A mother says she owes her life to her moisturiser after she spotted a lump in her breast while applying a massage oil.
Hollie Drynan, now 27, battled severe abdominal discomfort for five months, which her GP dismissed as period pain, a gluten intolerance and IBS.
Desperate for relief, Miss Drynan, of Chelmsford, Essex, massaged an oil onto her midriff and rubbed the excess onto her breasts.
It was then that the hairdresser discovered a hard lump in her left breast, which led to her being diagnosed with cancer in September last year. Abdominal pain is not usually associated with breast cancer.
After six months of chemo, as well as a mastectomy and breast reconstruction, Miss Drynan is finally ‘cancer free’.
However, a DNA test recently revealed she carries a mutation in her TP53 gene. TP53 normally suppresses tumours, with defects causing cells to divide uncontrollably.
Miss Drynan, who battled a brain tumour in 2005, worries she will spend her whole life wondering ‘have I got cancer?’.
Hollie Drynan owes her life to her moisturiser’ after she spotted a lump in her breast while applying a massage oil. The mother is pictured left after she was diagnosed with cancer and lost her hair to chemo. She is also pictured right in hospital with her daughter Bella, 18 months
Miss Drynan discovered the ‘hard lump’ (pictured) while she was desperately trying to relieve abdominal cramps she had battled with for five months. The hairdresser was massaging her midriff when she rubbed the excess oil onto her breasts. Abdominal pain is not usually associated with breast cancer unless the disease has spread to the liver
Miss Drynan said: ‘I still have no idea why I had severe abdominal pains but I am so glad I did otherwise I wouldn’t have found the lump in my breast.’
She ‘knew something wasn’t right’ when she could not shift her agonising abdominal cramps, which medics insisted was nothing to worry about.
‘I went to the doctors four times as I had horrendous abdominal pain,’ she said.
‘The first time my GP said it was period pains, the second I was told to try a gluten-free diet, leading to a third diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome.
‘I knew something wasn’t right. Once I had to call an ambulance as the pain was unbelievable and again, I was told it must be period pains.
‘I was beginning to give up as it had been five months and I still had the pain but no answers. I felt like I would never get to the bottom of it.’
HOW CAN A MUTATION IN THE TP53 GENE LEAD TO CANCER?
TP53 is a gene that suppresses the formation of tumours.
Mutations to this gene can cause cells to divide uncontrollably and form malignant masses.
This can occur due to a condition called Li-Fraumeni Syndrome (LFS), which raises a person’s susceptibility to cancer.
LFS has been linked to cancer of the breast, brain, kidneys, stomach and pancreas to name a few.
The syndrome is hereditary and can therefore be passed down between generations.
Around 70 per cent of families with LFS have a mutation in the TP53 gene.
A quarter of people with LFS do not have a family history of the syndrome and develop the TP53 mutation spontaneously.
LFS’ prevalence is unclear.
Some estimations predict it affects one in 5,000 people, while others claim it is rarer, with just one in 20,000 being affected.
LFS can be diagnosed via genetic testing, which is often carried out in individuals who develop cancer at a young age.
Patients are then more closely monitored for signs of the disease.
Desperate, Miss Drynan tried to relieve the discomfort in her abdomen by massaging in some oil.
‘I had some left on my hand, so I rubbed it into my breasts and was shocked to feel a huge lump on my left breast,’ she said.
‘It was almost stuck to my ribs and I could pinch it between my fingers.
‘I got a doctor’s appointment for the Monday and was referred straight to the breast unit.’
Although she was concerned, Miss Drynan’s friends reassured her it was probably just a cyst and could be easily removed.
‘I never in a million years would have thought I had cancer, but I knew something wasn’t right,’ Miss Drynan said.
A week later, the mother-of-one had an ultrasound and was told she needed a biopsy.
‘[The doctor] asked if I had brought anyone with me and thankfully, I had gone with a friend, who sat with me when I was told I had a tumour,’ Miss Drynan said.
‘They told me to expect a two week wait to find out if it was cancerous or not but I already knew it would be.’
Abdominal pain is not a common symptom of breast cancer but can occur if the disease has become advanced and spread to the liver. It can also occur as a side effect of certain types of chemotherapy and hormonal treatments.
Miss Drynan’s cancer was reportedly just in her breast, which makes her abdominal pain a mystery. She claims the discomfort disappeared once she started chemo.
Miss Drynan ‘took pride in her appearance’ and struggled with losing her hair
Miss Drynan is pictured on the left in the left picture during treatment. The mother-of-one, who was wearing a wig, was on a night out with her sister (on the right). Pictured right in hospital, Miss Drynan also endured a mastectomy and a breast reconstruction using fat from her body
Miss Drynan’s tumour is pictured in her first ultrasound scan after her GP referred her for a hospital appointment. She then endured a biopsy before being given the news she had cancer
Miss Drynan was forced to undergo chemotherapy, which caused her to lose her hair.
‘I was a hairdresser and always took pride in my appearance, but I have dealt with it a lot better than expected,’ she said.
She also had to have five lymph nodes removed after tests revealed the cancerous cells had spread.
After treatment, Miss Drynan had her breast reconstructed using fat from the rest of her body.
‘I had a tummy tuck and the fat from my stomach was used to reconstruct my left breast,’ she said.
‘My right breast is likely to be removed in the future as there is an 80 per cent risk of getting cancer again.’
Through it all, Miss Drynan’s 18-month-old daughter Bella has kept her positive.
‘The last nine months have been an emotional rollercoaster for me but I have had to stay strong for my little girl,’ Miss Dryan said. ‘She gets me through every day.
‘I had the worst news any single young mum can ever get but after eight long months I am finally in remission and I have a new body.
‘I am a positive person and I have kept smiling. I made friends with other patients following my surgery and we laughed so much I thought my stitches were going to pop out.’
Although she tries hard to stay optimistic, Miss Drynan worries her genetic mutation means she will always be at risk of tumours.
‘I will probably spend the rest of my life thinking “have I got cancer?” but I will continue to be strong and live as best as I can with my gorgeous daughter,’ she said.
Follow Miss Drynan on Instagram at @hollie.drynan
Chemotherapy caused Miss Drynan to lose her hair (left) and suffer nosebleeds (right)
Scan reveals Miss Drynan’s tumour-free left breast after the malignant mass was removed