Woman, 25, reveals she collapsed to the floor with shock following rare breast cancer diagnosis

A woman who underwent a lifesaving mastectomy in her 20s after the lump in her breast turned out to be a rare form of cancer is taking part in a modelling campaign for charity. 

Hairdresser Sacha Mills, 25, from Basingstoke, Hampshire, collapsed to the floor with shock when she was first diagnosed with stage 3 triple-negative breast cancer in May 2020. 

The following month, at the age of 24, Sacha had her left breast removed before undergoing chemotherapy and is currently cancer free after finishing her radiotherapy treatment in March.

Now, Sacha is taking part in a River Island modelling campaign to raise awareness and funding for charity Breast Cancer Now and says she’s thrilled to be fulfilling her passion after beating cancer.  

Hairdresser Sacha Mills, 25, from Basingstoke, Hampshire, underwent a lifesaving mastectomy in her 20s after the lump in her breast turned out to be a rare form of cancer. She is pictured before her diagnosis

Hairdresser Sacha Mills, 25, from Basingstoke, Hampshire, underwent a lifesaving mastectomy in her 20s after the lump in her breast turned out to be a rare form of cancer. She is pictured before her diagnosis 

Now, Sacha is taking part in a River Island modelling campaign to raise awareness and funding for charity Breast Cancer Now

She says she's thrilled to be fulfilling her passion after beating cancer

Now, Sacha is taking part in a River Island modelling campaign to raise awareness and funding for charity Breast Cancer Now and says she’s thrilled to be fulfilling her passion after beating cancer

‘I first noticed something was wrong when I was getting changed for bed one evening and my hand brushed against my breast,’ said Sacha. ‘I could feel a lump. 

‘I went down to my mum and asked her if she could feel it too. She was quite shocked and said it seemed like a big lump.’

Sacha booked a doctor’s appointment and, lying down for the examination, she says that she could even see the lump protruding from her skin.

She continued: ‘The lump was visible, but I was convinced it would just be a cyst.

At the age of 24, Sacha had her left breast removed before undergoing chemotherapy. She is pictured undergoing treatment in hospital

At the age of 24, Sacha had her left breast removed before undergoing chemotherapy. She is pictured undergoing treatment in hospital 

Sacha took part in a photo shoot, held over FaceTime due to the pandemic, wearing a t-shirt and jeans, and will appear as a model for the range available in River Island from May 6

Sacha took part in a photo shoot, held over FaceTime due to the pandemic, wearing a t-shirt and jeans, and will appear as a model for the range available in River Island from May 6

‘I was sent for a biopsy to determine what it was and, because I was worried, I brought my mum with me when I was asked to come in for my results.’

Two weeks after the biopsy, Sacha and her mum Janice, 62, listened to doctors at Basingstoke and North Hampshire Hospital as they dealt a devastating blow.

Sacha said: ‘They put me in a quiet room before the consultant came in with the surgeon and he measured the lump.

‘Then the consultant sat me down and said, “Unfortunately we’ve found what we didn’t want to find.”

‘I heard them say cancer and I didn’t hear anything else after that. I collapsed to the floor with shock.’

Sacha was diagnosed with stage 3 triple-negative breast cancer – a relatively uncommon form of breast cancer that is usually more aggressive and harder to treat than other types.

Sacha was diagnosed with stage 3 triple-negative breast cancer - a relatively uncommon form of breast cancer that is usually more aggressive and harder to treat than other types. She is pictured in hospital

Sacha was diagnosed with stage 3 triple-negative breast cancer – a relatively uncommon form of breast cancer that is usually more aggressive and harder to treat than other types. She is pictured in hospital 

Sacha is pictured during her treatment

Sacha is pictured pre-operation

Instead of a lumpectomy operation to remove the cancerous lump, Sacha opted for a mastectomy, removing her left breast and its tissue. Pictured left, Sacha during her treatment. Pictured right, Sacha before her mastectomy

For now, she is just relieved to have been given the all-clear, having just finished her radiotherapy treatment in March

For now, she is just relieved to have been given the all-clear, having just finished her radiotherapy treatment in March  

‘My mum was so upset, she kept saying, ‘I’ll have it, why couldn’t it be me?, said Sacha. ‘I couldn’t believe it was really happening, I thought it was impossible. I was only 24.’

Doctors explained that the cancer had spread from Sacha’s left breast to her lymph nodes, and that she required surgery to remove the mass.

‘I went onto Google and found out that the survival rate is 77 per cent,’ Sacha said. ‘So I knew it was aggressive.

‘I went to another appointment where they started talking about surgery in more detail. That’s when I told them to just take the boob off completely.’

