Cancer symptoms: ‘Something wasn’t right’ – patient on signs from lump to back pain

Julia Bradbury reflects on her breast cancer diagnosis

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“I was first diagnosed in 2015,” said Sara. “I found a small lump which just niggled me.” Considered one of the best-known cancer symptoms, lumps can be large, hard, painless to the touch and crop up spontaneously. This small culprit led to the rocky start of Sara’s diagnosis.

After being referred to a mammogram, Sara went to a hospital to get checked. She said: “I remember they were incredibly busy so I had to come back a week later for an ultrasound. 

“At that point, I think they had a couple of areas they wanted to check out so I had three biopsies. 

“I came back a week later for the results.”

Sat down in the waiting room, Sara was kept there for “quite a long time”. This was when it hit her.

“I think I knew at that point that something wasn’t quite right,” she recalled.

However, the breast surgeon awaiting behind the door only confused her by telling her she had a “pre-cancer”.

Sara added: “I remember being in shock and incredibly confused by the language the surgeon was using. Was it cancer or not? 

“Moments later the surgeon was talking about a mastectomy and showing me pictures of surgeries, he’d done. I was in shock, and I was on my own.”

She ended up changing hospitals but her cancer wouldn’t stop at her breasts.

Sara said: “In April last year, I was told my cancer had returned and was now stage 4.

“I knew I had a fairly high chance of a recurrence.”

This time the condition announced itself with a back pain. She recalled: “Around Christmas in 2019, I started having back pain that no amount of yoga or seeing an osteopath helped improve. 

“This pain continued for over six months.”

The Mayo Clinic explains that symptoms of bone cancer are characterised by pain, just like in Sara’s case.

The health portal also shares other signs to look out for, including:

  • Swelling and tenderness near the affected area
  • Weakened bone, leading to fracture
  • Fatigue
  • Unintended weight loss.

Fortunately, two out of three Sara’s lung tumours are no longer visible and the third has shrunk.


Despite her cancer coming back, she chooses to stay positive. Sara said: “I am under no illusion of the gravity of my situation but I chose to focus on life instead.”

She even launched a swimwear label called Hākinakina inspired by her breast cancer.

Sara said: “Having recently recovered from cancer I was looking for swimwear that suited my active lifestyle and offered me the high level of protection I needed to cover up my radiation burns. 

“I was left with limited options. All I could find were skimpy bikinis or daggy cover-ups. So, I decided to take matters into my own hands.”

The adventure-loving business owner is now focusing on “the here and now”. She concluded: “I will continue to make beautiful pieces that look good, and keep you all safe, as well as building a community that inspires and shows others living with an incurable illness that we can live big, joyous, thriving lives.”

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