A 33-year-old woman who is battling breast cancer has admitted she fears the life-saving treatment will rob her of her dream of having children.
Sarah Roberts, who lives near Swadlincote, in Derbyshire, was diagnosed with the disease three months ago after her Jack Russell, Larry, pawed at a lump in her breast while she was lying in bed .
She is now in undergoing gruelling rounds of chemotherapy that leave her feeling like she is suffering a ‘hangover from hell’.
Speaking exclusively to FEMAIL, Sarah explained that as as well as thinking about the cancer, she also fears the impact the punishing treatment will have on her long-term fertility and her plan to start a family with her ‘incredible’ fiance, Jake Dixon.
Cancer battle: Sarah Roberts, pictured with fiance Jake Dixon, was diagnosed with breast cancer in August. She has spoken about how she fears chemotherapy will leave her infertile
‘Lucky fluke’: The 33-year-old only found the lump after her pet dog Larry, left, pawed at her breast. Right, Sarah felt ‘dirty’ when her hair started to fall out so shaved it off instead
‘When I was told “you have breast cancer” my first thought after “what on Earth” was about my fertility,’ Sarah said. ‘[Jake and I] get married next year and the next step would be children… I think about fertility most days. I want children, I always have, and I want to give my partner children.’
Chemotherapy can stop the ovaries from working, causing either temporary or permanent infertility. It can also bring on the menopause.
To try and protect her ovaries, Sarah has a monthly injection that places her ovaries in medical shutdown and stops them from making estrogen.
However she tries not to dwell on the issue, saying: ‘Chemotherapy can steal this [fertility] from you but… it also may not…. It’s the unknown, the unknown is a scary place to put your mind.’
Support: Sarah with her mother and father in hospital followed her first operation to remove her central lymph nod. She is now undergoing chemotherapy and will later have surgery
She continued: ‘To hear the stories of young women like myself going onto having children after breast cancer fills my heart for joy for them and for me it feels my heart with hope. You can’t ever let go of belief.’
Making a difference: Sarah at an event to raise money for the team who had cared for her at Nuffield Health Derby Hospital
Jake, a professional motorbike rider with the British Superbike Championship, proposed to Sarah in October last year and the couple are planning a winter wedding in December 2018.
Sarah continued: ‘What helps me is my fiancé, he builds me back up, his love has made me strong I still feel like the woman he fell in love with. I still feel me.’
Sarah described how she first felt the lump when Larry jumped on the bed to play.
Sarah said: ‘My dog jumped on me and as he did a grabbed my right breast and instantly thought, “Oh c**p!” [The lump] wasn’t small either. I thought: “How on earth had a managed to miss it?” [It was big enough] that if I moved it to one side you could see it was raised. I thought, “this isn’t good”. I had a gut feeling.’
Because she was young and had no family history, Sarah was considered to be at a lower risk.
‘When I found the lump people around me said “don’t worry, don’t panic”, but something inside me was telling me, “I need to worry and panic”,’ Sarah said.
Strength: Sarah said her motorcycle rider fiance Jake, pictured with their dog Larry, is a constant support and makes her ‘still feel like the woman he fell in love with’
Sarah, who works at her family business selling and fitting high-performance motorcycle tyres, was offered an appointment on the NHS two weeks’ later but pressed ahead with arranging a private appointment, worried it was leaving it too long. Four days after the first appointment, she was given the news that she had breast cancer.
‘You wouldn’t drive a car without checking the oil so don’t do it with your body’
Sarah said: ‘It takes minutes to check yourself.
‘We all make the time for something, whether it be fitness or healthy eating, or ideas to get fit quick… Let’s all spend a little time checking our physical self.
‘You wouldn’t keep driving around not check water and oil in your car because if you did it would stop so check your body the same way and prevent the cause as much as you possibly can.’
Sarah continued: ‘Here I am sat with breast cancer and that’s all down to my dog -whether it’s some kind of animal intuition or pure fluke – if he hadn’t jumped on my breast whilst I was laying in bed that night I wouldn’t have felt it as soon.
‘The surgeon kept repeating how good it was I was seen immediately which indicates to me that if I had left it longer the story may be different.’
Sarah had her central lymph node removed and other around the area. She is now undergoing chemotherapy, which is scheduled to run into next year. She will then have surgery to remove the remainder of the lump before undergoing radiotherapy.
‘Emotionally it can be very hard,’ she said. ‘Your body is fuelled with toxins from the chemo so you have to expect that your body is going to feel the most amazing you’ve ever felt, the tiredness from treatment can catch you out.
‘You have to let your emotions out though, for me writing my blog and being open and honest has helped but there are days I sit and cry, it all comes out.
Fundraising: Sarah, centre, with her friends who shaved their heads and raised £3,000 for her breast cancer care team
‘But once it’s out I gather myself together, wipe the tears away and tell myself: “Okay, let’s go, this is temporary and I’ve got this.’
When her hair started to fall out in clumps Sarah said she felt ‘dirty’ because she knew it was the result of the chemotherapy drugs. So she took the decision to shave her head completely.
‘As I shaved it I felt empowered and all the things I once worried about appearance evaporated into thin air,’ she said. ‘This is temporary.’
Sarah added: ‘The last few months have been insane with emotions, a rollercoaster, but I have to be thankful in a strange way for this all stopping me in my tracks, teaching me more than I could ever imagine about myself.
‘Of course I don’t want this, I want to jump of this journey, but it’s made me so much stronger and I have more belief in myself than I think I’ve ever had before. You have to turn a bad situation around, it’s the only option.’