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A two-time cancer survivor who had preventative chemotherapy urges Kate Middleton to “stay positive” as she battles the disease

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A two-time cancer survivor who had preventative chemotherapy urges Kate Middleton to “stay positive” as she battles the disease

 

Mothers who met whilst facing cancer together share the importance of Kate sharing her diagnosis

 

 

A two-time cancer survivor who had preventative chemotherapy urges Kate Middleton to “stay positive” as she battles the disease.

Terri Grice, 50, felt a sharp pain under her armpit and a ‘tiny pea size lump’ under her right breast in 2011 but brushed off her symptoms.

Fortunately, her late husband Mark made her a GP appointment which led to a breast cancer diagnosis

The mother-of-three from Chester started the long journey to recovery with an operation to remove the tumour, a lumpectomy, and then a course of “adjuvant chemotherapy” to ensure her body stayed cancer-free.

Princess Kate revealed her cancer diagnosis to the world on 22 March, sharing that her abdomen surgery in January led to the discovery of cancer and that she is currently undergoing “preventative chemotherapy”. It is not known what type of cancer Kate has.

Although “preventative chemotherapy” isn’t a recognised medical term, doctors use the phrase “adjuvant chemotherapy”.

This is a type of chemotherapy which reduces the risk of cancer coming back by killing off any cancer cells that have broken away from the main tumour before an operation.

As a mother to young children at the time, Terri can relate to Kate’s struggle to open up about her condition to her kids Charlotte, eight, Louis, five and George, 10.

She told The Independent: “It’s a horrible road. I had six months of adjuvant chemotherapy, I was so poorly, I lost my hair, I couldn’t eat.

“When I first heard the news about Kate of course I was really upset, she’s faced a lot of stigma and she needs her privacy.

“Nobody knows what it’s like unless you’ve been through it. The diagnosis is scary enough, let alone the treatment.

“She looks really positive and you have got to stay positive, it’s the only way to get through it. I would just say [to Kate] please stay positive – look at your children – it’s not a death sentence.”

Terri said her husband Mark was her ‘rock’ throughout her treatment and he was by her side with her eldest son David, now 30, when she received the devastating news. She is also mother to Callam, now 27, and Marcus, 22.

She added: “They told me I had cancer, and I just wanted to run away.”

Terri worked as a medical secretary at Clatterbridge Cancer Clinic – the same clinic where she underwent treatment.

“I knew everyone but it was still terrifying, I remember sitting there on the bed for my first day of chemo,” she added. “When I was having my bloods done, I saw a lady with no hair and I started to go into panic mode. I was thinking. ‘I don’t want this.’”

The mother could relate to Kate, who opened up about leaning on her partner Prince William for support.

“Mark worried more than I did – he was there every single chemotherapy session – he would sit with me the whole three hours,” she said.

Terri got through her first battle after six months of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and Toloxyfin – a drug used to treat pre-menopausal women.

Three years after Terri got the all-clear, Mark devastatingly died from kidney failure in April 2015 at the age of 42.

But 13 years after her first diagnosis, Terri noticed her skin ‘tethering’ around the same breast and another pea-sized lump in a different place. Expecting the worst, she made an appointment for a mammogram in 2020.

A biopsy revealed she had breast cancer for the second time, and this time she had to face the battle without her husband and also alone in eerie hospital wards due to Covid-19 restrictions.

This time around the tumour was 83mm and Terri had to undergo three months of chemotherapy followed by a full mastectomy of her right breast.

Waiting for her operation she met Carrie Pritchard, 57, who caught Terri’s attention with her trainers emblazoned with breasts – and they soon became firm friends.

Carrie, also from Chester, has routinely had cysts in her breasts so was not concerned when she found a lump in her right breast – but a routine mammogram in August 2020 led to the discovery of an 8cm tumour in her left breast.

She told The Independent: “There was a new consultant who wanted to start afresh who checked my right boob, which had a cyst – she said, you do realise you have a massive lump in your left breast.

“I’ve been in for mammograms dozens of times but when they called me back in straight away for another one, that’s when alarm bells started to ring.

“They said they had found a bit of calcification which can mean the early signs of cancer. I went in to have an ultrasound scan and they told me they suspected it was cancer. I just burst into tears.”

Carrie got the all-clear after six months of chemotherapy and 12 months of Herceptin injections. She then had a mastectomy to remove her breast followed by a course of radiotherapy, and now has a tattoo where her breast once was.

As a mother to two children, Alex, 31, and Joshua, 33, she also related to Kate’s struggle in sharing the diagnosis with her children.

She said: “It’s horrendous telling your kids… your job in life is to protect your children and they stand a risk of losing you. But it isn’t a death sentence – the prognoses are quite good, especially if the cancer is caught early.

“I was fit, healthy, trained and never ate rubbish. It can happen to anyone – no matter where you are on the social scale, even with the best health treatment in the world.”

Chief executive of Cancer Research UK, Michelle Mitchell, said: “On Friday 22 March, the day of the Princess’s diagnosis, there were over 200,000 visits to our cancer information web pages. This was a 15.2% increase compared to the day before the announcement.

“If people spot something that’s not normal for them or isn’t going away, they should check with their GP. Spotting cancer at an early stage means treatment is more likely to be successful.”

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