A gym-loving mum who was in top shape two years ago is now living “in fear” after being diagnosed with cancer for the third time – just a year after finishing her treatment.
Rachel Borthwick, 35, had “no symptoms at all” and was in “great” health when she first discovered a lump in her breast in September 2021.
But just six weeks later, the mother-of-two from Glasgow was diagnosed with breast cancer and quickly began treatment to fight the cancer.
Rachel – mother of eight-year-old son Jaxon and six-year-old daughter Marlowe – received the all-clear in November 2022.
But her “worst nightmare” came true when she discovered a lump in her armpit in March.
During treatment, she discovered a third lump in the same spot in June, which was also confirmed to be cancerous.
“The first time I was told I had cancer was terrible, but two more times after that is just indescribable,” Rachel told NeedToKnow.co.uk.
“I now live in fear every day and suffer from the worst fears.
“As much as I try to stay hopeful and positive, I really feel like a ticking time bomb and every single second is precious to me.”
Rachel’s diagnosis has also taken a toll on her little ones.
She said: “It had a massive impact on my children.
“They know what is happening because I am always open and honest with them.
“My children shouldn’t have to worry about life without their mom.
“They are my whole world, and I promised them that I would fight them with every inch of my body.
“Everything I do is for her.”
“I hardly caught a cold”
Before she had health concerns, Rachel was at her best.
She said: “I had no symptoms at all.
“I was in the gym all the time and was fit and healthy.
“Before, my health was great, I rarely caught a cold.”
When she was first diagnosed with cancer in 2021, Rachel was devastated.
The housewife said: “I still struggle to find the words to explain how that felt.
“I was only 33 years old and had four and six years.
“I was in complete shock for the rest of the day and felt so panicked, scared and sick – but at the same time just completely numb.”
The NHS recommends that you have a good idea of how your breasts normally look and feel so you can notice any changes.
You should look at your breasts and feel each one, from your armpit to your collarbone.
Perhaps the easiest way to do this is in the shower or bath by running a soapy hand over each breast.
- Feel around the breast in circular motions
- Feel under your arm
- Feel behind the nipple
You can also look at your breasts in the mirror. Look with your arms at your side and also with your arms raised.
If you notice anything that is not normal for you, talk to your GP.
This could include:
- a new lump or area of thickened tissue in one of the breasts that was not there before
- a change in the size or shape of one or both breasts
- a discharge of fluid from one of your nipples
- a lump or swelling in one of your armpits
- a change in the look or feel of your skin, such as: E.g. wrinkling or dimpling, rash or redness
- a rash, crusting, flaky or itchy skin, or redness on or around your nipple
- a change in the appearance of your nipple, such as B. a sinking in the chest
Rachel underwent a lumpectomy in November 2021, followed by chemotherapy the following month, ending in March 2022, and then ten days of radiotherapy in April.
She said: “Everything looked good to me.
“I discovered the tumor when it was small and my post-treatment scans in November 2022 were clear.
“Until my worst nightmare happened – I discovered another small lump in my armpit in March this year.”
The second attack of cancer was treated immediately in April with a complete lymph node removal and subsequent chemotherapy.
She was in her third of eight rounds when she discovered the third tumor in June.
Her surgeon removed the tumor as it was on the surface of the skin, but pathology results showed that three small spots of cancer remained deep within the tissue, putting her at very high risk of a tumor growing back.
Worst case scenarios
Rachel said: “I hoped and prayed that there wouldn’t be any left at all.
“Now I’m in a terrible situation as there are still some treatments I can do here in the UK. [including] a different type of chemotherapy than the previous one, along with immunotherapy.
“Both are very tough and it is a big commitment as I would need many and frequent infusions and we have no idea how the immunotherapy would affect me.”
The mother’s team recommended that she wait until her cancer returns before starting any new treatment – and the chances of that happening are very high.
But Rachel doesn’t want to sit idle and wait for that to happen.
“From what I understand, sitting and doing nothing is not an option for me, so my family and I have set up a GoFundMe page and are currently researching different treatment options abroad,” she explained.
“As much as I want to be optimistic about my future, I also have to be realistic.
“We all know how cancer works and mine is very aggressive.
“I have to think about the worst-case scenario to move forward on this journey.
“No specific treatment or clinic abroad has been decided yet, but my family and I are still researching and have a couple in mind.”
The GoFundMe page has raised more than £26,000 so far.
Rachel added: “I’m just speechless at the amount that’s been raised for the GoFundMe so far.
“I really can’t believe it. I am so overwhelmed, humbled and just so, so grateful.
“The support has been absolutely incredible.”