Allegations of a “gym hater” who claims she works out saved her life after discovering a lump in her breast that turned out to be cancer – even though doctors “trick her” and tell her to “stop coming back”.
Sarah Bailey was lifting weights in late November 2020 when she suddenly experienced pain in her right breast.
Crying out in pain, the 35-year-old released the weight and then felt her breasts and was horrified to discover a golf ball-sized lump.
A personal injury specialist told a friend of account manager Leon Jeffrey, 38, about her discovery and then ran off the gym floor to her car.
After two trips to her GP and the hospital’s breast care center, Sarah was shocked to be diagnosed with breast cancer and HER-2-positive breast cancer.
After completing her last session of chemotherapy, Sarah shares her ordeal to urge people to check themselves regularly and seek medical help if they experience unusual symptoms.
Sarah, from Brooklands, Greater Manchester, said: “Going to that gym session saved my life.
“I hate the gym, it’s really ridiculous, but I’m afraid to think if I just left him alone. Not worth thinking about.
“I was doing [chest-supported] Side pulldown – an exercise where you have to lean on your chest.
“When I went to get the weights I felt a lot of pain in my right breast.
“I lost weight and must have made a fuss. The gym was dead, and no one was there, so I felt spinning and felt this really obvious mass – it felt like a golf ball.
“I panicked and finished my gym session there, then told my friend and ran to the car.
“I sat in the car and called my best friend who was diagnosed [with breast cancer] In 2019. She told me it was better to get her checked – it was really scary.”
Sarah booked an appointment with her GP who referred her to The Nightingale Center Cancer Treatment Center at Wythenshawe Hospital in Wythenshawe, Greater Manchester.
There, a doctor examined her and told her there was “really nothing to worry about” and that it was likely a cyst before referring her for an ultrasound that didn’t indicate anything about her.
Sarah said: “I requested an appointment with a GP and within days was seen, she took it very seriously and referred me to Nightingale at Wythenshawe Hospital.
“I was examined by a doctor and told there and then there was really nothing to worry about and I thought it was just a cyst that needed to be removed.
“Then I went for the ultrasound, the sonar doctor was really friendly and asked if I was worried.
I said ‘yes’ and then began to laugh, in a gentle and reassuring way, and said ‘I can’t see anything here.’
“I was so relieved to remember thinking ‘Thank God for that.’ They didn’t really give me an answer as to what it was, but they couldn’t see anything sinister so I went.”
Sarah said that although nothing ominously discovered during her examination, she continued to have severe pains in her breasts and believed the tumor was growing.
In March 2021, she decided to go back to her doctor because she knew something wasn’t right and got another hospital appointment on April 23.
Sarah said, “After the date it was near Christmas so I just enjoyed Christmas, but the pain was still there and the tumor in my opinion was increasing.
“On my best friend’s birthday, I said the tumor was still there. She felt it for me and said, ‘If you’re worried, just come back.'”
“It just felt bigger and kept on hurting. It became more clear and you could even see it when I was lying down.
“I was trying to put this to bed, but for some it was this gut feeling asking me to go get it checked out.
“I ended up booking an appointment because of that and was referred to the same doctor again.
“He was a little surprising this time around and basically said ‘You can’t keep going back, you have to trust us. There’s nothing wrong with you.”
“He felt me again and was just saying the same thing ‘we should send you an ultrasound because this is a normal procedure’.”
“I went for my ultrasound and it was a different echologist.
“He really calmed down and there and then I knew something was wrong.
“He left the room and when he came back he told me he was going to do some biopsies to cover all the bases.”
Just five days later on April 28, she was called for a follow-up appointment and was told the devastating news that she had cancer.
Sarah said, “Waiting for a follow-up appointment my anxiety was going through the roof.
“While I was in the hospital waiting room, I remember this couple came out and the man was comforting his partner who was crying.
I looked at Leon and he grinned to say, ‘This is not good.
“When we went, the doctor introduced the nurse and I sat there as a breast-care nurse.
“I can’t tell you how I felt. It was horrible, it was so heartbreaking.
“I was so shocked, I didn’t think this would happen to me. I just started crying.
“I looked at Leon and he looked absolutely shocked, it was so surreal.
“I just thought ‘Someone woke me, this must be a dream.’ I was in shock – and angry because I had been cheated on.”
The doctor gently explained that Sarah had an early stage cancer called DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) and that due to the large size of the lump she would need a mastectomy.
Sarah underwent a grueling six-hour operation at Wythenshaw Hospital on June 18 to remove the 10cm lump.
While performing the surgery, the doctors also discovered seven or eight smaller tumors, less than 0.5 cm, that were HER2 positive.
On August 16, Sarah underwent the first of six grueling rounds of chemotherapy, which she completed on November 30.
Sarah said her boyfriend Leon has been a great support throughout the diagnosis and treatment.
Sarah said, “Leon helped me the whole time and he attended almost every appointment.
“He picked me up and picked me up from chemo and was there the whole time.”
Sarah completed her six rounds of chemotherapy and proudly rang the bell to mark the end of her treatment on Tuesday [Nov 30].
You will remain under the watchful eye of doctors and experts and will be undergoing hormone therapy for the next five to ten years.
Now Sarah urges people to get regular self-exams and a doctor if they notice any abnormalities.
Sarah said, “My advice is to check on a regular basis. Anything strange, any slight change, any kind of nipple discharge, anything at all, you’d better check in with the doctor.”
“Go and check 100%, because unfortunately it affects a lot of women.
“One in two people gets cancer, so if you notice something different, it’s not worth letting it go.”
A spokesperson for the University of Manchester’s NHS Foundation Trust said: “We would like to apologize to Sarah for her experience. We encourage her to contact Patient Advice and our dedicated call service so we can listen to and fully discuss her concerns.”
What are Cardiac Carcinomas in SITU (DCIS)?
Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is the earliest form of breast cancer possible. It needs treatment but is not life threatening. In DCIS, tumor cells are completely contained in ducts and lobules. The cells did not penetrate the walls of the lobules or ducts or grow into the surrounding breast tissue. This is because the cells are not yet able to invade other tissues.
What is HER-2 positive breast cancer?
Some breast cancers have a lot of a protein (receptor) called HER2 (human epidermal growth factor receptor 2) on the surface of their cells. This is called HER2 positive breast cancer. The extra HER2 protein encourages cancer cells to divide and grow. Between 15 and 20 out of every 100 women diagnosed with breast cancer (15 to 20%) will have HER2-positive cancer. Targeted therapeutic drugs are used to treat HER2-positive breast cancer. They attach to the HER2 protein and stop cells from dividing and growing. (Information from Macmillan Cancer Support Center)