A mum was told the devastating news she had cancer at three months pregnant with her third child.
Suzanne Bell said it felt like her “world was turning upside down” when she was diagnosed with breast cancer back in 2019.
Suzanne, from Warrington, was pregnant with her son Theo at the time, when she discovered a lump the size of a golf ball in her breast.
A few weeks later during pregnancy, Suzanne had a mastectomy to remove her breast, with both she and her unborn baby going under general anaesthetic for the procedure.
Thankfully the surgery was a success and Suzanne, now 41, is now cancer-free.
As a cancer survivor, the mum-of-three has shared her story to help raise funds for Cancer Research UK, which has been badly affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Her story and photograph will be included on a card which is on sale in all large Tesco stores, to raise money for the charity and to support others who have affected by breast cancer.
Suzanne, who is also mum to Sienna, nine, and Grace, five, said: “I went into shock when the doctor said it was cancer. I just kept saying ‘I can’t have cancer, I’m pregnant’ and it felt like the world was turning upside down.
“I was nervous about having the mastectomy but I knew it was the best thing for the baby and my girls. I was in complete survival mode.
“The last thing I remember saying to the nurse before I was put to sleep was ‘please look after my baby’ and as she squeezed my hand, she said they would.”
Throughout her ordeal, Suzanne and her partner Craig decided to be honest about everything with her little girls.
She said: “I told them that Mummy had found a lump in her boob and the doctors had decided they were going to get rid of it.
“Sienna just looked at me and straight away asked ‘mummy have you got breast cancer?’ I was speechless.
“We have had friends who have had cancer in the past but her ‘matter of fact’ approach made it much easier for me to be honest with them.
“I told them that the doctors were going to take away my boob and put it in the bin. Grace in particular thought this was hilarious and kept saying ‘Mummy’s boob is going in the bin!’”
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Her daughters’ upbeat attitude proved to be a tonic as Suzanne recovered from her operation.
Suzanne said: “I worried about how they would react when they saw the mastectomy scar. And I worried about Craig too – after all, it wasn’t what he had signed up for. But they were all absolutely brilliant.
“The girls even decided they would ‘jazz up’ my plaster with lots of Peppa Pig stickers, which again just made me laugh.
“When I removed the plaster, I was anxious at how they would react, but Sienna just said, ‘it doesn’t matter mummy, you’re still our mummy.’ And Grace’s only concern was that the Peppa Pig stickers had gone in the bin!”
Following her mastectomy Suzanne was given the good news that her cancer hadn’t spread, and she wouldn’t need chemotherapy.
And in October that year she underwent a caesarean section and little Theo was born healthy and well.
Suzanne said: “Theo really is the most amazing little boy and the girls are besotted with him. I keep looking at my little family and know I have so much to be thankful for.”
In 2019, Suzanne and her family took part in Race for Life at Tatton Park, along with around 20 friends and family to raise money for Cancer Research UK.
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She said: “It was a lovely event, really quite emotional. I’d taken part in Race for Life before and never in a million years imagined that I’d be the person with the cancer experience. The girls loved it. Sienna took off like the wind and ran all the way round and Grace and I walked around holding hands.”
Suzanne has recently undergone reconstructive surgery and is now living life cancer-free.
She said: “I still can’t believe everything that’s happened in a year. Without a doubt the girls have certainly helped me through one of the most challenging times. I worried that they would struggle with everything, but they’ve been phenomenal.
“They’ve blown me away with their maturity and their positivity.
“They are my little heroes. I feel like the luckiest mummy in the world to have three wonderful, healthy, amazing children and an incredibly supportive partner.
“The last year has certainly made me appreciate the smallest of things, even Peppa Pig plasters!
“Being a mum, I had to keep going because of my kids and the only way I could keep ahead of the situation was to keep smiling and use my humour to get through it. That’s why I’m so proud to support Race for Life and Tesco and be part of this collection of Mother’s Day cards.”
Oonagh Turnbull, Head of Charity Campaigns at Tesco said: “We hope these cards will inspire others facing cancer and the money they raise will make a difference to so many lives. For the last 20 years, our partnership with CRUK has helped to raise millions of pounds for life-saving research.”
Cancer Research UK is predicting a staggering £300 million drop in income over the next three years as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which could put future medical breakthroughs at risk.
The charity is calling on people across the region to fight back against cancer by purchasing one of the Mother’s Day cards.
The money raised will help scientists find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, helping to save more lives.
Anna Taylor, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for the North West, said: “We are incredibly grateful to Suzanne and Tesco for their support. By purchasing one of the Mother’s Day cards people can make a difference in the fight against cancer.
“The truth is, COVID-19 has slowed us down. But we will never stop and we are absolutely determined to continue to create better cancer treatments for tomorrow.
“Every step our scientists take towards beating cancer relies on our supporters. This year, more than ever, we need support to help beat the disease.”
The Mother’s Day cards which are priced from £1 are on sale in large Tesco stores until March 14.