Woman, 24, is one of the youngest in the UK with breast cancer

Dying woman, 24, who is one of the youngest in the UK to be diagnosed with terminal breast cancer dreams of marrying her fiancé in a castle ‘like a fairy tale princess’ before she dies

  • Vicki Turner thought she had beaten cancer until it returned last month
  • Endured a double mastectomy and six months of chemotherapy 
  • Miss Turner dreams of marrying her fiancé Simon Eastaugh, 25, next year 

One of the youngest women in the UK to have terminal stage-four breast cancer dreams of getting married in a castle ‘like a fairy tale princess’.

Vicki Turner, of Kings Langley, Hertfordshire, was told last month the cancer she thought she had defeated had returned, with there being nothing more doctors could do.

The 24-year-old, who was initially diagnosed with the disease in 2016, has been told she could live anywhere from three-to-30 years.

Miss Turner, who works as an HR auditor, endured a double mastectomy and six months of chemotherapy to try and beat the disease, only for it to spread to her spine. 

Determined to make the most of the life she has left, Miss Turner hopes to marry her fiancé Simon Eastaugh, 25, next year at Leeds Castle in Kent.

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Vicki Turner is one of the youngest women in the UK to have terminal stage-four breast cancer. She is pictured left after a double mastectomy on December 8 2016 to prevent the disease spreading to her right breast. She lost her hair after six rounds of chemotherapy (right)

Doctors say that due to the aggressive nature of cancer in young people, Miss Turner may have anywhere from three-to-30 years left. Determined to make the most of her life, she hopes to marry her fiancé Simon Eastaugh, 25, (pictured together) next year at Leeds Castle in Kent 

Miss Turner found a lump in her left breast in November 2016, just four months after she met her now-fiancé at her mother Helen’s 50th birthday party.  

‘We were getting ready to go out and I’d just had a shower and I remember watching a video that advised women to check our breasts in the shower,’ she said.

‘When I felt mine, I found a lump. I showed Simon and he told me to talk to my mum, which I did.’

Miss Turner – then 21 – went to her GP, who gave her an emergency referral to the St Albans City Hospital breast clinic for a biopsy and mammogram.

Just days later on November 17, she was given the devastating news she had grade three breast cancer. 

Only 31 people under 24 are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the UK – making up just 0.056 per cent of cases, according to Cancer Research. 

‘Mum was with me and while I was totally shocked I think she’d had her suspicions,’ Miss Turner said. ‘Still, we both just cried and cried and cried.’

On December 8 Miss Turner had a double mastectomy at north west London’s Royal Free Hospital to prevent the cancer spreading to her other breast, followed by reconstructive surgery.

Miss Turner, who has no family history of breast cancer, also endured six rounds of chemotherapy and hormone-repression treatment to ‘kill anything floating around’.

Speaking of her treatment, she said: ‘Every time I get taken down to surgery I cry. I can’t quite get the hang of being brave when it comes to going into surgery.

‘But the most difficult ordeal was the chemotherapy. It’s the hardest thing I have ever had to endure. You lose your hair and your confidence.

‘I lost the ability to physically do what I wanted. I got tired going up the stairs and while it saves lives, it’s a massively destructive path to go down in order to save your life.’

Miss Turner – who also had hormonal treatment – claims chemotherapy was ‘the most difficult ordeal’. Pictured in 2017 after the treatment, she said: ‘You lose your hair and your confidence’

Miss Turner is pictured on her first day of chemotherapy with Mr Eastaugh in 2016. He was the one who encouraged she seek help when she noticed a lump in her left breast after showering. Having met just four months earlier, Miss Turner said: ‘He’s so positive and he just lifts me up’

Mr Eastaugh has stuck by Miss Turner (pictured together left) throughout her treatment. She said: ‘I couldn’t have met anyone more perfect’. Throughout her health ordeal, horses have been Miss Turner’s ‘therapy’. Pictured right, she is fundraising so she can buy a horse

Before starting chemotherapy in January 2017, Miss Turner tried to harvest her eggs in the hope she would one day have children, however, it was unsuccessful.

‘Initially, there was potential for four eggs and then it gradually went down to one and it was a phantom egg,’ she said. ‘So that’s kaput for my eggs.’ 

With her chemotherapy finally over at the end of June, Miss Turner’s hair grew back, and she and her fiancé went travelling.

‘We travelled around South East Asia from February to June 2018, going to Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and a bit of Western Australia, which was wonderful,’ she said.

‘Then we worked for a few months and went around Europe from August-to-October, before going skiing with my family in Bulgaria over New Year.’

Things seemed to be looking up. However, during a routine check-up on February 20 this year, her doctor found another lump where the cancer had been before.

