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A mum-of-one from Liverpool was diagnosed with breast cancer, which had spread to her brain, liver, neck, spine and pelvis after experiencing crippling pain during her first few weeks of pregnancy.
When Danielle Wright, 39, from West Derby, fell pregnant in August 2019, she began experiencing severe pain in her hips. Having suffered pelvic girdle pain in her first pregnancy with son Joseph, now 7, she initially put the pain down to that and starting having physiotherapy treatment.
Danielle said: “One day, I was simply walking to the kitchen and I heard a massive crack. I’d managed to fracture my neck but I’d barely moved. I knew something wasn’t right.”
Danielle also started getting really bad headaches. “My partner James, Joseph and I were on our way to a family holiday for New Year but the headaches were so bad, I asked James if we could go to hospital on the way. I knew something wasn’t right and the fact that I was nearly 20 weeks pregnant at this point, made me all the more determined to find out what was going on.”
With the support of four local NHS hospital trusts, including The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre, The Walton Centre, Liverpool Women’s and Royal Liverpool University Hospitals, Danielle was diagnosed with breast cancer that had spread to her brain, liver and bones, causing the headaches and pain. A CT scan showing a shadow in her breast was what alerted doctors.
“I hadn’t felt the lump as it was in a really awkward area but I’d lost my Mum five years earlier to the same type of breast cancer. So I felt like history was repeating itself, even though I’d been fit and healthy before the pain started.”
“Being diagnosed with breast cancer during pregnancy is thankfully incredibly rare. However, Danielle’s case was very complex. It required the expertise and close coordination of multiple hospital trusts, seven consultants, including a neurosurgeon and gynaecologist, and the support of three specialist nurses to manage her care.
“We all spent many hours working together so we could do the very best for Danielle. This kind of collaborative working across local hospitals is central to cancer care in Liverpool and Merseyside. For Danielle, we had to create a bespoke, specialist team to deliver her care, given the issues and challenges we faced.”
With Danielle’s cancer being so complex, she required life-saving treatment, including surgery to her brain and intense radiotherapy treatment all over her body. Doctors told the family they were unable to delay Danielle’s treatment any longer, due to the risk to her own life and Danielle sadly lost her baby at 22 weeks.
“Our baby was such a blessing. Being pregnant made me push to get answers to why I was in so much pain, I just knew something wasn’t right. If it wasn’t for the baby, I would have just gone on holiday and tried to push through. The baby saved my life and getting pregnant was my saving grace.”
Danielle was referred to The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust as part of her treatment and is now looked after by the trust’s Metastatic Breast Cancer Team.
“I spent five days at Clatterbridge Cancer Centre – Wirral having intense radiotherapy treatment. And I’ll have to be on an oral chemotherapy for the rest of my life.”
During lockdown, Danielle has benefitted from treatment in her home and used the opportunity to rehabilitate herself and take things more slowly. “The team would come to do my bloods in my own home, something I’ve been so grateful for as I’ve found it difficult to get up and about. I’d then have my chemotherapy treatment the next day, often delivered to my door by local volunteers.”
“All the hospitals I’ve dealt with have been amazing but it was overwhelming. Now I’m just looked after by The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre. The Metastatic Breast Team have been amazing – they support me and have my back. The team are realistic but they’re also not all doom and gloom. They cheer me on!”
“When Danielle came to us, we faced a serious and grave situation. However, thanks to the support of other local hospital trusts, the team here at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre and of course, to Danielle’s own determination, she is now at home with her family, walking around and living as full a life as possible. This is a testament to the expertise and skill we have here in Liverpool for the benefit of patients. The fact Danielle is now at home and doing well is gratifying for all those doctors and nurses involved in her care.”
Danielle feels she’s come a long way since the early days of her diagnosis and now supports other women who have had similar diagnosis to her. “The team at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre have put me in touch with other women going through the same diagnosis as me and we text and support each other. I answer their questions as best I can and tell them about my experience. I’m happy to do that. If I can inspire them, that’s great.”
The former Bank Manager is no stranger to supporting people with cancer; before her diagnosis, Danielle also helped raise over £30,000 for The Clatterbridge Cancer Charity with her work colleagues to support the Trust’s charity through various challenges and events.
Jo Francis, Metastatic Breast Cancer Clinical Nurse Specialist at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Danielle has been through so much. She’s an inspirational lady and I’m so grateful to her that she’s used her experience to give comfort to our other patients.
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