When Bethan Amber found a lump on her breast, she didn’t think there was anything to worry about – after all she was only 27.
But the now 31-year-old from Cyncoed, Cardiff was soon to find out that the small lump was in fact breast cancer. The news left her shocked as it was something she never expected to happen at such a young age.
“I originally found a lump on my other breast, I got that checked and it was fine,” Bethan said and then decided to start regularly checking her breasts as it was something she never used to do.
“A couple of months later I found the cancerous one, not knowing it was cancer, and I wasn’t worried. I waited a month as I know your body can change.”
Bethan, a contractor for Lloyds Bank, said she was so confident that it would be nothing before being diagnosed in March 2017.
“When I went to the appointment my mum came with me,” she said.
“We were waiting and I remember thinking ‘Why is it taking so long?’ as I wanted to get back to work. The doctor called us in and said that they weren’t expecting it to be bad, but it turned out to be cancerous.
“It was just a massive shock, it was very overwhelming and felt like an outer body experience. I was so glad my mum was with me for the support — I wasn’t taking anything in, I was just nodding and my eyes were filling up. I have never experienced anything like it and hopefully I won’t again.
“Telling people was hard — that was one of the toughest things. So many people are affected by cancer, it’s such a horrible word and people get emotional saying it.
“Nothing prepares you for the diagnosis, but the doctors and nurses were wonderful and luckily my cancer responded well to treatment.”
Bethan was treated at the Velindre Cancer Centre in Cardiff. She had surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy and will take the drug tamoxifen for the next 10 years.
“The first week was the worst as I was waiting to see if it had spread, I was lucky that I caught it early,” she said.
“I was most scared about chemotherapy as there are so many negative connotations with it, you see people losing their hair and being really ill so I was really scared.
“I was going into it worried but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I know everyone’s body reacts differently, but every time I went back the nurses would try and help with any sickness or ulcers and I had a really good wig.
“I was unsure how I would be when I lost my hair as I’m quite a girly-girl and I had really long hair before but losing my eyebrows and lashes were the worst.
“With a wig, you almost feel like no one really knows. When my hair was growing back my eyelashes took longer to come back and you just look more ill. Radiotherapy I found was fine, I was lucky I had a lot of people to look after me.”
The reason Bethan believes she is here today is due to early detection. And she is urging everyone to see a doctor if they notice any changes with their bodies.
“It’s such a horrible thing but it’s so nice to see how everyone rallies around you,” she said.
“It’s really not worth the risk of it being something, you would be kicking yourself if you knew it was something but you didn’t go because of Covid — it’s not the time to neglect your body.
“I’m still checking my breasts every month and if I find anything I will be first to go to the doctor. Early detection is so key for cancer.”
Thanks to lifesaving treatment, Bethan is now cancer free and last July she married her long-term partner Scott Amber at the Oldwalls wedding venue in Gower.
She said: “Marrying Scott meant everything to me. He really looked after me during my treatment. We had only been together for four years when I was diagnosed, and he was so supportive throughout everything.
“I was so appreciative that it went ahead — at one stage I didn’t know if I would be here to get married, it was an emotional day. Originally I thought cancer was a terrible thing but it’s shaped me into the person I am today and made me appreciate the small things in life.
“It’s not all doom and gloom, a lot of positives have come from it, so it’s nice to come out the other end.”
Bethan was hoping to take part in Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life at Bute Park in July but it was cancelled due to the Covid-19 outbreak. The charity is expecting a staggering £160 million drop in income in the year ahead with a £44 million cut to life-saving research funding already.
To help tackle the shortfall in funding, race organisers Cancer Research UK hosted a virtual version on Saturday.
Bethan started the race in Bute Park in 2017.
“I felt so proud to be part of the day, especially in my home city, and it’s thanks to money raised by events like this that I’m now in remission, I’ve been able to get married and celebrate my 30th birthday.
“It’s really concerning to think about vital cancer research being stalled and what this will mean for patients like me. When I took part in the event three years ago, I was on my second round of chemotherapy at the time and, although I had no hair, I was determined to look my best – I wore glitter and fake tan and I really enjoyed it.”
Before her diagnosis, Bethan didn’t feel unwell: “I felt so well, I have always been an active person and fit and healthy, since being diagnosed it’s opened my eyes to how common it is.
“It’s worth getting to know your bodies, you should be your number one priority, we need to look after our health and people might not want to go to the doctors as they might think they are wasting their time but the alternative is not worth it.
“No one is immune to it, it can happen to anyone.”