Sarah Harding ‘deserved more time’ says Instagram star with terminal breast cancer

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Girls Aloud singer Sarah Harding has sadly passed away at the age of 39.

Close friends Nadine Coyle and Nicola Robertsled tributes to brave Sarah, who was diagnosed with advanced-stage breast cancer in August 2020.

Instagram star Nicky Newman was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer in 2018. She raises awareness on her social page and has shared her sadness on hearing of Sarah’s death.

“It’s absolutely heartbreaking, you just never know what will happen with this diagnosis,” she told OK!. “You can live for years or sadly like Sarah pass quickly, we all deserve more time.”

“I’m sending all my love to Sarah’s friends and family, there are no words to make it better other than to know we will continue to advocate and raise awareness of this disease to work towards a future where a secondary diagnosis doesn’t cut lives short.”

She added, “I think it’s really important not to use words like ‘lost her battle’ or ‘fight’. We do not lose fights, we have no choice. 1,000 people die every month from secondary breast cancer, it needs more attention.”

Here, 33-year-old Nicky, a former broker administrator from Guildford, shares her own journey with incurable breast cancer…

It started with back pain around my 30th birthday in October 2017. I thought it was a prolapsed disc, but the pain became unbearable.

With a family history of breast cancer, I was usually quite anxious about this kind of thing, but this time, I was so focused on becoming a mum, the risk of cancer was my second concern.

My husband Alex (a 34-year-old lighting engineer) and I got married in 2014 and after a year of trying we were devastated to learn that we couldn’t conceive naturally. So between January and March 2018, we underwent a type of IVF called ICSI.

Sperm was implanted into my eggs and I had injections to increase my ovary function. You’re technically not pregnant until the embryo attaches to the uterine lining.

It was while undergoing the treatment that I found a large mass in my breast, I had some skin-pulling and sharp shooting pains. My IVF nurse said it was probably the hormones and told me not to panic, but I knew in my gut something was wrong.

I called the doctor that same day, saying, ‘I think I have breast cancer’. I was sent straight to hospital for biopsies, a mammogram and an ultrasound.

After eight hours I was diagnosed with primary breast cancer. I accepted it and I knew it was treatable.

I took my pregnancy test that night and it came back negative. We’ll never know if I was pregnant or not, but I felt so devastated that I’d lost my baby, I didn’t know what to do with my life.

Two weeks later, on Friday 13 April, I returned to the hospital for my results. The surgeon had tears in her eyes when she told me, ‘I’m really sorry, there’s nothing I can do’. I had stage four incurable breast cancer, and three years to live.

The room went deadly silent. Mum and Alex were so upset they had to leave the room, but I stayed strong.

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I didn’t know breast cancer could spread to bones, and it wasn’t good. I insisted on seeing my scan so I could absorb how severe my cancer was. I could see bright white spots literally everywhere, up my spine and in almost every bone in my body.

The only cancer-free places were my brain, heart, kidneys and bladder. That’s when it hit me. ‘Oh my god, I’m going to die’.

My next thought was ‘what about my eggs?’

The doctors can’t confirm it, but we think the IVF was feeding my cancer. The oestrogen made it grow really quickly.

I’d lost my baby, found out I had breast cancer and didn’t know how long I had left to live. I don’t know how I coped in those first few hours, but survival mode kicked in.

Then I went home, retreated into my shell and cried all night long. I was admitted to hospital the next day and put into a medical menopause to stop fuelling the cancer.

Doctors give you the most effective therapy first. If your body stops responding and the cancer progresses, you try a different treatment until you run out of options.

I have a scan every three months and pray I’m stable every time because if I have to go onto the next treatment, my prognosis is shortened. A good scan means three brilliant months of life. A bad scan is devastating.

I’ve switched from hormone therapy to chemo but right now it’s inactive, which means the cancer is asleep and the therapy is working.

I tell people not to look up their prognosis, because the number gets etched into your head. Prognosis for metastatic breast cancer is three to five years, and I’m now at three years.

I used to be so shy but it took this cancer to make me start living.

I share my journey and talk to people on Instagram, that brings me joy.

On down days I make myself dance, do yoga, see a friend or visit my favourite spot on the river. Sometimes I stay in bed watching Disney films all day and that’s ok, too.

Of course, I’ve felt scared and asked ‘Why me?’. I’m faced with an incurable disease but I don’t focus on that.

My husband finds my cancer incredibly difficult to discuss. We’ve talked about the end of my life. I would like to die in a hospice or a hospital, so that Alex doesn’t have to come home to where I died.

He felt ok to talk about it because it made me feel better. We’ve decided not to pursue adoption or surrogacy. We don’t want to raise a child knowing they would have to say goodbye to a parent so young.

CoppaFeel is so passionate about breast cancer awareness. I want to urge women to know, understand and check their breasts. It could save your life.

If I can turn my horrible situation into a positive and help other people, then I’m happy.

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