Surviving breast cancer in a global pandemic, a Doncaster woman tells her inspiring journey from diagnosis to recovery

An inspiring Doncaster woman managed to turn her cancer diagnosis into a positive and got closer to her loved ones during the global pandemic.

By Laura Andrew
Wednesday, 28th October 2020, 7:00 am

Holly Rushton, 30, from Rossington has had a very difficult seven months.

Like every other member of the public she has had to face the global pandemic but she has also had to cope with having breast cancer.

Back in March, Holly went to her doctors to get checked out after becoming concerned about pain she was having and felt things were not quite right.

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Holly Rushton before and after chemotherapy.

“I was experiencing pain and discomfort but at first the doctor suggested I see a dermatologist and then I was referred to a breast clinic for an ultrasound.”

Holly’s medical treatment started just as the national lockdown was announced.

She had her first appointment on March 28 and continued her journey all the way into October.

Holly decided to shave her head during her chemotherapy treatment.

“The consultant told me that my breast felt abnormal during a physical examination,” Holly continued.

“But I didn’t start to think something was wrong until the nurses went very quiet when I was having a scan.

“I work in customer service and I picked up on their body language straight away, I knew something was off.”

After her first ultrasound Holly went on to have two Mammograms, a second scan and multiple biopsies.

All of this took around four hours.

“I really went through the ringer that day,” Holly said.

“I was told that my tests were being rushed through because something didn’t look right.”

Holly went home and wanted to see her best friend to talk through the day but as lockdown restrictions were already in place they had to have a heart to heart via video call.

A few days later and Holly returned to the hospital to get her results taking her sister in law with her for support.

She says she was thankful that the process happened so quickly as she had heard of others whose care had been delayed due to Covid-19.

“It was the strangest feeling,” Holly said.

“When they told me that it was cancer it was like the room stood still.

“The people around me were crying but I just started to think ‘how do we fix this?’

Holly says that going through this during the pandemic has been the hardest part of the experience.

She has not been able to do many of the things that bring her comfort and has not been able to see her boyfriend for months as she has had to isolate due to a weakened immune system.

She said: “Usually people attend support groups when they find out they have cancer but I was not able to do that.

“I got a lot of information off the internet but it’s not the same.

“All I have wanted is to have a hug off my boyfriend but he works in a school so it hasn’t been safe to see him.

“The chemotherapy has made me more susceptible to weakness so the risk of getting ill is much greater.”

But Holly’s loved ones have made up for the physical space between them with an outpouring of love over the last seven months.

She says they have gone above and beyond to make sure she knows that she is loved and supported.

She said: “They have been unreal.

“I cannot say enough good things about my friends, family and colleagues.

“Doing this on my own during Covid-19 has been so hard but the little things that they have done have got me through.

“My boyfriend's mum has been cooking me hot meals every day, my colleagues have been sending me presents through the post and my nieces and nephews have been such a beacon of positivity.

"They don’t really understand what’s been happening to me but they have lifted my spirits immensely.”

Holly works at StoneAcre on York Road and says that her male colleagues have been incredibly supportive around an issue that they knew little about before Holly’s diagnosis.

“It’s really shown me who in my life is there for me and that those bonds are so strong,” she said.

“They have all watched me go from an outgoing person who laughed a lot to someone really poorly whose hair was falling out.”

Holly finished chemotherapy this October and was able to complete the ringing of the bell that all cancer patients partake in when they finish treatment.

Her cancer was removed by mastectomy and she is now awaiting radiotherapy to finish off her care plan but she says the doctors are optimistic about her recovery.

“It’s so important to keep smiling and to be positive during cancer,” Holly said.

“I genuinely believe that have a can do attitude helps in the recovery process.”

Holly now uses her social media as a platform to encourage other young women to regularly check their breasts.

She said: “I was none the wiser before my diagnosis.

“I’m so relieved that they found it but I wasn’t checking often before I had cancer.

“If I can get just one woman to check her breasts and catch it early then I will be happy.

"With cancer early detection really is the key.”

You can follow Holly on Instagram here.

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.