I was exactly the same age as Sarah Harding when I got my breast cancer diagnosis

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Helen Addis, 42, works in TV and lives in Surrey with her husband Mark and children Archie, 11, April, 10, and Belle, eight. Here she shares her own story…

‘I was exactly the same age as Sarah Harding when I got my breast cancer diagnosis, which has given me the chills. She was just so young. Too young. Sarah, like so many, put off seeing the doctor when she found her lump and by the time she got her diagnosis it had spread.

Girls Aloud star Sarah, who tragically died at the age of 39 on Sunday, amazingly donated profits from her recent book to breast cancer research which is an incredible legacy to leave behind. Her friends and family must be so proud.

My own breast cancer journey began back in April 2018, when I was busy preparing for my 40th birthday party.

Ordering gin, putting up decorations and sorting out a babysitter. These were my priorities back then.

Until one day, while moisturising, I found a lump beneath my right nipple. I wasn't too worried because I was relatively young and fit, with no family history of cancer. I presumed it was hormonal but booked a GP appointment. My doctor referred me to a consultant to rule it out. But in the following two weeks another four lumps appeared.

It’s so crucial to check your body regularly for any abnormalities. In just those two weeks another four lumps grew…which made me realise how quickly mine was travelling.

I had a mammogram, biopsy and an ultrasound, and three days later I went back to the consultant to hear the dreaded words, "You have grade 3 breast cancer."

I went into practical mummy mode, while my husband, who'd accompanied me, sobbed. I felt really let down by my body, like I didn't deserve what was happening.

So on my milestone birthday, instead of dancing with my friends, I was recovering from a mastectomy and facing 15 rounds of chemotherapy, 16 rounds of radiotherapy and 17 rounds of hormone treatment.

I told my children that, like they get verrucas on their feet, I had something similar in my boob. My eldest, Archie, told me he knew cancer kills people. That was a tough conversation to have. I couldn't bring myself to talk about whether I was going to die. When they asked me, rightly or wrongly, I would say no.


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We found April distraught because, she told us, "Dad was reading a book about dying." She'd seen Mark carrying a Complete Guide To DIY manual and got confused!

Cancer became part of our everyday language at home. Belle even took my prosthetic boob into school for show and tell, which I didn't realise until I unpacked her bag!

After Mark got over the initial shock, he took everything in his stride and nursed me through chemo. We're a good team.

On my toughest days, it was raising awareness that kept me going. I launched a campaign called Change And Check on ITV show Lorraine. As a result, 48 women contacted me saying it had helped them catch cancer early. But I've lost friends, too. I'm passionate about the next generation growing up body aware. My daughters already know how to check their boobs.

I’m so, so grateful that I found mine early and can’t stop telling everyone on my Instagram @thetittygritty to check themselves (I’m sure I do their head in!).

I launchedwww.the-c-list.comrecently to help support people going through cancer treatment. There’s beauty gift sets and products on there which have been recommended by fellow cancer patients and given the thumbs up by medical experts. Chemo plays havoc with skin, hair and nails so it’s important to use the right products which don’t irritate the newly sensitive skin. Plus the site is a support community with tips, tricks and advice to help people through one of the toughest journeys. We donate a goodie beauty bag to a cancer patient every month which is the best bit!

When I was told I had the all clear I felt grateful, but I'm always looking over my shoulder. I am proud that although my body was basically poisoned to death by all the treatment, I'm still here to tell the tale.

You can follow Helen on Instagram here.

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