Walk All Over Cancer: Leeds mother who was diagnosed with breast cancer while pregnant urges people to sign up for 10,000 steps a day in March

Nichola Thomson was diagnosed with cancer while pregnant. She endured some tough times but was keen to give something back by taking part in a charity challenge.

Leeds mother Nichola Thomson was seven months pregnant with her first child when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2020.

Yet on March 31 last year she completed a challenge to walk 10,000 steps every day that month – capping it off on the date of her baby Oscar’s first birthday.

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The Horsforth mum is now encouraging others to step up for the fundraising campaign next month after she managed to raise £9,000 for the cause.

Nichola and Greg celebrating with Oscar on his first birthday and her completion of 310,000 steps on March 31 last year.Nichola and Greg celebrating with Oscar on his first birthday and her completion of 310,000 steps on March 31 last year.
Nichola and Greg celebrating with Oscar on his first birthday and her completion of 310,000 steps on March 31 last year.

She said: “Getting outside was good for both my health and mental wellbeing and I really enjoyed the challenge.

“I’d been through such a tough year, but I always came back from doing my steps feeling so much better, like myself again, and hopeful about the future.”

Back in June 2019, she and her husband Greg, 36, were thrilled with the news they were expecting their first child but in February 2020, Nichola noticed some changes in her right breast.

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She said: “One nipple had become inverted, but I wasn’t worried too much. I just assumed that my boobs would naturally change during the pregnancy. While I was chatting to a friend who’s a midwife about breastfeeding, I mentioned the change in my breast and she advised me to get it checked out, so I booked an appointment with my GP.”

Nichola and Oscar during one of their walks.Nichola and Oscar during one of their walks.
Nichola and Oscar during one of their walks.

Before she went, Nichola also found a small lump, but still thought it was just pregnancy changes.

Her GP referred her to the breast clinic at St James Hospital in Leeds and it was during that appointment, on March 5 – just before the first Covid lockdown – that the consultant told Nichola and Greg a needle biopsy was needed as they were concerned it could be cancer.

Nichola said: “I just burst into tears. I couldn’t believe it. My whole life changed in that moment.”

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Test results a week later confirmed their worst fears and it was decided that Nichola would be induced at 37 weeks – one week into the first lockdown – before her cancer treatment would then start.

On the morning of March 31, 2020, Nichola gave birth by c-section to a healthy little boy, Oscar, weighing 8lb 6oz.

“All the worries about my cancer went away in that amazing moment. We didn’t know if we were having a boy or a girl so, just to hold this beautiful, perfect little boy in my arms, I felt so grateful.”

Nichola had four weeks recovering at home with Oscar before having day surgery, a wide excision to remove the tumour and lymph nodes from the affected side.

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“Greg and Oscar took me to St James’s for surgery, but because of lockdown they couldn’t come in with me and had to drop me off at the door. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that day, saying goodbye to them and walking into the hospital alone. Luckily everything went well, and I was able to go home to them later that night.”

Six weeks later Nichola started a course of chemotherapy – six cycles, three weeks apart.

She said: “Chemo was really difficult, and it left me feeling exhausted. I couldn’t taste food properly and couldn’t sleep due to the steroids. I also lost a lot of hair. It was tough, but I had my amazing husband and family looking after me who all pitched in to look after Oscar on a rota basis. But no matter how bad I was feeling, Oscar always put a smile on my face.”

Then in November 2020, Nichola started four weeks of radiotherapy, having her sessions early each morning, and she found it much easier to manage than chemotherapy, with not too many side effects.

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Nichola finished her treatment, and together they enjoyed their first Christmas a family. She also decided to extend her maternity leave until September 2021, giving her more time to recover and spend time with Oscar.

“Our time together was really special, and I really enjoyed looking after him. Although it was hard and a worry being a new mum while dealing with cancer, it was also strangely a bonus as it gave me another focus which definitely got me through it. Oscar is such an affectionate little boy and loves his cuddles, he really helped me to recover and look to the future.”

Nichola was spending a lot of time on walks around Horsforth, with Oscar with her in his pram, when she saw an advert for Cancer Research UK’s Walk All Over Cancer challenge.

“It just seemed perfect for me so I and signed up straight away. I really wanted to give something back as throughout my whole journey I was amazed at how every aspect of my care and treatment was tailored to suit my situation and my type of cancer. From having Oscar early so I could have the surgery sooner, to the type of chemotherapy drugs used, to an extra week of radiotherapy and so much more.”

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Walking at her own pace, she managed to complete 10,000 steps every day.

She said: “Soon it was 31st of March the last day of my Walk All Over Cancer and I’d done it, all 310,000 steps, all after cancer.

“And it was also our beautiful baby boy Oscar’s first birthday, so an extremely special and significant day of celebration for us all.”

She added: “I feel so lucky that the pandemic didn’t affect my treatment and that I’m through the other side.

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“That’s why I wanted to raise money for those people that aren’t as lucky and fortunate as I have been and contribute to Cancer Research UK.”

Nichola is now back at work, part time three days a week, attends regular check-ups and will take the drug Tamoxifen for the next 10 years.

She said: “I hope people in Leeds will follow in my footsteps and Walk All Over Cancer this themselves this March.”

To sign up to Walk All Over Cancer and receive a free fundraising pack which includes a T-shirt, visit cruk.org/walkallover.

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