I found lump days after mum was diagnosed with breast cancer, says Charlotte Crosby as she opens up on family pain | The Sun08/26/2022
AFTER learning she was expecting her first child, television star Charlotte Crosby was on cloud nine.
However just weeks on from being told the happiest news of her life, Charlotte was handed a devastating blow when her mum, Letitia, was told she had breast cancer.
In an exclusive interview with The Sun, the pair are now calling upon the government to lower the age of mammogram screening invitations after Letitia, 53, was diagnosed with the disease after the routine procedure.
“Mam had no symptoms,” Charlotte, 32, says. “There were no signs.”
Letitia, who starts chemotherapy and radiotherapy in a fortnight, continues: “It was just a routine mammogram, I have never missed one. When they told me it was cancer I was floored.
“I no symptoms, no lumps, nothing. The mammogram has helped save my life – they should be inviting women of all ages to one every single year. Not just women over 50.”
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Charlotte, along with her dad, Gary, 54, and little brother Nathaniel, 17, rallied around Letitia in the days which followed – including a series of painful biopsies and scans on the 11 millimetre tumour in her breast.
Incredibly Charlotte discovered a lump just days after Letitia’s diagnosis.
She adds: “I became so much more aware of my own body. And then I found a lump literally just after mum was diagnosed.
“I went to get it checked out straight away. Luckily it was nothing bad.”
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Charlotte – who after finding fame on MTV’s Geordie Shore went on to win Celebrity Big Brother and star in a number of big TV shows including BGT and Celebrity Juice – said she struggled to cope after Letitia was first diagnosed.
The TV star, who is eight months pregnant, says: “When mum got the letter from them she said she thought something was wrong.
“But I was so adamant it wasn’t. I said, ‘You’re being stupid and worrying over nothing.’ I was so adamant it was going to be fine. I didn’t even entertain the fact it would be cancer.
“When she called and told us it was cancer, I said: No it’s not.’ She was like, ‘No I have been told it is cancer.’ But I still didn’t believe it because I was so adamant it could not be that.”
It was only when Letitia called upon Charlotte’s boyfriend and the father of her child Jake Ankers to sit Charlotte down and explain that the news sunk in.
Letitia says: “It was so difficult to tell Charlotte I had cancer.
“We had all the happy news a couple of months before that she was having the baby.
“We were all so happy. We had so many things to look forward to.
“So telling her I had cancer when she was pregnant was so hard. All I was thinking about was my first grandchild and then you get the diagnosis and it just overshadows it.”
Letitia, like Charlotte, struggled to process what had happened and says she fell into a dark place where she struggled to think positively.
Charlotte recalls: “There was a really low part.
“Mum went into a negative place. And there is only so much you can tell yourself your mam is going to be OK, when your mam is saying: ‘I am going to die, I am going to die,’
“And I remember mam saying it so much that I get into my head, ‘Mam is going to die.’
But she changed her mind-set when she saw how upset I was.”
Letitia adds: “I think that day I managed to upset everybody.
“During the first six weeks there were a lot of tears. Now there are times that I cry and a lot, and times that I don’t. But I don’t find myself crying a lot when I am with Charlotte.”
Charlotte has supported her mum through every step of her journey so far – including joining her at all of her appointments and holding her hand after her surgery last month.
Letitia, who is being treated at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead, had to undergo four biopsies on her breast before her consultant gave her surgery and reconstruction the green light.
She says: “You have caulk in your breasts which can turn cancerous so they need to get the margins right.
“They know they needed to take more than the tumour but needed to work out how much.”
Charlotte adds: “The biopsies were so painful for mam. Normally you have one biopsy and you can tell from there exactly what they need for the surgery.
“But mam had to have four because some were coming back as inconclusive.
“I remember going to the hospital with her and I just hated knowing that she was about to go through all that pain again.
“Her boob was black and blue. It was literally purple after the biopsies because of all the bruising. And they would be like, we have to do it again. It was awful.”
Letitia underwent surgery to remove the tumour, with her surgeons reconstructing her breast at the same time.
Next month she will begin an intensive course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy to ensure all of the cancerous cells are gone.
Letitia says: “My operation was five weeks ago. They removed the tumour, the diseased tissue and three lymph nodes – and everything went well.
“The cancer has not spread to my lymph nodes and the tumour was smaller than they thought, it was 11 millimetres, not 19 millimetres like they had first thought.
“It was five and half hours in surgery.
“To sear the breast and then reconstruct it takes a longer time than it takes to completely lose your breast.
“They cut me from the side and took skin from underneath my arm to build the breast again.”
Laughing, Charlotte cuts in and adds: “Her boobs look perfect, it is incredible what the doctors have done.
“They took 12 centimetres out of mum – that is a big chunk of boob.
I have seen them now and they look incredible. I said, ‘Mam, it’s like you’ve had a mini boob job.’”
Letitia is now waiting to begin a course of chemotherapy in a fortnight before undergoing five days of back-to-back radiotherapy.
Praising the NHS she says: “All the staff at the QE have been amazing. I have a dedicated breast nurse too who is amazing. I know I am lucky as not all trusts have such good resources. They have helped me through all of this.”
Charlotte, who is currently filming a new BBC Three show called Charlotte In Sunderland which follows the life of her and her family, says she will not leave her mum’s side during her treatments and has already helped her pick out a wig for when Letitia loses her hair.
She explains: “We have been wig shopping and we found the most amazing wig place, mam already has her wig and it looks so gorgeous.
“She didn’t want to leave without it. She put it on her head and she was so mad she had to leave without it.”
Letitia adds: “I kept saying to Charlotte, ‘Slip it in your bag!’”
As the pair look to the future, Letitia says the government needs to lower the age of the standard, annual mammogram for women – and says more young girls need to be conscious of their breast health.
She explains: “They should definitely lower the age that women are called in for routine mammograms.
“I am speaking to a girl now who has the same cancer as me, oestrogen positive, and she is only 27 years old.
“She was a nurse working on a cancer ward and she found a lump in her breast. Her doctor thought it was nothing but referred her and it turned out it was cancer.
“But not every woman will have symptoms. They need mammograms.”
For now, focusing on becoming a grandparent for the first time is also helping Letitia stay positive.
Charlotte is due to give birth for the first time in October, with Letitia determined to get well for the sake of her grandchild.
Letitia says: “When Charlotte has her baby I only have three sessions of chemo left so I will be coming towards the end.
“My grandchild is what I am looking forward to the most. It keeps me going, definitely.
“Sadly I feel like the enjoyment has been taken away because there have been so many doctors’ appointments, and then the surgery.
“We should have been doing things for the baby, shopping for the baby, but we haven’t really done anything because we have been so consumed by this.”
Charlotte chips in: “My pregnancy has flown by, I have been so focused on mam.
“This has made us realise we can get through the really tough times.
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“We are so close, me and mam, but now we realise we are stronger than what we think.”
A donation will be made by The Sun to cancer charity FACT in Sunderland on behalf of Letitia and Charlotte.
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