rebecca said: ‘At 26, you never expect to battle cancer. ‘Receiving that diagnosis was shocking. When they told me, I felt I was looking over myself. 

‘My message to people is you’re never too young, you’re never being stupid. If something doesn’t feel right go to the doctor. 

‘It doesn’t have to be a lump. If it doesn’t feel right or look right, if it’s painful, never leave it. Never feel that you’re silly or over reacting. 

After rounds of chemotherapy, Rebecca was wheeled down to theatre two days before Christmas for her cancer op, before giving birth to her second son Rory by c-section just three weeks later in January 2020. Pictured: Rebecca with her ‘life list’

After the surgery Rebecca, pictured with her husband and two sons, was told the cancer had spread to her lungs and was stage 4, which was terminal and so she has created the ‘life list’ of things she wants to enjoy before she dies

Included on the list is taking her children to Disneyland, seeing the Northern Lights and finally going on a honeymoon with her husband which they were supposed to go on in 2017

Rebecca’s life list

  • Hold a 30th birthday party
  • Swim with dolphins
  • Take kids to Disneyland
  • Visit elephant sanctuary
  • Go on honeymoon with Barry
  • See the Northern Lights in Lapland
  • Go shopping in New York
  • Plant a tree
  • Learn to play chess
  • Sleep on a train 
  • Travel in a campervan 
  • Go snorkeling with turtles
  • Climb Goatfell
  • Run 4 Life 
  • Skinny dip in the sea
  • Get a dog 
  • Hold a charity event 
  • Visit London 
  • Sleep on a beach 
  • Meet the Queen 
  • Go on a safari
  • Experience a zip line
  • Learn Spanish 
  • Go on a helicopter
  • Learn to fly a kite
  • Ride a gondola in Venice

‘If one person reads this story and finds a lump, I hope it’s early enough to be treated and they don’t have to be in the situation I’m in.

‘To women in their 20s and 30s, I want to say cancer doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care who you are, what stage you are in life, if you’re pregnant or not pregnant, if you’re a good or bad person.’ 

Rebecca was in the shower last September when she felt a large lump in her right breast, after feeling sore for weeks. 

She immediately booked in to see her GP who reassured her it was probably a cyst, but referred her to the breast clinic at Ayr Hospital. 

Rebecca said: ‘I was just in the shower and felt it – it was a big lump. It was very noticeable. 

‘I’d felt pain for probably a couple of weeks. I’d put it down to the pregnancy, but in hindsight it was the area where the lump was. 

‘Triple negative is an aggressive cancer so it grew really quickly. They say breast cancer isn’t painful but all the ladies I’ve spoken to with triple negative have said that their breasts were sore. 

The pain is what brought my attention to it and I felt a lump. 

‘I went straight to my GP and straight away she referred me to the hospital – I was very lucky. 

‘She did say ‘it’s most likely just a cyst but we want to be sure’. I was seen within about three weeks. 

‘I went to the clinic and they felt the lump. I went for a biopsy and when I was in there the radiologist was very honest and said it looked very suspicious. 

‘Less than a week later they told me it was breast cancer. I was 18 weeks pregnant.’

As soon as she’d received the shocking news that she had cancer, Rebecca started her treatment, with four rounds of chemotherapy shortly followed by a mastectomy on her right breast. 

Staff at the hospital where Rebecca works, and has treatment, are raising money to help her tick off everything on her ‘life list’. Pictured: Rebecca with her two sons

Her list ranges from grand plans such as going to Lapland to planting a tree and getting a star named after herself. Pictured: Rebecca and Barry blow out candles on a cake with son Joseph

Rebecca discovered a lump in her breast while she was in the shower. She put the lump down to her pregnancy but booked a GP appointment in case. Pictured after giving birth to baby Rory

But despite learning the chemotherapy had shrunk her breast tumour, doctors discovered two small nodules on her lung. Her cancer had spread. Rebecca said: ‘From there it moved very fast. 

‘I did four rounds of chemotherapy which took me to December, then after my fourth round […] the chemo had been working – the tumour had shrunk in size. 

‘Because they had to tie my treatment in with having Rory, they decided to take me for surgery.

‘I had my mastectomy on the December 23 and got out on Christmas Eve. It was quite difficult. 

‘On January 15, I had a c-section and Rory was born at only 5lbs 1oz because he was four weeks early, but it was fine. 

Eight-month-old Rory, pictured, was born just three weeks after his mother Rebecca had a mastectomy

As soon as she was diagnosed she started with treatment, with several rounds of chemotherapy and a mastectomy. Pictured with son Joseph

Less than a week after going to the doctors she was confirmed to have stage 3 breast cancer at 18 weeks pregnant. Pictured: Rebecca and Barry with their son Joseph

‘I had a CT scan because I wasn’t allowed to have any scans during pregnancy. They found two small lung nodules but they weren’t sure if they were cancerous as they were so small. 

‘At that point they were still treating me for stage 3 and I had my radiotherapy. ‘But after a repeat CT scan, on April 23, they told me it was stage 4 and terminal.’ 

