Doctors said my pregnancy symptom was ‘normal’ – then I gave birth to my baby and was diagnosed with breast cancer and given 12 months to live
- Mum was told she had a year to live after finding a lump on her breast
- Doctors had wrongly diagnosed her due to a rare condition
- READ MORE: I trusted doctors that everything would be fine when I gave birth to my daughter. The trauma that followed changed me forever
A mum was told by doctors she had just 12 months to live after the ‘harmless’ lump she found in her breast during a pregnancy turned out to be something far more sinister.
Keely Langshaw, 36, from Canberra, found a small pea-sized lump seven months into her pregnancy, but with reassurance from doctors waited to get it checked out until after she had her baby.
After undergoing tests, she received the devastating news that she had breast cancer spread all through her body – known as metastatic cancer – giving her just a year to live.
But following gruelling chemotherapy and months of uncertainty, Keely got some good news.
Her breast cancer had not only been killed by the chemo, but the cancerous masses which were found elsewhere in her body turned out to be benign.
Incredibly, they’d been caused by a rare autoimmune condition which looks like cancer on scans.
Keely is now hopeful for a long future with her husband Josh, 38 and two daughters, Polly, 4 and Tottie, 10 months – but the experience has changed her life forever.
Then and now: eight months ago Keely Langshaw was given just a year to live after doctors thought her breast cancer had spread all over her body. Miraculously she is now cancer-free
Keely’s ordeal started back in late 2022 when she was seven months pregnant with daughter Tottie and felt a small lump on her breast.
‘I was just sitting in bed one night, and I felt this little thing under my arm, which was the size of a pea or small marble,’ she told FEMAIL.
She carries the BRCA1 gene which predisposes her to breast cancer and had been doing six-monthly screenings.
As they require the patient to lie on their stomach, testing was near-impossible with a pregnant belly.
‘I contacted my doctor who does my monitoring and scans and they said (it was) probably something pregnancy-related but we’ll keep an eye on it,’ Keely said.
A few weeks later, Keely went into ‘spontaneous labour’ with Tottie who was then in hospital for a month, delaying the mum getting herself checked out even further.
‘I don’t know if she was like, “something bad’s going on in here. I’m out.” She was five weeks premature,’ she laughed.
Keely’s ordeal started back in late 2022 when she was seven months pregnant and felt a small lump on her breast the size of a pea and didn’t get it checked out until after giving birth (pictured with husband Josh, 38)
‘Over that time the lump grew really quickly. It grew to a golf ball. When they sent my daughter home from hospital I thought I should get myself sorted out.’
The lump had started out tender when she first discovered it but was now painful to the point of ‘agony’.
Biopsies eventually showed Keely had Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) a type of breast cancer that does not have any of the three receptors commonly found on breast cancer cells.
During Keely’s first visit with her oncologist she had the ‘worst conversation of her life’.
With Josh by her side, she was told scans showed the cancer had spread through her body – with prognosis of only 12 months left to live.
‘I literally screamed, I let out this noise, I don’t know where it came from. I had to lay down, and I couldn’t compose myself for quite a long time. Josh was hysterical as well,’ she recalled.
Weeks after the family welcomed their second daughter Tottie, now 10 months, Keely was told she had metastasised breast cancer and underwent chemo with a toddler and newborn in tow
READ MORE: Young woman reveals the three symptoms doctors ignored for months before she was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer just before her 24th birthday
Doctors were certain their diagnosis was correct but ran further tests to confirm their suspicions and decide on a treatment plan.
‘Over the next two weeks it was horrible. It was the darkest two weeks of our lives. We would constantly just find each other crying in a corner,’ Keely said.
Keely’s test and scans created more questions than answers but she still underwent 15 rounds of chemotherapy, all with a toddler and seven-week old baby in tow.
‘It was a really difficult time because having these little girls, every interaction with them was excruciating in a way,’ she said.
‘I was thinking, what’s going to happen? Who’s going to do this with them? That was definitely the worst part.’
In preparation for the possibility Keely would not be able to see her daughters grow up, she started making notes for Josh to refer to if she were to lose her battle with cancer.
She started making notes for Josh to bring up their daughters Tottie (left and Polly (right) if she were to lose her battle with cancer: ‘The little things I did as a mum that he might not think of’
Keely’s scans created more questions than answers but she was put on a curative treatment regimen and had 15 rounds of chemotherapy all with a toddler and seven-week old baby in tow
‘My automatic reaction was to start spewing all of this information at Josh. The little intricacies of how I did things. I sent him a shared note in our phones with everything,’ she said.
‘Just little things. Make sure you brush their hair every night before bed or they’ll get knots. The little things I did as a mum that he might not think of.’
Thankfully, Josh would never need the notes.
After a strenuous bout of chemo and even more tests, Keely was told not only that the treatment for breast cancer had worked, but that it had never spread after all.
‘I took my daughter into the GP to get some vaccinations and my own GP came bursting in, basically kicked the door down screaming, “oh, my God! Oh my God!”
‘And I was like, “what are you talking about?” She said, “the result, the results!”,’ Keely said.
After a strenuous bout of chemo and even more tests, Keely was given the news not only the that the treatment had worked but her cancer had never metastasised
‘I said, “I haven’t seen the bloody results, no one’s given me them”.
She was like, “oh, my God!”, ran out of the room and came back with this piece of paper.’
Circled on that piece of paper were the words ‘no evidence of cancer’ and a diagnosis for sarcoidosis.
Sarcoidosis causes cells from the immune system to cluster together and form non-cancerous lumps all over the body and very rarely, but in Keely’s case, mimics metastasised cancer.
Eight months after being told she would only have a year to live, Keely was now ‘savable’ and opted for a mastectomy to lessen her chances of the cancer coming back due to her genetic predisposition.
Eight months after being told she would only have a year to live, Keely was now ‘savable’ and opted for a mastectomy to lessen her chances of the cancer coming back
After recovering from surgery, Keely met with her oncologist to find out what the next steps were.
‘She said I’d had something called pathological complete response which is a cancer world is huge,’ she said.
‘PCR, it’s called, only happens around 30 per cent of the time but essentially the chemo had completely killed my cancer. There was nothing.’
Keely has a long journey ahead of her to treat the sarcoidosis but her cancer journey has equipped with more than enough tools to cope.
‘It has given me so much perspective. To be given that really bad diagnosis at first and then have it changed is just given me the momentum to keep going. It could be so much worse,’ she said.
‘I feel lucky. That sounds so cliche and I hate that coming out of my own mouth but coming out the other side I feel happier than I’ve ever been. I appreciate life so much more. It’s crazy.’
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