An animal lover has demonstrated how to tripping over a bramble during an earth-shattering diagnosis of stage four cancer.
Rachel Watkins, 40, What walking her dogs near her home in Okehampton, Devon, when she fell and shattered her right hip, leaving her in complete agony.
She was able to drag herself back to her car, where she was phoning for help and what speed to Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital.
A scan revealed that a tumor had been silently growing in her hip joint, weakening it over time.
Investigations concluded that she had four stages of metastatic breast cancer, which had spread to her hip and ribs.
Animal lover Rachel Watkins, 40, had been experiencing pain in her hip and tiredness during a devastating fall on a dog walk near her home in Okehampton, Devon
Miss Watkins' scan at the hospital straight after her case showed where a tumor had eaten away at her hip bones (circled). Later investigations found that she had four breast cancer which had spread
Abi Hall is running South Devon Trail Marathon to raise money to grant a lifelong wish of Miss Watkins' – to take photos of whales in the wild before her condition becomes too severe
Miss Watkins had a full hip replacement and bone graft and is still having hormone.
But she was devastated at the news she would not be able to have children.
Miss Watkins', who was a practitioner of animals – using her hands like a chiropractor to relieve problems with joints, muscles and bones, had been experiencing pain in her hip on and off for a year, and there were a few signs of what what to come.
She recalled feeling very tired and changing her deodorant, as she had an itchy armpit, as well as experiencing frequent aching in her right hip, especially at night.
Miss Watkins assumes this was down to bursitis – where the joints become tender and swollen – especially as it eases off after a month.
'I was so tired of all this, but it's down to being self-employed and slogging away,' said Miss Watkins.
'In around 2016, I started running with my dogs.
'But because it got better with rest, I thought it was a simple sports injury.'
Things changed forever for Miss Watkins on March 9, 2017.
Miss Watkins added: 'I remember it so clearly. It was a stunning spring day, so I could not resist the dogs out.
'Next thing I knew, I tripped over some brambles and landed on my right leg.
'It was making me want to pass out. I knew something catastrophic had happened. '
She added: 'I knew I was in trouble, but I could not bear to ring for help without knowing my dogs would be safe.'
'Friends say that what is typical of me, but I do not think properly and I do not want to be alone for God knows how long.
'Neither me nor the paramedics' I managed to drag myself back to the car and put the dogs inside, but I did.'
After they were taken, Miss Watkins phoned for help and was taken to hospital, where X Ray and CT scan were performed.
'Doctors told me that my hip joint was so fragile it was like an egg shell, and the case had shattered it', Miss Watkins said.
Tragically, not only has she broken her pelvis and shattered her hip, but a number of tumors had been discovered.
Further investigation concluded that she had four metastatic breast cancer, which had spread to her hip and ribs.
'Doctors told me that my hip joint was so fragile it was like an egg shell, and the case had shattered it', Miss Watkins recalls. Above, her hip in a brace in hospital
Miss Watkins' X Ray when she was first admitted to hospital, showing where her femoral head had 'pushed through' the fragile bone
Miss Watkins had a full hip replacement and bone graft, then having a metal plate and mesh cage fitted to her limb at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital
After her diagnosis, Miss Watkins began a course of radiotherapy, as well as hormone therapy to control her cancer, rather than cure it. Above, Miss Watkins on her first day outside during six weeks while in hospital
'The breast cancer has actually started in my left breast,' she said.
'When they told me, I just shut down with shock. I did not cry, I was calm – but not a nice calm.
'The primary tumor was in my left breast, which was malignant and hormone receptive, as well as a few other lumps which, though turned out to be benign, had no idea were there.
'That's really shocking, as we all imagine lumps to be pretty obvious.'
She added: 'The doctors were amazing. Once they've broken the news, they asked if there was anything I needed. I joked, "A stiff drink" – but they are actually buying it in a bottle of whiskey the next day. '
After her diagnosis, Miss Watkins began a course of radiotherapy, as well as hormone therapy, in the form of Letrozole tablets and Zoladex implants.
Initially, it was feared surgery was not a viable option, because of the severity of her case, meaning she risked losing the ability to walk.
But, thankfully, orthopedic surgeons at Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital were able to operate in the end.
In April 2017, she had a full hip replacement and bone graft, then having a metal plate and mesh cage fitted to strengthen her limb.