Since her terminal diagnosis, Rebecca has received oral chemotherapy and now she is on immunotherapy, which she admits she was ‘very, very lucky’ to receive. 

Rebecca said: ‘I was very, very lucky because not many people will get immunotherapy as a second line of treatment. My oncologists are both fantastic.

‘At the end of the month I’ll know if it’s working – if it’s shrinking the cancer. It’s stage 4 so it’s incurable but it’s treatable. 

‘They want to give you a treatment to help you live as long as possible. 

But despite learning the chemotherapy had shrunk her breast tumour, doctors discovered two small nodules on her lung and her cancer had spread. Pictured: Barry and Rebecca

Since her terminal diagnosis, Rebecca, pictured in hospital during chemotherapy treatment, has received oral chemotherapy and now she is on immunotherapy, which she admits she was ‘very, very lucky’ to receive.

‘I’ve been well during treatment. I’ve managed to keep my hair because I used a cold cap and I’ve kept well. 

‘I’ve never asked for a prognosis, but statistically, especially with triple negative breast cancer, it’s about two years, because of how aggressive it is. 

‘I came to terms with it quite quickly. I’m quite a positive person. 

‘There’s positive stories and ladies who live a number of years. I don’t see myself as a statistic. 

‘I have so many amazing friends and family. I’d have never been able to do all these things without them. 

‘It’s a lovely feeling to feel loved and know people want me to enjoy the last years of my life. 

Throughout her treatment she has been able to keep her hair because she used a cold cap and said she came to terms with her diagnosis quite quickly because she is a positive person. Pictured: Rebecca and Barry with their son Joseph

‘People say to me ‘how are you so positive’ but the only sure thing in life is death.

 ‘You’ve got to be positive and make memories and experience things. This has given me the push to do things I wanted to do. 

‘There’s people in my situation that are a lot worse off than I am. Although I’m in a terrible situation I have lots of positives around me that keep me going. I could be worse off than I am.’ 

You can donate to Rebecca’s GoFundMe here.

Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world and affects more than two MILLION women a year

Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world. Each year in the UK there are more than 55,000 new cases, and the disease claims the lives of 11,500 women. In the US, it strikes 266,000 each year and kills 40,000. But what causes it and how can it be treated?

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer develops from a cancerous cell which develops in the lining of a duct or lobule in one of the breasts.

When the breast cancer has spread into surrounding breast tissue it is called an ‘invasive’ breast cancer. Some people are diagnosed with ‘carcinoma in situ’, where no cancer cells have grown beyond the duct or lobule.

Most cases develop in women over the age of 50 but younger women are sometimes affected. Breast cancer can develop in men though this is rare.

Staging means how big the cancer is and whether it has spread. Stage 1 is the earliest stage and stage 4 means the cancer has spread to another part of the body.

The cancerous cells are graded from low, which means a slow growth, to high, which is fast growing. High grade cancers are more likely to come back after they have first been treated.

What causes breast cancer?

A cancerous tumour starts from one abnormal cell. The exact reason why a cell becomes cancerous is unclear. It is thought that something damages or alters certain genes in the cell. This makes the cell abnormal and multiply ‘out of control’.

Although breast cancer can develop for no apparent reason, there are some risk factors that can increase the chance of developing breast cancer, such as genetics.

What are the symptoms of breast cancer?

The usual first symptom is a painless lump in the breast, although most breast lumps are not cancerous and are fluid filled cysts, which are benign. 

The first place that breast cancer usually spreads to is the lymph nodes in the armpit. If this occurs you will develop a swelling or lump in an armpit.

How is breast cancer diagnosed?

  • Initial assessment: A doctor examines the breasts and armpits. They may do tests such as a mammography, a special x-ray of the breast tissue which can indicate the possibility of tumours.
  • Biopsy: A biopsy is when a small sample of tissue is removed from a part of the body. The sample is then examined under the microscope to look for abnormal cells. The sample can confirm or rule out cancer.

If you are confirmed to have breast cancer, further tests may be needed to assess if it has spread. For example, blood tests, an ultrasound scan of the liver or a chest x-ray.

How is breast cancer treated?

Treatment options which may be considered include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormone treatment. Often a combination of two or more of these treatments are used.

  • Surgery: Breast-conserving surgery or the removal of the affected breast depending on the size of the tumour.
  • Radiotherapy: A treatment which uses high energy beams of radiation focussed on cancerous tissue. This kills cancer cells, or stops cancer cells from multiplying. It is mainly used in addition to surgery.
  • Chemotherapy: A treatment of cancer by using anti-cancer drugs which kill cancer cells, or stop them from multiplying
  • Hormone treatments: Some types of breast cancer are affected by the ‘female’ hormone oestrogen, which can stimulate the cancer cells to divide and multiply. Treatments which reduce the level of these hormones, or prevent them from working, are commonly used in people with breast cancer.

How successful is treatment?

The outlook is best in those who are diagnosed when the cancer is still small, and has not spread. Surgical removal of a tumour in an early stage may then give a good chance of cure.

The routine mammography offered to women between the ages of 50 and 70 mean more breast cancers are being diagnosed and treated at an early stage.

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