A woman who discovered she had breast cancer while on her honeymoon has shared her distress after she had to have her mastectomy surgery alone.
Charlotte Dudeney-Tucker, 27, expresses feeling that some of the Covid rules felt unnecessarily strict considering the severity of her illness.
She had to undergo many different procedures including fertility-preserving IVF treatment and having her right breast removed in a mastectomy without her husband by her side.
Charlotte and her husband Cameron Tucker, 25, met when she was travelling the US four years ago.
He is American, and they had planned their wedding in Texas for April 2020.
Charlotte had travelled to the States in February to prepare for the wedding, but once Covid struck the next month, she was stranded in the US with her wedding cancelled.
The couple were still able to wed in a courthouse ceremony with their close family members and the newlyweds had their honeymoon in New England in September of last year.
While she was their, Charlotte found a lump in her breast and she instantly had an inkling something was wrong.
Describing her ordeal, she said: “As soon as I felt it I had a sinking feeling in my stomach as I’d never had any lumps and bumps before and I knew it wasn’t normal for me.
“I instantly thought it was something bad but everyone else thought I was mad.
“Two days later I was worried sick and wanted to get it checked out for peace of mind.”
She was finally able to be examined after being turned away from five clinics because she was not a US resident with the total bill for her US treatment coming to more than $4,000.
A few days later, she received a call informing her of the cancer.
Charlotte said: “The doctor said she was hoping that because of my age it would come back clear, but it hadn’t and she said ‘You do have cancer.’
“My husband was devastated. I then had to call my mum and that was the hardest conversation I have ever had in my life.”
Charlotte immediately came back to the UK but was frustrated when she was made to quarantine for a fortnight despite repeatedly supplying negative Covid tests.
“I wanted to start my treatment as I was worried it was spreading,” she explains.
Charlotte was diagnosed with stage 2a invasive ductal carcinoma in the UK despite being just 26, having no cancer in her family and no genetic susceptibility.
After Christmas, she began fertility treatment but had to do all scans and an egg collection alone.
Between February and June this year, Charlotte had seven rounds of chemotherapy, some lasting eight-hours and immunotherapy to shrink the tumour, alone.
In August at Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford, she had her right breast removed with no family there to see her into surgery.
It was 24 hours before anyone was allowed to visit her due to pandemic restrictions despite her being fully vaccinated.
She has now been put into a chemical menopause and will be on hormone blockers for ten years, but as the couple have seven healthy embryos after IVF treatment, she is hopeful that she will be able to have children.
Charlotte feels that no-one should have to experience such trauma without someone to comfort them.
Sharing her thoughts, she said: “I don’t understand why Covid has been deemed more important than cancer treatment.
“All of the restrictions in the hospital were purely due to Covid.
“It was really tough at times, especially during all the fertility stuff when I just wanted my husband with me.
“And I was alone for about 24 hours after my mastectomy.”
Charlotte was thankfully told a fortnight ago that she is currently cancer free, but she is still required to undergo some treatment.
Now she has urged anyone with concerns to book a GP appointment as soon as they can.
She said: “I worry about how many people – not just young people – are putting off going to the doctors to get a symptom checked out.
“They could be living with undiagnosed cancer.”
Only four per cent of people are diagnosed with breast cancer under 40.
But figures show just 57% of people needing appointments had them face to face in July, compared with 80% before the pandemic.
A spokesperson for Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Broomfield Hospital, where Charlotte had her mastectomy, said that visitors to the hospital were still restricted.
She said: “The safety of our patients and staff is our main priority and where it is not possible to have visitors due to the risk of infection, this is explained and patients are given the opportunity to speak with family or friends in other ways, such as through the use of video calls.”