After a delayed breast cancer diagnosis, a brave High Peak mum has spoken out to highlight the importance of regular checks.
Gemma Ellis was officially diagnosed with breast cancer in February - six months after she first noticed something was wrong.
The 34-year-old said: “I was told I was too young for it to be anything sinister and had two ultra-sounds which both came back clear.
“When you get clear screenings results which tell you are alright, you put your faith in them even if you know something isn’t right.”
She was given antibiotics for an infection but it was only after an MRI scan Gemma’s cancer became apparent. She said: “I went into meltdown. Everything was awful, I had written myself off and was constantly aware of how long this had been going on for without treatment, and that I wouldn’t live to see my girls grow up.”
The cancer has now spread to Gemma’s lymph nodes but she said: “When the oncologist said to me ‘I can make you better’ everything changed. I became more positive, I realised my two gorgeous girls need their mummy and my husband needs his wife. I really do have everything to live for.”
Gemma, from Chapel-en-le-Frith, is now halfway through her chemotherapy with another three sessions remaining.
She has chosen to wear a cold cap which slows down the process of losing her hair.
Gemma, a discharge co-ordinator at Newholme Hospital in Bakewell, said: “I need to still look like me for my little girls. And when I look in the mirror and see I have hair that is half the battle in my own head.
“It’s so cold and painful for the first 15 minutes so I bite down on something or people tell me jokes, but after that your body goes numb.”
Gemma now wants to educate more women to regularly check their breasts.
She said: “I first knew there was something wrong when I was in pain and the skin had changed. My nipple became inverted due to the swelling and there was dimpling which made it look like a pitta bread.” Her breast became so sore and heavy she recalls putting her arm under it to carry it and relieve some of the weight. She said: “For a long time I couldn’t feel a lump because I was feeling my breasts lying down. I didn’t know how I was meant to check them until someone at Christie’s said it should never be done lying down but standing up.
She added: “Check your breasts every month and get used to what is normal for you so you can spot any changes.” Gemma has been receiving treatment and support from Breast Cancer Care, Christie Hospital and Blythe House Hospice and she is determined to give back to them and will be doing the Pink Ribbon Walk in June.
She added: “It is keeping me positive because I know I will be helping those who helped me.” So far she has raised £1,400. To donate, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Gemma-Ellis15.