Covid: The woman who overcame a lockdown cancer diagnosis

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Claire MackelvieImage source, Claire Mackelvie
Image caption,
Claire Mackelvie underwent surgery just five days after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in April.

A woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer, treated and then given the all-clear during lockdown has described her remarkable journey.

Claire Mackelvie initially thought a 14mm lump in her breast was a cyst.

When she was told it was cancerous, less than three weeks into lockdown, Ms Mackelvie was shocked to learn she would undergo surgery five days later.

But after chemotherapy she is now on a long-term hormone tablet which will "starve" any lingering cancer cells.

Six months on a picture taken by her partner after she emerged from a naked swim in Loch Shiel perfectly sums up her emotions.

Image source, Claire Mackelvie
Image caption,
Ms Mackelvie was photographed by her partner after she enjoyed a naked swim in Loch Shiel in the Highlands after she finished her cancer treatment

Ms Mackelvie told BBC Radio Scotland's Drivetime: "I just felt so alive at that moment. Just so liberated and free.

"Just so lucky and grateful and engaged with life."

Ms Mackelvie said she was initially prompted to get checked after a colleague was diagnosed with breast cancer.

At the time she was confident a lump in her breast was a cyst but to be sure she spoke to her GP at the start of April.

After tests she was diagnosed with an "more aggressive type" of breast cancer on Thursday 9 April.

From that point on her consultant ensured everything moved at a rapid pace and told her she would undergo surgery on 14 April.

'Something out of ET'

Ms Mackelvie thought she was joking and was asked if that would be a problem.

She recalled: "I said: 'It's not a problem for me but that's just so fast I can't believe it."

Ms Mackelvie believes the process was accelerated by fears operations may be postponed due to the virus.

Before her surgery her anaesthetist joked her Covid-related personal protective equipment (PPE) made her look like "something out of ET".

The lump was successfully removed and then sent to the US for a new test which determines the chances of cancer reoccurring anywhere else in the body.

Ms Mackelvie said: "Unfortunately I was given the news that I had quite a high chance of recurrence and I was told I needed chemo."

'Incredibly lucky'

But after undergoing treatment and being prescribed a hormone tablet, which she must take for 10 years, the outlook is a positive one.

She added: "My understanding is that I have beaten it.

"I am incredibly lucky. I think my journey has been incredibly fortunate.

"I think Covid actually accelerated my process."

Looking back on her experiences, Ms Mackelvie paid paid tribute to the "incredible" NHS.

She added: "If I had not been dealt with with such haste there is a good chance that the cancer could have spread round my body and I could have been pushing up daisies by the end of the year."