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Breast cancer can strike at any age. I should know.. my new baby girl was with me when I was diagnosed; MODEL ON WHY SHE CAN'T WAIT TO TAKE PART IN FASHION SHOW AND RAISE FUNDS FOR CHARITY; Mum reveals her shock after doctors told her she had disease.

Byline: Jenny Morrison

When Fiona Picken attended hospital for life-saving cancer treatment, she had a special kind of comfort blanket - her newborn baby Aila.

Fiona was diagnosed with breast cancer just 10 weeks after the arrival of her youngest daughter.

She had attended Wishaw General Hospital for the birth and returned for her diagnosis and to receive chemotherapy.

Now, four years on, Fiona is doing all she can to raise awareness of breast cancer among younger women.

And she wants to encourage all pregnant women and new mums not to ignore any unusual changes to their breasts.

Fiona, who was just 34 years old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2015, said: "So many people still believe that breast cancer is an illness that only happens to older women but I know from experience that's not the case.

"Aila was just 10 weeks old when I was told I had breast cancer.

"She was with my husband and I at the hospital when I was diagnosed with breast cancer and she came back to the hospital when I went for my chemotherapy.

"No one ever imagines they will be diagnosed with breast cancer while pregnant or when their children are so young but cancer doesn't discriminate by age.

"It's so important that younger women, and even women who are pregnant or just had babies, are breast aware."

Fiona, of Motherwell, was 30 weeks pregnant when she first noticed changes to her breast.

She said: "My nipple had become inverted and felt a bit achy. I'm diabetic so had to go to the clinic every week to get my bloods checked and I mentioned to the nurse that I felt like I had mastitis.

"She told me it was likely I had a blocked milk duct."

Fiona, 38, intended to monitor the changes but, just weeks later, her whole world was turned upside down by the sudden death of her 75-year-old dad, Harry.

She said: "When I was 34 weeks pregnant, my dad passed away.

"I'm an only child and I'd lost my mum three years earlier so was absolutely devastated to lose my dad too.

"I remember seeing my obstetrician after my dad died and telling her I was too frightened to properly cry in case it did any damage to the baby. She told me babies were pretty resilient and it would probably do me good to cry.

"All thoughts about the changes to my breast went out of my head."

Just six weeks later, Fiona and husband Douglas celebrated the safe arrival of Aila, a sister for their older daughter Olivia, who was about to turn five.

But when she struggled to breastfeed her new baby, she decided to mention her breast worries to her GP.

Fiona said: "I had breastfed Olivia and imagined I would have no issues feeding Aila but that's not how things worked out.

"I had gone to my doctor for something else and asked her to check my breast.

"Breasts can be very lumpy and bumpy after having a baby and she told me she was sure I had nothing to worry about but referred me to the breast clinic just to be safe.

"A few weeks later, I went along with Douglas and Aila. I got a mammogram, then an ultrasound. I remember the lady doing the ultrasound saying she could see something that could be pregnancy related or could also after doctors be cancer. I went into total shock."

Fiona and Douglas returned to the hospital with Aila a week later and were told Fiona had breast cancer.

She said: "I looked at Aila and just couldn't believe this was happening.

"My fight or flight mode kicked in and I knew I had to get my armour on and go into battle."

Fiona, who works for an accountancy firm, had chemotherapy, then a mastectomy, reconstruction surgery and radiotherapy.

She said: "In a way, I think having such young children helped me deal with what was happening.

"I still wanted to get up for Aila and feed her. I still wanted to be there for Olivia and just be a mum.

"I had amazing support from my husband, friends and family but I also tried to keep things at home as normal as possible.

"Aila was so young that Douglas and I would take her with us in her buggy to my different appointments, including when I was getting chemotherapy.

"Throughout my treatment, I didn't see any other young women with breast cancer - there were no other mums in the waiting rooms with their babies - but I know I'm certainly not the only one."

Fiona, who has no history of breast cancer in her family, was told that while her pregnancy had not caused her breast cancer, it was likely the disease had fed off the increased oestrogen levels in her body.

Four years on, she feels fit and well and is looking forward to appearing as a model in this year's Breast Cancer Care Scotland Fashion Show at the Glasgow Hilton Hotel on October 24.

Breast Cancer Care is the only specialist UK-wide support charity for people affected by breast cancer.

Funds raised at the show will help find ways to prevent the disease, develop new treatments and support people with the physical and emotional impact of breast cancer.

Aila, who turns four this month, and Olivia, eight, are excited about their mum taking to the catwalk.

Fiona said: "Breast Cancer Care is such an amazing charity that offers so much support.

"There were times when I felt like a bit of an alien to have breast cancer so young but the charity can put you in touch with other people going through exactly the same thing.

"When I look back now, I do wonder how on Earth I got through breast cancer treatment with such a young baby and a five-year-old.

"There were times after the girls had gone to bed when I did have some dark moments and worry about all the 'what ifs'.

"But most of the time I managed to keep a positive mental attitude which I believe is so important.

"Now I'm looking forward to appearing in the fashion show."

The event takes place on Thursday, October 24, at the Hilton Glasgow Hotel.

For tickets, call 0345 077 1892 or visit breastcancercare. org.uk/theshow scotland FLOWER GIRLS . Fiona with daughters Aila and Olivia Picture Mark Anderson

Then my fight or flight mode kicked in and I knew I had to go into battle excited Fiona at photoshoot and, above, her parents

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rollercoaster From left, a pregnant Fiona with her husband Douglas and daughter Olivia, in hospital with Aila, and family today
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Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Aug 4, 2019
Words:1121
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