A nurse has been diagnosed with cancer just three months after suffering a devastating miscarriage.
Leah McLeod, 42, was diagnosed in November 2018 after feeling a sharp pain in her breast weeks earlier.
The brave mum-of-two went on to request a double mastectomy – before being hit with yet more devastating news.
Leah had tragically miscarried just three months before, so put the pains down to a sudden change in her hormones.
But when Leah, from Hull, went to visit her GP about the pain, she was referred to a breast clinic at Castle Hill Hopsital.
Mammograms and ultrasound scans revealed there was calcification and something that looked “suspicious”, reports Hull Live .
This prompted a further biopsy and after an agonising three-week wait for results, Leah received the news she was dreading but ultimately expecting.
Speaking about the moment she was told she had breast cancer, Leah said: "I went back in for my results in November after my grandad’s funeral.
"It was on the same day and I knew the minute I went in the room that something was wrong because the consultant, another registrar and the breast cancer nurse were all there waiting.
“I was told I had a 16mm tumour which was oestrogen-receptor positive and grade three. I didn’t cry as I was in professional mode but my mum was sat next to me and she did.
“I didn’t shed a tear. I basically said ‘OK, what is it? How big is it? Where is it? What are we going to do?’
"I was really matter of fact and I didn’t want to leave without asking all the questions because I wanted to know what we were dealing with.”
Leah had an MRI scan, which showed the tumour measured 20mm.
She said the prospect of telling her children was the worst thing for her to cope with, adding: "I was going to tell them I was having breast implants and then I could tell them what really happened when they were older."
However, when Leah was told she would have to undergo preventative chemotherapy she knew she had to be honest and tell her children – Oliver, 10, and Connor, 14 – the truth about her condition.
“It was hard because I didn’t want to break down and cry because I wanted to show strength. When I did tell them Oliver put his hand over his face and said ‘please don’t tell me you’ve got that’.
“They were both upset and I hugged them but I read this book called ‘Mummy’s Lump’ with them which tells you all about breast cancer and chemotherapy.
“At the end there is a picture of a mum and two kids on the beach building sandcastles. I told them to focus on that last image because that was where we were going to be.”
Leah, who has documented her cancer battle in an honest and frank Facebook blog, was told she would have a lumpectomy, which removes the cancer from the breast, followed by three further operations if there were no clear margins.
However, after worrying about the financial implications and after researching on the internet, Leah told doctors she wanted both breasts to be removed as part of a bilateral mastectomy.
“I didn’t want to look deformed so I put a plan into place, researched everything and went back to the consultant,” Leah said.
“I challenged them and said I didn’t want four surgeries. I didn’t think it would be beneficial for my mental health and I had my whole life ahead of me so I wanted to be body confident.”
Leah had to see a psychologist to ensure she was mentally prepared for such a big operation which would see her have both breasts removed and then immediately reconstructed.
Surgery eventually went ahead on January 17, 2019, and although it was unpleasant and “extremely painful” she was under the impression that she was on the road to recovery.
She suffered as a result of being discharged the following day with no pain relief and had to have two drains fitted which would collect blood and fluid from the body.
Leah had to wait a month until February 18 for the results and she thought she had beaten cancer.
Leah said: “I sat there and I thought to myself, ‘surely it’s not this easy to beat cancer?’ I thought ‘is this it? There must be something else'.”
The tests ultimately revealed that Leah’s tumour had doubled in size to 40mm when they removed it, and that she had also had an 18mm ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), which is a non-invasive cancer where abnormal cells are found in the lining of the breast milk duct.
The tumour was also found to be grade two instead of grade three but Leah’s worst fears came true when she was told she would need chemotherapy after three lymph nodes were removed from under her right arm.
“For me chemotherapy is when reality hits that this is cancer. I’ve always been proud of my appearance – I always pay money for hair extensions, I take care of myself and, being a girl, hair has always been a big thing for me," she said.
“I cried when I thought about losing my hair. I cried thinking about how long it might take to grow back and waking up with hair on my pillow was one of the hardest things to take.”
Leah began chemotherapy on March 25 and used a cold cap which is supposed to make hair less likely to fall out.
She is due to have six chemotherapy sessions every three weeks and by the end of it she should be cancer-free.
Chemotherapy leaves Leah with a whole range of symptoms, including fatigue, constipation, acid reflux, heartburn and diarrhoea.
But she is determined to spread awareness of what she has been through in her journey so far through her Facebook blog.
She has received dozens of messages of support from others battling cancer and uses her posts to ensure people know about the warning signs for breast cancer.
“I wanted to take this experience and turn it into something positive,” Leah said. “I want to share my story and grill it into everyone to checks their boobs regularly.
“I message my friends once a month saying ‘have you been checking your breasts?’ and I send them these reminders. As awful as it is people are enjoying reading my story and I want it to be as real as possible."
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