Instead of a lumpectomy operation to remove the cancerous lump, Sacha opted for a mastectomy, removing her left breast and its tissue.

Sacha's biggest worry about her treatment was losing her hair and she wore a cold cap during treatment

She lost around 50 per cent of her hair

Sacha’s biggest worry about her treatment was losing her hair and despite wearing a cold cap (left) which reduces chances of hair loss during treatment, she lost around 50 per cent of her hair (right)

Sacha's breast reconstruction surgery has been postponed due to the pandemic, but she hopes to have this done in the next two years

Sacha’s breast reconstruction surgery has been postponed due to the pandemic, but she hopes to have this done in the next two years 

She explained: ‘I’ve always said that if I got cancer I’d just have my breasts removed. It’s a bit upsetting to lose my breast now, as I’m still very young.

‘At first I was worried that I wouldn’t feel attractive anymore while dating, but I don’t feel like that now. And if the choice comes between that and losing my life, it’s a no brainer.’

Sacha had no second thoughts and said: ‘It was a big decision, but I was adamant about having the mastectomy.

‘I told my friends about my diagnosis a few weeks before my surgery. They were devastated for me.’

In June 2020, Sacha went under the knife for the life-saving procedure and, once recovered, she started chemotherapy in July.

She said: ‘I had my chemo at an under-30s unit and I even made friends with another girl who was a similar age and going through the same thing.

WHAT IS TRIPLE NEGATIVE BREAST CANCER?

Triple negative breast cancer is the name given to breast cancer that is:

  • oestrogen receptor negative (ER-)
  • progesterone receptor negative (PR-)
  • HER2 negative

Some breast cancers are stimulated by the hormone oestrogen. This means that oestrogen in the body helps the cancer to grow. This type of breast cancer is called oestrogen receptor positive (ER+).

Invasive breast cancers are tested to see if they are ER+ using tissue from a biopsy or after surgery. Tests will also be done to see if your breast cancer is progesterone receptor positive (PR+). Progesterone is another hormone.

If breast cancer doesn’t have oestrogen receptors, it’s called oestrogen receptor negative (ER -). If it doesn’t have progesterone receptors, it’s called progesterone receptor negative (PR -).

Find out more about hormone receptors and breast cancer.

Some breast cancer cells have a higher than normal level of a protein called HER2 on their surface, which stimulates them to grow.

Invasive breast cancers are tested for HER2 levels using tissue from a biopsy or surgery. If breast cancer cells have a normal level of HER2 on their surface, they’re known as HER2 negative (HER2-).

If your cancer doesn’t have oestrogen and progesterone receptors and is HER2 negative, you have triple negative breast cancer.

 Source: Breast Cancer Now 

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‘It’s been nice having someone to talk to who completely understands what you’re going through.’

But Sacha’s biggest worry about her treatment was losing her hair.

She said: ‘I think I was more concerned about losing my hair than my breast. As a hairdresser, that was my worst nightmare. I’m very guarded about my hair.

‘I wore a cold cap which reduces your chances of hair loss. I think I lost about 50 per cent of my hair but it started growing back while I was still on treatment, so I think the cap sped up the process.’

She also took the chance to experiment with wigs, trying out different colours and lengths as her hair began to fall out.

Sacha said: ‘It was strange wearing a wig for the first time but I slowly got used to it. At first, I bought some cheap ones to check which styles I liked.

‘To begin with, I was trying so hard to find one that matched my natural colour but it was impossible.

‘I gave up on that and got a blonde wig, which my all friends complimented.’

Sacha’s breast reconstruction surgery has been postponed due to the pandemic, but she hopes to have this done in the next two years.

For now, she is just relieved to have been given the all-clear, having just finished her radiotherapy treatment in March.

And since her diagnosis, Sacha has joined the Fashion Targets Breast Cancer campaign, a fashion movement supported by River Island this spring.

Sacha said: ‘They got in touch with me over Instagram and I was immediately interested. Before my illness, my main interest was fashion.

‘They asked if I wanted to be part of the campaign – it felt like such a great cause and it was really nice to be doing something fashion-related again.’

Sacha took part in a photo shoot, held over FaceTime due to the pandemic, wearing a t-shirt and jeans, and will appear as a model for the range available in River Island from May 6.

Baroness Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive at Breast Cancer Now, said: ‘By purchasing an item from River Island’s Fashion Targets Breast Cancer collection, you’ll be ‘wearing something important’ that not only looks stylish but helps ensure that the 600,000 women living with, through and beyond a breast cancer diagnosis in the UK get the support they need.

‘Huge thanks to all River Island staff and customers for their unwavering support for this campaign over the past 25 years, and for continuing to partner with us in calling on women to make a real difference by ‘wearing something different’ this Spring.’

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