A young mother who was told her breast cancer was incurable just five days after giving birth to twins is urging women to check their breasts for signs of the condition.
Lorna Whiston, 26, from Crewe, Cheshire, was first diagnosed with cancer in February 2019, and finished a gruelling six-month chemotherapy treatment in August 2019, just before her fiancée Jonny Parkes, 30, popped the question.
However, she was devastated in November when she was forced to give birth prematurely in order to have scans and treatment for Stage 4 breast cancer, and days later was told her condition was incurable.
The mother-of-three is currently undergoing treatment whilst looking after her now five-week-old twins, Reuben and Arya, and son Mason, three, but doesn’t know how much time she has left with them.
She said: ‘It’s hard, I have days where it’s all I can think about; whether Mason and the twins will even remember me because they’re so young.’
Lorna Whiston, 26, from Crewe, Cheshire, (pictured with son Mason, three) is urging women to check their breasts after she was diagnosed with incurable breast cancer after giving birth to twins
Lorna first noticed symptoms while playing with her son Mason on a holiday to Fuerteventura in January 2019.
‘I was playing with Mason, who was only one at the time, and he hit my boob and I thought it seemed a bit sore.
‘I felt it and found a lump, but I thought it was just hormonal because I was only 24 at the time and on my period.’
However when they returned home, Lorna’s lump was still there so she decided to have it checked out.
The mother-of-three gave birth in November this year, and five days later was told she had incurable cancer. Pictured, Lorna and partner Jonny Parkes with new born twins Reuben and Arya
She said: ‘I had a biopsy and then on February 4, ironically World Cancer Day, I received my diagnosis of breast cancer.’
The young mum’s treatment was vigorous; she had a double mastectomy with reconstruction the following month, froze her eggs and six months of chemotherapy.
She said: ‘The main side effect for me was that it was so tiring, I could have stayed in bed all day.
‘But Mason had just turned two and wanted to play so he stopped me from moping around; he was my saving grace.’
Lorna said some days her incurable cancer is ‘all she can think about’ and she worries that her children will be ‘too young’ to remember her
After finishing her chemo, Lorna rang the bell at Christie Hospital in Manchester to signify the completion of her treatment on August 9. When she turned around, she saw that Jonny was down on one knee.
She said: ‘It was so overwhelming- I just couldn’t stop crying! He had to say ‘ »So, is that a yes then? »
In January of this year, Lorna had a follow-up MRI which showed no evidence of cancer.
Then, at the beginning of May, Lorna had a ‘funny feeling’ and decided to take a pregnancy test.
Lorna first noticed symptoms while playing with her son Mason on a holiday to Fuerteventura in January 2019. Pictured, Lorna and Jonny with son Mason before Lorna’s diagnosis
With no expectations or symptoms, she discovered she was four weeks pregnant, and at a scan three weeks later, found out it was twins.
She said: ‘You aren’t supposed to try and get pregnant in the first couple of years after chemo, and it was an accident, but a good accident!
‘Chemo can make you infertile and that’s why I froze my eggs, and after you get told that you are probably going to be infertile it’s all you can think about.
‘But we fell pregnant naturally, and twins were even more of a shock. I released two eggs but there aren’t any other twins on my side of the family.’
After finishing her chemo in August, Lorna rang the bell at Christie Hospital in Manchester and when she turned around, she saw that Jonny was down on one knee to propose
‘I was so excited and overjoyed, and both my and Jonny felt blessed, like it was meant to happen.’
Her pregnancy continued normally until five months, when Lorna started getting breathless easily, even after just going up the stairs.
She said: ‘I thought it was just down to it being twins at first, but then in November I developed a little cough.
‘The cough quickly got worse and after three days I struggled to get to the end of a sentence when reading a book for my son.’
The young mum’s treatment was vigorous following her first diagnosis (Pictured, Lorna and Jonny with son Mason after her first diagnosis)
Jonny rang 111, and Lorna was worried it could be COVID, so they went into A&E on November 14 where an X-ray was taken of Lorna’s chest.
She said: ‘They thought my aorta could be enlarged, which is dangerous for the babies, so they did a CT scan to rule it out and that was when they saw there was a mass just above my collarbone.
‘Even though they couldn’t confirm anything, I immediately thought the worst and was a bit upset. It’s hard to hear it a second time once you’ve been through it all once.’
Signs of breast cancer
Breast cancer can have several symptoms, but the first noticeable symptom is usually a lump or area of thickened breast tissue.
You should also see a GP if you notice any of these symptoms:
- A change in the size or shape of one or both breasts
- Discharge from either of your nipples which may be streaked with blood
- A lump or swelling in either of your armpits
- Dimpling on the skin of your breasts
- A rash on or around your nipple
- A change in the appearance of your nipple, such as becoming sunken into your breast
Breast pain is not usually a symptom of breast cancer.
After a couple of days in hospital and a biopsy, Lorna decided to have the babies early in case she needed to go ahead with cancer treatment.
She said: ‘They didn’t confirm it was cancer but they had a pretty good idea, and wanted to do a full body CT scan to check for any more masses so had to get the twins out.
‘It was all a bit of a blur- we were rushing around to get things ready for the twins, but the decision to give birth early was a quick one because we’d been thinking about it ever since they found the lump.’
Just one week after her biopsy, Lorna gave birth to her twins on Monday 23 November by emergency C-section.
Reuben and Arya were premature, born 34 weeks and 5 days along, at 5lb 1oz and 4lb 8oz respectively and were taken to the neonatal ward.
She said: ‘I was so relieved because they said they might not come out crying as they were so young, but they did, which was the best thing.’
Lorna had her full-body CT scan the day after giving birth and, just four days later, was told her breast cancer had returned but this time it was at Stage 4 and incurable.
She said: ‘I worry the affect it will have on Mason because he’s not old enough to understand, he just thinks mummy’s poorly.’
Lorna is four weeks into her treatment with chemotherapy and immunotherapy, but won’t let anything get in the way of her bucket list.
She said: ‘I want to marry Jonny, which we originally cancelled in order to have the twins but now we’re bringing it forward and will have a proper party once the restrictions have eased!
‘We really want to put a deposit down on a house to make some memories in and also offer a bit of security for Jonny and the kids, but I also want to go round the world feeding giraffes!’
Lorna’s friends and family have started a GoFundMe for Lorna, that has raised nearly £20,000, to help buy a house, visit Centre Parcs and complete more items from her bucket list.
Lorna gave birth to her twins by an emergency c-section in November but discovered days later she had incurable cancer
They are also planning on walking 23 miles from Crewe to Chester in order to raise awareness.
Organiser and Lorna’s best friend Danielle Wilson said: ‘Me and my friends are not athletic in any way shape or form so we thought what would take us out of our comfort zone more than an eight hour walk!’
Lorna said she couldn’t believe how big it has all become and has been ‘overwhelmed’ by the generosity of others.
She wants to use her story to ensure ladies are checking their breasts for lumps, especially younger women, as she was only 24 when she received her first diagnosis.
She said: ‘You don’t ever think it would happen to someone in this age group, but you never really know.’
You can contribute to Lorna’s GoFundMe here.
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