A mum-of-three was told just three days before Christmas she has an incurable cancer following a seven-month delay in her diagnosis.
Justine Jianikos says she feels ‘shocked and dumbfounded’ after doctors told her she ‘will never, ever’ be able to get rid of the cancer.
The 30-year-old first visited her GP with concerns about symptoms of breast cancer in March last year, but says no further action was taken.
Two months later, she discovered a lump and was referred to a specialist, but following investigation she was told it was a benign and nothing to worry about, reports Wales Online.
By September, Justine found another lump around her armpit and sought the advice of her GP for a third time.
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It took three months for her to receive a second referral, and just four days before Christmas a biopsy revealed she had stage four triple negative breast cancer, which had spread to her spine, lymph nodes and lungs.
Despite her cancer now being incurable, she is determined to do everything she can to remain healthy for her children, Josie, 8, Halle, 6, and Ruby, 5.
Family and friends have thrown their weight behind a crowdfunding campaign, which aims to raise enough money to pay for alternative treatments which could prolong her life.
“I’m angry, I’m upset, I’m shocked, I’m dumbfounded,” said Justine, from Pontypool, Wales.
“I’m feeling every emotion there is to feel. I still have to wake up every morning with a smile on my face to make my children breakfast because my children need me. They can never, ever get rid of it now. They can only help to contain it and manage the pain and so there is not much in sight after the chemotherapy. Because it’s triple negative I cannot have any tablets because there are no receptors feeding off it.”
Justine said she first contacted her doctor in March after noticing an unusual discharge from one of her nipples, but there was no further investigation into the matter.
In May, she discovered a pea-sized lump in one of her breasts and was referred to the breast clinic. Following examinations, she said she was reassured by doctors that the lump was benign and due to her age it would not require any further investigation.
“I was sent away telling me it was a standard fibroadenoma fatty tissue lump,” she said.
“They wouldn’t biopsy me because I was 29. It wasn’t picked up when I was referred to the breast clinic in May and it wasn’t picked up when I saw my GP in March. Had those two things been picked up I could have been investigated further in May and they would have found the cancer then.
“My oncologist has told me that he is confident that had the cancer been picked up in May I would have been diagnosed then and not had to wait until December.”
Four months later, in September, Justine said she noticed the lump in her breast had grown and a second lump had emerged in her armpit. She contacted her GP again, but her second referral to the breast clinic took three months to come through. Justine was finally given a biopsy on December 15.
Four days before Christmas she was told she had stage four triple negative breast cancer which had spread to her spine and lymph nodes.
“The oncologist is quite confident it has also spread to my lungs because there have been multiple nodules found on my lungs,” Justine said.
“They only found what was on my spine when I pushed to have an MRI scan because I was dealing with some very severe back pain. Now I’m dealing with stage four incurable cancer that will shorten my life expectancy. And this could have all been prevented. I walked out of that hospital in May being told there was nothing to worry about. Nothing of concern and just to keep an eye it.
“I spent the summer with my kids, albeit in lockdown, whilst unbeknown to me it was spreading through my body at that time. Now it’s going to take a mother away from her three children.”
Justine began her treatment in January and is currently undergoing four rounds of chemotherapy at Velindre Cancer Centre in Cardiff. She said doctors have seen early signs that the lump in her breast is shrinking, and there is hope this will help with the tumours in the spine and the lungs.
Justine, along with her oncologist, family and friends, are researching alternative treatments which could help prolong her life. One option the family are examining would cost £20,000 and another tablet she is considering would cost £4,000 for one month’s supply.
The spiralling costs prompted one family friend to begin a Gofundme campaign.
It has already raised almost £13,000 in less than three days.
“I’m blown away and absolutely overwhelmed by the amount of support already,” she said.
“It wasn’t shared to the public until 6pm on Thursday and by lunchtime the next day it had got to £8,000. There’s people on there I haven’t spoken to since school. There’s parents of friends. There’s been just an outpouring of love and support from so many different types of people who I know.
“That’s their hard-earned money. They’ve worked for that money and they are willing to part with that to help me and my family. It’s overwhelming and I can’t thank them enough.”
A spokesman for Aneurin Bevan University Health Board said the authority plans to look into her care.
He said: “We are sorry to hear that Mrs Jianikos and her family are not happy with the care that she has received. We would ask them to contact us directly so that we can investigate her concerns.”
To find out more about fundraising for Justine, visit her Gofundme campaign.