Val’s important message for International Women’s Day – keep checking your breasts!

Several friends said they wouldn’t have gone to the doctor with my symptoms, but I’m very relieved I did

Val’s story:

“I was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2022 after noticing I had an itchy breast and nipple. Several of my friends said they wouldn’t even have gone to the doctor with my symptoms, but I’m very relieved that I did!

In early 2022, I developed a condition called “contact dermatitis” on my hands. It then progressed and I got itchy all over my body, including on my right breast and nipple. One day, I noticed some discharge coming out of my nipple too. I decided it was time to make an appointment with my GP, who referred me to the breast clinic.

My GP thought I had eczema and so did the consultant at the hospital, but she decided to send me for a biopsy, just to be on the safe side. The consultant was rather shocked when I was diagnosed with Paget’s disease of the breast. This is often mistaken for eczema, but is actually a rare condition associated with breast cancer.

Everything moved very quickly and not long afterwards I had an operation to remove my nipple and the surrounding tissue. Up until this point, my doctors hadn’t expected to find anything suspicious. However, when I got my results following the surgery, I was told that I had DCIS – a very early, non-invasive form of breast cancer, which occurs within the milk ducts in the breast.

Suddenly, I was faced with having a mastectomy and reconstruction of my right breast – it was a terrible shock, after thinking for so long that I just had eczema. My diagnosis came totally out of the blue, as there’s also no history at all of breast cancer in my family. I felt very lucky that following my surgery, I didn’t need chemotherapy or radiotherapy. I had all my treatment at York Hospital, where I was always seen very quickly - the staff were so lovely and I was shown such kindness.

My GP told me that she hadn’t expected me to be diagnosed with breast cancer – in fact, she agreed with me, that in her experience, most women wouldn’t even have bothered going to the doctor with the type of symptoms I had.

Val Ellis, with husband Dave and children William and Hilary

My diagnosis came at a tricky time for our family, as my daughter Hilary had just got married and was away on her honeymoon. My husband Dave and I decided to keep my cancer a secret from our daughter until she returned, as we really wanted her to enjoy her holiday. Once we told the whole family, they were amazingly supportive, including Dave, my daughter Hilary and my son Will.

I’m fine now - I don’t particularly like how my breasts look at the moment, although my doctors will be able to fix that going forward. Hopefully they will be able to do an uplift of my left breast, so that I’ll have a matching pair. I’ll need to wait for that surgery though, as the hospital are mainly doing emergency surgery at the moment. In the meantime, it does make buying bras quite tricky. Looking back, the last few months almost feel like a weird dream now – just a few months back, I had nothing wrong with me!

I’m really excited about taking part in the Full Moon (26.2 miles) at The MoonWalk London in May. It all came about, because one day, my husband and I decided to go to the gym. My husband drove there, but I said I’d meet him there, as I wanted to walk. As I made my way to the gym, it occurred to me that I could sign up for The MoonWalk. I spoke to my daughter and we did just that! A couple of our friends have also joined the team - we all live in different areas, so we’ll be walking together for the first time on the actual night of the event. We can’t wait!

My message to everyone, is to keep checking your breasts! My own diagnosis was a huge surprise – even to my doctors – but my cancer was found early and was treatable. If you notice any changes to your breasts, make an appointment with your GP as soon as possible. I’m glad I did!”

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


Bra picture

Get involved

Here's just a few ways of supporting us!