'I'm not completely recovered from that. I would like to get regular treatment and treatment, she said.
'I'm continuing to have hormone treatment, too, but because I'm classed as stage four, it's more to keep the cancer at bay than to cure it.
One of the hardest parts of everything is scuppering any chance of having children. Being a mum was always a dream of mine, but now, with the prognosis being so uncertain, it's just not an option. '
Mrs Hall has set up a GoFundMe page for Miss Watkins ahead of the South Devon Trail Marathon in February.
Fearing her time could be limited, Miss Watkins, who is now unable to work, made an intent on making a lifelong wish come true, to take pictures of whales in the wild.
Her friend, Abi Hall, South Devon Trail Miss Watkins so she can visit either Canada, Sri Lanka, or Mexico, before her condition became too severe.
Miss Watkins' loved ones to run 5km, 10km and half marathon races.
'Abi is looking for an incredible woman. Although they're one of my newer friends, they know I'm one of the most supportive people, 'said Miss Watkins. 'I'm so humbled by what she's doing.
'Right now, I'm working on the six-monthly scans' I'm having, but I'm live in fear that it could all change at any time while I still can.
'If my life is short, why should not I get these memories in now?'
Miss Watkins So plans to donate any excess funds to charity Children With Cancer UK.
She wants to do that by sharing her story.
'I think we live in a culture where we are all going at a million miles an hour, so tiredness is expected, when actually, it can be the biggest indicator that something is wrong.'
WHAT IS BREAST CANCER, HOW MANY PEOPLE DOES IT STRIKE AND WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world. Each year in the UK there are more than 55,000 new cases, and the disease claims the lives of 11,500 women. In the US, it strikes 266,000 each year and kills 40,000. But what causes it and how can it be treated?
What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer Developing from a cancerous cell which develops in the lining of a duct or lobule in one of the breasts.
It is called on an 'invasive' breast cancer. Some people are diagnosed with 'carcinoma in situ', where no cancer cells have grown beyond the duct or lobule.
Most cases develop in women over the age of 50 but younger women are sometimes affected. Breast cancer can develop into men though this is rare.
The cancerous cells are graded from stage one, which means a slow growth, up to stage four, which is the most aggressive.
What causes breast cancer?
A cancerous tumor starts from one abnormal cell. The exact reason why a cell becomes cancerous is unclear. It is thought that something damages or age certain genes in the cell. This makes the cell abnormal and multiply 'out of control'.
Breast cancer can develop, so there are some risk factors that can increase the chance of developing breast cancer, such as genetics.
What are the symptoms of breast cancer?
The usual first symptom is a painless lump in the breast, although most breast lumps are not cancerous and are fluid filled cysts, which are benign.
The first place that breast cancer usually spreads to the lymph nodes in the armpit. If this occurs, you want to develop a swelling or lump in an armpit.
How is breast cancer diagnosed?
- Initial assessment: A doctor examines the breasts and armpits. They may do tests as a mammography, a special x-ray of the breast tissue which may indicate the possibility of tumors.
- Biopsy: A biopsy is a small sample of tissue is taken from a part of the body. The sample is then examined under the microscope to look for abnormal cells. The sample can confirm or rule out cancer.
If you are suffering from breast cancer, further tests may be needed. For example, blood tests, on ultrasound scan of the liver or a chest x-ray.
How is breast cancer treated?
Treatment options which may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormone treatment. Often a combination of two or more treatments are used.
- Surgery: Breast-conserving surgery on the size of the tumor.
- Radiotherapy: A treatment which uses high energy beams of radiation focussed on cancerous tissue. This kills cancer cells, or stops cancer cells from multiplying. It is mainly used in addition to surgery.
- Chemotherapy: A treatment of cancer by using anti-cancer drugs which kill cancer cells, or stop them from multiplying
- Hormone treatments: Some types of breast cancer are affected by the 'female' hormone estrogen, which can stimulate the cancer cells to divide and multiply. Treatments which reduce the level of these hormones, or prevent them from working, are commonly used in people with breast cancer.
How successful is treatment?
The outlook is best in those who are diagnosed when the cancer is still small, and has not spread. Surgical removal of a tumor at an early stage may then give a good chance of cure.
The breast cancer patients are being diagnosed and treated at an early stage.
For more information visit breastcancercare.org.uk or www.cancerhelp.org.uk