‘It grew between the skin and the silicon and saline implant, so I could feel it below the nipple,’ Miss Turner said. She underwent a biopsy on February 25.

‘A nurse asked me to come in to the hospital and I thought ‘I don’t like this’, Miss Turner said. 

‘I asked why and made them tell me on the phone. Something in me wanted to hear it and my first question was ‘am I going to die?’

‘I think my breast care nurse just said something to console me.

‘I just didn’t think it was my turn to go through it all again. I had thought it might come back but not until I was 30 or later.’

Miss Turner (pictured with Mr Eastaugh) hoped to one day start a family. However, attempts to freeze her eggs before her first round of chemotherapy were unsuccessful

While Miss Turner prepared to fight her disease yet again, Mr Eastaugh created a ray of sunshine in her life by asking her to marry him.

‘Simon proposed on March 19,’ she said. ‘I’m a massive Anne Boleyn fan and he proposed in the chapel of the Tower of London where her body was buried.’ 

Miss Turner met her fiancé on July 23 2016 at her mother’s ‘H-themed’ fancy dress party at Hertfordshire’s Chipperfield Cricket Club.  

‘He plays cricket for that team and was still there with some of his mates getting a bit p***** when we arrived, so they joined the party, although not in fancy dress,’ she said.

Miss Turner – who was dressed as a Hells Angel – added: ‘My mum went over, dressed as Helen of Troy, and interrogated him, asking why he hadn’t met me. It was so funny!

‘I couldn’t have met anyone more perfect for me. He’s so positive and he just lifts me up and makes everything fine.’ 

Although overjoyed to be engaged, Miss Turner was dealt another blow the very next day following a routine CT scan at Watford General Hospital.

Doctors told her they had seen ‘a speck’ on two of her spinal vertebrae.

They explained her breast cancer was now stage four, had spread and she had inoperable spinal tumours.

Miss Turner recalls the moment she told her father Dave, 55, and brother Ali, 21, the terrible news. 

‘I’d never seen dad cry before, but we’re very close and normally pretty good at receiving bad news, so it was a shock,’ she said.

This is not Miss Turner’s first brush with cancer. At just three years old (left) she was diagnosed with a Wilms’ tumour, which is a type of kidney cancer that only affects children. Miss Turner was ‘bald as an egg’ at primary school (right) following 17 cycles of chemotherapy

Miss Turner is awaiting the results of an MRI scan she underwent on April 10, which should give a better indication of how long she has left. 

‘I’m terrified of what my medical team will say next to be honest,’ she said. ‘I said to my oncologist I thought everything would go back to normal but it didn’t.’ 

Determined to take back some control of her health, Miss Turner underwent a lumpectomy on March 28 at St Albans to remove her breast tumour below the nipple.  

Refusing to let her condition hold her back, Miss Turner was back at work just a week later. However, she is realistic she will never be disease-free. 

‘This cancer will never be out of me now,’ Miss Turner said. ‘There’s nothing I can do. I eat healthily, I don’t smoke, there’s literally no reason for me to have been dealt this card.

‘I’m most scared of not being around to watch my family grow old.

‘And I want to get married and have children, or even see my friends and brother have children and get married. I’d like to look after my parents when they get old too.’

Miss Turner and Mr Eastaugh went travelling in June 2017 when her chemotherapy ended and she thought she was cancer-free for good. She called the experience ‘wonderful’

Miss Turner’s cancer diagnosis is one of the many health ordeals she has endured. 

At just three years old she was diagnosed with a Wilms’ tumour, which is a type of kidney cancer that only affects children. 

Between 80 and 85 youngsters in the UK develop the condition every year, according to Macmillan Cancer Support. 

In September 1998 Miss Turner had the stage-three ‘grapefruit-sized’ tumour removed, along with her right kidney.

She was also forced to endure 19 rounds of radiotherapy, 17 cycles of chemo and 15 blood transfusions over a year. 

‘At primary school I was as bald as an egg,’ Miss Turner said. ‘The kids in my year looked after me, but I remember getting called a boy a lot by older kids, which at that age isn’t very fun.’

Miss Turner then had her appendix removed at 14 and at 19 was put on blood thinners for a cerebral venous sinus thrombosis. This is a blood clot in the dural venous sinuses, which drain blood from the brain.

‘I was taking the contraceptive pill at the time, which doctors thought might have caused it,’ Miss Turner said.

‘A nurse said to me I have been unlucky but I think I’ve been extremely lucky.

‘I could have died when I had my first cancer, I could have had a stroke when I had my blood clot, but I didn’t.’

Miss Turner (left) claims being with horses is her ‘escape’ and rids her of the ‘anxiety, fear and sadness’ that came with her cancer diagnosis. She started riding at just eight years old (pictured right as a child on a horse) and went on to win several competitions as a teenager

Throughout all her health challenges, Miss Turner’s love of horses has helped her stay strong. 

