Around 1 in 7 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime, making it the most common cancer in the UK. Although secondary breast cancer — which is a condition where the cancer spreads from the breasts to other parts of the body — isn’t that prevalent among women under the age of 45, it still happens. Now, online community Secondary Sisters is aiming to open up conversations around stage four cancer and help others handle the diagnosis of cancer that is incurable.
Nicky Newman and Laura Middleton-Hughes, both 31, both currently have stage four cancer, as BBC news reports. For Nicki Newman, she discovered she had cancer during IVF treatment when a lump was found in her breast. And after finding a lump on holiday, Laura Middleton-Hughes received her diagnosis in 2014.
Writing on Instagram, the two women explain that Secondary Sisters is "a page where [they] want to be the voice for Metastatic Breast Cancer." They continue:
"We hope it can be a place where we can bring together a community, answer questions openly & create a space where we can share what it is like to live with this disease."
They go on to explain how they have set up a YouTube channel, where they plan to share videos about their diagnosis. They will also be using it to talk about any events they do together and to answer any questions their followers have.
So far, their Youtube channel has content on why they set up this online community, and how their similar situations brought them together. In their first video, Nicky explains "It’s such an invisible disease ... If you had no idea who we were and you clicked onto our Youtube channel, would you think we had incurable cancer?”
Most cancers come in four stages. For breast cancer, stage one means the cancer is still small (two centimetres or less) and can only be found in the breast tissue or in the lymph nodes close to the breast, Cancer Research explains. The severity of the situation increases stage by stage. At stage four, also known as secondary breast cancer, advanced cancer, or metastatic breast cancer, the disease has become incurable and has spread to other parts of the body such as the bones, lungs, liver or brain. This is what happened to Nicky and Laura. According to the BBC, Laura “has traces of breast cancer in her spine, 12 vertebrae, and pelvis,” and Nicky’s tumour has “overtaken the head of the humerus — the bone in the arm between the shoulder and elbow."
Because breast cancer usually occurs in older women and is very much related to age (Cancer Research explains that “age-specific incidence rates rise steadily from around age 30-34 and more steeply from around age 70-74”), it can be an extremely isolating experience if you are diagnosed at a young age. And this is exactly the reason Laura and Nicky decided to set up Secondary Sisters. And, although breast cancer survival in the UK has thankfully doubled in the last 40 years, for those who have secondary cancer, groups like these are so important.
Find out more about Secondary Sisters on their Instagram or YouTube pages. And readers may be interested to know that Breast Cancer Now also collate event page across the UK for those with secondary cancer.