Hayley explains how she was diagnosed with breast cancer, aged just 25

I wasn’t well enough to take part in The MoonWalk last year, but nothing will stop me this time!

Hayley’s story:-

“I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of just 25. I wasn’t well enough to take part in The MoonWalk London last year with a huge team of my amazing friends and family, but will be there this year! I want to raise awareness that anyone can get breast cancer, whatever their age.

I discovered a lump in my breast in December 2021. My housemate Shauni and I had decided to apply some fake tan before a trip away. As I pulled my jumper off over my head, my hand brushed the top of my left breast – it felt strange and I could feel some sort of lump. Shauni could feel it too. The only other people I told at this stage were my other best friend Jess, who I work with, and my sister Aisling. I knew that I needed to get the lump checked out, even though I was so young and it played on my mind the whole weekend. 

Hayley (left) with her sister Aisling

The appointment I made with my doctor a couple of days later pretty much saved my life.  My doctor asked me whether I had any family history of cancer – which I don’t. Although my doctor also thought that my lump would be nothing to worry about, she decided to refer me anyway.

Jess came along with me to the hospital. The first nurse I saw there also thought I would be absolutely fine. I had an ultrasound scan, as I was too young for a mammogram. I remember lying there during the scan, but then the room suddenly went silent. This was the first sign that something was wrong. I had a biopsy straight away and for the first time I was told that my lump might be cancerous. I was advised to bring someone with me when I came back for my results. But even at this stage, I still wasn’t concerned.

Hayley (right) with her friend Jess

I went back to the hospital to get my results on 21st January 2021 with Jess. I was convinced I’d be in and out of the appointment quickly with a clean bill of health. I was kept waiting a long time and that’s when I started to worry. Eventually, Jess and I got called in and the doctor told me that he had bad news – I had breast cancer. I couldn’t believe it and the doctors were very surprised too, bearing in mind I was so young and had no history at all of breast cancer in my family

I don’t remember much about the appointment after that, as I was in a state of shock. All I could think about was how I was going to tell my mum! The doctors started talking about so many things including cancer and fertility treatment and it was too much to take in. I was very dazed. Jess helped me tell my sister and my friend Shauni and we then drove to tell my mum. Everyone was in a state of total shock.

I had a lot more tests over the coming weeks, including genetic testing, followed by a lumpectomy, on 1st March, when they also removed three of my lymph nodes. Unfortunately, the surgeons didn’t get a clear margin around my lump and cancer had been detected in two of my lymph nodes, so I needed to have further surgery. In the meantime, I had fertility treatment, during which 12 eggs were removed. Because of the type of breast cancer I’d been diagnosed with, my doctors made it very clear that my cancer treatment would send me straight into the menopause. If I was to have any chance of having children in the future, egg retrieval was my only chance.

I started a very harsh regime of chemotherapy at the end of April 2022 – which I had every two weeks. My doctors wanted to make sure that every single cancer cell was removed from my body.

By this time, I’d had the results of twelve different genetics tests and I was all clear. The doctors said it was a one in three million chance that I’d developed breast cancer at my age – with no family history and nothing in my genetics. That was an incredible statistic and so hard to take, but there will be other people like me, I’m sure.

To support me, a massive team of my friends and family from all over the country signed up to take part in The MoonWalk London, walking 26.2 miles in decorated bras across the capital city at night. The team raised an amazing £25,000 – they said it made them feel as though they were doing something to help.

The Hayley’s Heroes team at The MoonWalk London 2022

I’d been planning to walk too, but unfortunately, I had my second chemo session on the morning of The MoonWalk. Mum finally convinced me that I simply wasn’t well enough to take part in the walk and I was gutted! But it was the right decision. Instead, I Face-timed my friends and family out on the route in London whenever I woke up during the night. It was amazing to see everyone and all the London sights– it was almost as though as I was there with them!

Unfortunately, I lost my hair during chemo. Because of the type of treatment I was having, I was told that using a cold cap machine probably wouldn’t help me keep my hair, but I wanted to try it anyway. It didn’t work sadly, which was even more frustrating because the cold cap machine had been donated by Walk the Walk! The hardest part of my treatment was losing my hair – I was only 25 years old and had always really looked after it.

I then had 20 rounds of radiotherapy, which I managed to fit in around my job as a teacher - I’m also still taking hormone therapy, as well as anti-depressants to help with the menopausal symptoms. At times, the hot flushes have woken me literally every hour at night, which is horrible and so embarrassing, when you’re only 25 years old and your friends can’t really relate. I’m in remission from cancer now though and will continue to have a mammogram every year.

Hayley having chemotherapy  

It’s been an incredibly hard year, but I think it was actually worse for those around me than it was for me. I put on my “big girl knickers” as they say and just followed all the advice I was given. I had some awful days when I thought that I couldn’t deal with it anymore, but you have to get up fighting.  I was one of the lucky ones. My cancer was found early and was treatable.

I’m determined to come out the other side of cancer and to lead a great life going forward. Cancer puts everything into perspective. You end up loving life more and that’s why I’m determined to complete 26.2 miles at The MoonWalk London this year! It’ll be such an emotional night. Nothing will stop me.”

Thank you for sharing your story Hayley and we look forward to seeing you and your team at The MoonWalk London 2023!

Why not join us for The MoonWalk London LIVE 2024... entries are now OPEN!



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