She started riding at just eight years old and went on to win several competitions as a teenager on a horse named Toby that she rented with a friend.

Miss Turner now hopes to use some of the fundraising money to finally buy her own horse. 

‘Horses have always been my therapy,’ she said. ‘I want a male gelding, maybe a warmblood Hanoverian. 

‘Being with horses is my escape from the anxiety, fear and sadness of the cancer that lives in me and how it’s going to affect my life. 

‘I’m going to get him settled at the stable, groom him and give him lots of carrots, and then start having lessons and work towards taking him out.

‘I even have list of horse names, that’s how sad I am! Simon told me to call it Lord Elrond and I thought of Thor, so that’s the short list at the moment. 

She added: ‘The diagnosis drives me to do things more rapidly. That’s why I started my horse fund in March, just after my latest surgery.

‘It’s already raised £11,000, which is totally amazing. It makes me feel like I’m being hugged 1,000 times by 1,000 people. It’s unbelievable. I truly never expected it to get this far.

‘My dream is becoming a reality and I said to myself ‘You can have your dream horse’ and it takes away the fear.’

Miss Turner is also looking forward to getting married in the near future.  

‘I would like a fairy-tale wedding in Leeds Castle,’ she said.

‘It has a lot to do with my interest in Anne Boleyn, as, like her, I would like to get married, like a princess, in a historic Tudor castle, to my prince.

‘We want to get married in 2020, but we haven’t set a date yet or made any definite plans, as it will depend on what we can afford, but it is my dream to do this and to feel like a queen.’

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Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world. Each year in the UK there are more than 55,000 new cases, and the disease claims the lives of 11,500 women. In the US, it strikes 266,000 each year and kills 40,000. But what causes it and how can it be treated?

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer develops from a cancerous cell which develops in the lining of a duct or lobule in one of the breasts.

When the breast cancer has spread into surrounding breast tissue it is called an ‘invasive’ breast cancer. Some people are diagnosed with ‘carcinoma in situ’, where no cancer cells have grown beyond the duct or lobule.

Most cases develop in women over the age of 50 but younger women are sometimes affected. Breast cancer can develop in men though this is rare.

The cancerous cells are graded from stage one, which means a slow growth, up to stage four, which is the most aggressive.

What causes breast cancer?

A cancerous tumour starts from one abnormal cell. The exact reason why a cell becomes cancerous is unclear. It is thought that something damages or alters certain genes in the cell. This makes the cell abnormal and multiply ‘out of control’.

Although breast cancer can develop for no apparent reason, there are some risk factors that can increase the chance of developing breast cancer, such as genetics.

What are the symptoms of breast cancer?

The usual first symptom is a painless lump in the breast, although most breast lumps are not cancerous and are fluid filled cysts, which are benign. 

The first place that breast cancer usually spreads to is the lymph nodes in the armpit. If this occurs you will develop a swelling or lump in an armpit.

How is breast cancer diagnosed?

  • Initial assessment: A doctor examines the breasts and armpits. They may do tests such as a mammography, a special x-ray of the breast tissue which can indicate the possibility of tumours.
  • Biopsy: A biopsy is when a small sample of tissue is removed from a part of the body. The sample is then examined under the microscope to look for abnormal cells. The sample can confirm or rule out cancer.

If you are confirmed to have breast cancer, further tests may be needed to assess if it has spread. For example, blood tests, an ultrasound scan of the liver or a chest x-ray.

How is breast cancer treated?

Treatment options which may be considered include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormone treatment. Often a combination of two or more of these treatments are used.

  • Surgery: Breast-conserving surgery or the removal of the affected breast depending on the size of the tumour.
  • Radiotherapy: A treatment which uses high energy beams of radiation focussed on cancerous tissue. This kills cancer cells, or stops cancer cells from multiplying. It is mainly used in addition to surgery.
  • Chemotherapy: A treatment of cancer by using anti-cancer drugs which kill cancer cells, or stop them from multiplying
  • Hormone treatments: Some types of breast cancer are affected by the ‘female’ hormone oestrogen, which can stimulate the cancer cells to divide and multiply. Treatments which reduce the level of these hormones, or prevent them from working, are commonly used in people with breast cancer.

How successful is treatment?

The outlook is best in those who are diagnosed when the cancer is still small, and has not spread. Surgical removal of a tumour in an early stage may then give a good chance of cure.

The routine mammography offered to women between the ages of 50 and 70 mean more breast cancers are being diagnosed and treated at an early stage.

For more information visit breastcancercare.org.uk or www.cancerhelp.org.uk

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