Bethany Woodward, 27, who lost 19 st following a gastric bypass, says doctors told her she may have only been able to feel the lump in her right breast following her weight loss.
Having dropped from over 29 st to 11 st – and from a dress size 32 to a 12 – following the surgery in July 2019, she then spotted the lump on her breast while lying down in December 2021.
Six months later Woodward was officially diagnosed with stage three triple-negative breast cancer, on the same day her and fiancé, Ash Read, 28, started their first round of fertility treatment.
The following month the care manager from Great Wyrley, Staffordshire began 16 weekly sessions of chemotherapy and in May 2023 she had a lumpectomy operation to remove the lump in her breast.
Doctors also froze 10 embryos to ensure the couple could carry on their fertility journey after treatment.
Woodward is still undergoing chemotherapy (until February 2024), but is telling her story to encourage others to get "get checked".
"Losing a lot of weight is life-changing in itself but to be diagnosed with breast cancer is another thing entirely," Woodward explains.
"Doctors said if I was bigger, I wouldn't have noticed the lump on my chest."
While growing up Woodward says having a sweet tooth and an "addiction" to Cadbury's Dairy Milk contributed to her weight issues.
In her early 20s, she tried to restrict her food intake in a bid to slim down but says she found it hard not to binge on sweet treats. Remember, (unless you have a medical reason to), cutting out certain food groups is not recommended as you only crave them more – instead it's all about moderation and balance.
She was also diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in August 2021 which can affect fertility and weight.
At her heaviest, Woodward says her weight crept up to 29 st 7lb and she wore a UK size 32.
After describing being "fed up of being the bigger girl" she decided to go under the knife to get her weight under control and registered for a £12,500 gastric bypass at Dolan Park private hospital, Birmingham.
After a successful surgery in July 2021 by December that same year, Woodward's weight had dropped to 12 st and she was a size 10. A reminder that while this option worked for Woodward, there are many other ways to lose weight naturally that are good for your body and mind.
But just before Christmas, the care manager found a grape-sized lump inside her breast.
Her local GP ran a biopsy and Woodward was referred to Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust who diagnosed her in July 2022.
She was immediately started on a round of aggressive chemotherapy to treat the triple-negative rare cancer, followed by radiotherapy.
She also went on to have the lump removed with doctors hopeful she may not need a full mastectomy.
Speaking about her diagnosis, Woodward says: "My brain thought the worst which was later confirmed with my stage three diagnosis.
"From then onwards, I've been in and out of treatment.
"I'm on my second cycle of chemotherapy treatment with 10 more to go but if all goes well, in April I'll get the all-clear."
Woodward says she's grateful she has been able to have embryos frozen whilst having her cancer treatment.
"Ash and I are childhood sweethearts and have been looking to start a family for a while but my PCOS meant I'd gone through early menopause," she explains.
"To receive fertility and life-saving treatment is bittersweet, but I've been so lucky.
"I feel so thankful to the NHS for the incredible treatment I've received over the last four years, not just with the chemo," she adds.
Now Woodward is hoping that sharing her experiences may encourage others to look out for any changes in their breasts.
"I urge young women to get their breasts checked because it's a race against time," she says.
"I'm not in the all-clear but nothing is going to stop me from fighting.
"I own cancer, cancer doesn't own me.
"Losing weight saved my life," she adds.
"Little did I know that was just the start of it all."
Speak to your doctor about healthy ways to lose weight (if this is right for you), or if you notice any breast cancer symptoms.
Read more: How to check your breast for lumps as Coronation Street star says she found one breastfeeding (Yahoo Life UK, 6-min read)
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Additional reporting SWNS.
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