'I thought I was too young to have breast cancer'

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Lucy on her last day of chemoImage source, Lucy Lepe

When Lucy found a lump on her breast, cancer didn't even cross her mind.

It was "by chance" she spotted it, she wasn't in a habit of checking them.

"I thought I'd probably start doing that sort of thing when I'm hitting my 50s," she tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

But after getting it checked, Lucy got bad news. She had breast cancer at the age of 26.

Earlier this month, Girls Aloud singer Sarah Harding passed away from breast cancer.

Following her death, charity CoppaFeel! saw a huge increase in visits to its website.

More than 200,000 people visited its pages in the 12 hours after the news was announced - eight times more than it would usually see.

The charity is encouraging younger women to check their breasts for lumps.

It tells Newsbeat that despite being the most common cancer in females aged 25-49, a quarter of young people aren't aware breast cancer could affect them.

It also says young women are the most likely demographic to delay seeing a GP.

'The doctor became very silent'

It was only by chance that Lucy got her lump checked. She had a day off work, so went while she was free.

"I think about this all the time", she said.

"I'm so glad that I did have that day off.

"It would be a completely different story at this at this stage. It's the reason why I'm here today."

Image source, Lucy Lepe
Image caption,
Lucy lost all of her hair in chemotherapy

Even when the GP referred Lucy to a breast clinic, it still didn't cross her mind it could be breast cancer.

But when her sister insisted on an ultrasound scan, Lucy started to realise something was wrong.

"The doctor became very silent," she says.

A week later, she was told she had cancer. Soon, it spread to her lymph nodes.

Lucy was told she would need chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery.

"There were times where I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep," she says.

"I would be awake for 20 hours in a day, not moving from the spot that I was laying in my bed.

"I looked so poorly, my skin was really bad, all of my hair fell out and I mean everything, eyebrows, lashes."

After surgery and radiotherapy, Lucy finally got some good news - there were no more cancerous cells left.

Image source, Lucy Lepe
Image caption,
Lucy "finally got good news" last year

Lucy still has hormone therapy and has been working with CoppaFeel! to spread the word that breast cancer can affect younger women.

"Don't think it can't happen to you. Not to be pessimistic, but it's just awareness," she says.

'Stigma in the black community'

Lucy also wants to make more people in the black community aware of the importance of checking breasts for lumps.

"I think there's a lot of there's a lot of stigma around illness. We don't want to talk about illnesses, but it's important to do so.

"When I see these adverts about cancer, I don't see black people, I don't hear about people speaking about cancer.

"I almost felt like it just didn't happen to us."

Image source, Fran Whitfield
Image caption,
Fran says she felt "incredibly numb" after getting her diagnosis

Fran didn't think it would happen to her either but when she was 24, she noticed a lump in her breast.

Initially doctors sent her away, saying it was a "hormonal" lump. It wasn't until 18 months later when she found another symptom that she went back for another check.

She was worried about wasting NHS time, having been sent home previously.

But, after numerous tests and scans, Fran was told she has Stage Four breast cancer, as well as a brain tumour. She was given two years to live.

"I was 25. I'm a personal trainer. I was the fittest that I'd ever been in my life.

"I was living proof that this can happen to anyone at any age."

Image source, Fran Whitfield
Image caption,
"I wasn't going to sit there and accept the fact that someone was saying to me that I had two years."

She went through an "aggressive chemotherapy routine," and now Fran's cancer is currently in remission. She's been sharing her story online, to spread the word that younger women can get breast cancer.

"I've been very open about my journey on social media, I've documented everything that I've gone through."

"It always seemed to be portrayed an older woman's issue.

"Before this year, I just kind of thought I don't need to worry about it until I'm older."

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