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An inspirational hospital worker who won the prestigious title of Employee of the Year was left rocked just days later following news of a breast cancer diagnosis aged 35.
Danielle McDermott, a Patient Experience and Engagement Officer at Liverpool University Hospitals, has now written her own book, Bald, Brave and Bloody Beautiful, detailing her journey through breast cancer.
The mum-of-one checked her breast just one day before the staff awards ceremony at St George’s Hall in November 2018. She felt a lump, but was unwell with a chest infection and thought nothing of it and fell back asleep.
The next day she won Employee of the Year, alongside being nominated for Innovator of the Year and Professional Excellence for Life after Stroke for her work at Aintree University Hospital, but still couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t right.
Danielle said: “Something was just telling me no, check your breast again. And that’s when I definitely could feel a lump in my left breast. I was in the breast clinic at Aintree just four days later when I was diagnosed with the devastating news of breast cancer.”
At the time of Danielle’s diagnosis, her colleagues didn’t know if it had spread so a biopsy was taken to understand more. Two weeks later she was told she had grade 2 invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC), which is cancer that has started in the cells of the milk duct and spreads to the tissue of the breast. She would need to have a mastectomy and reconstruction surgery. IDC is the most common form of breast cancer.
Danielle continued: “I just had intuition that something wasn’t right, that made me check my breast again. From the biopsy results, I had the operation to remove my breast just a few days later. There was no time to process; it was just a case of getting this cancer out of my body.”
Mr Lee Martin, Consultant Breast Surgeon at Aintree University Hospital, performed Danielle’s surgery: “Everyone at Aintree knows Danielle; from the cleaners and the staff in the canteen, to those in theatres and beyond, so it was a shock for many people. But Danielle took it all so well, drawing positives out of everything.
“Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in the UK, but it’s uncommon in younger people. That’s why the screening programme starts at aged 50 as you don’t typically get as many younger patients. However those under 40 diagnosed can have different issues to consider, such as fertility – so we treat every breast patient through our doors on a case by case basis with an individual tailored treatment plan and choices; there isn’t one size that fits all.”
For Danielle, she had the operation to remove the 3 ½ cm cancerous tumour, followed by reconstructive breast surgery and five months of chemotherapy in early 2019. Although the cancer was removed in surgery, the decision for chemotherapy was made following the results of an Oncotype DX (ODX) test.
An ODX test is a genetic profiling test which aids in identify a patient’s risk of breast cancer spreading and helps guide the best course of treatment and its probable effects. A sample of tissue is sent to a special laboratory in San Diego, and a score determines whether the patient would benefit from chemotherapy.
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