‘I will never be free of cancer now’ - Laura Hughes’ determination to fight cancer as guest of honour for Norwich Race for Life
- Credit: Archant
As thousands prepare for Cancer Research's Race for Life this month, it is the event's guest of honour who has the toughest challenge ahead of her.
Twelve months ago, 29-year-old Laura Hughes thought she was on the road to recovery, having been diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014, aged 25.
But weeks after she marked the second anniversary of the disease going into remission, the Norwich hairdresser was told it had returned.
A scan in October last year revealed it had spread to her bone, and she was diagnosed as having stage four cancer, which is incurable.
It means that Miss Hughes will now have to remain on drugs for the rest of her life in order to control the spread of the disease.
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She said: 'I did think that cancer was finally behind me.
'I was starting to plan my future again with [my boyfriend] Brad but then we were devastated to find out it had come back and spread to my bones.
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'I will never be free of cancer now, but I know that the drugs keeping it under control are only here because of research.'
Miss Hughes, who grew up in Harleston, first noticed something was wrong as she prepared to embark on a charity trek across Iceland last year.
She had been aiming to raise money and promote awareness for the breast cancer charity CoppaFeel!
'At the time I had a pain in my shoulder, which I thought was an injury from the gym,' she said.
'But when the physio realised it was not getting any better, he sent me for a scan.'
A CT scan revealed a 6cm tumour in the right humeral head of her arm, where the bone connects with the shoulder.
'I was terrified,' Miss Hughes said. 'When someone says you have cancer in your bones and it has spread, I literally walked out of the appointment and thought 'that was me done'.
'I had convinced myself it was something else and I was just in bits.'
Miss Hughes, who lives off Grove Road, said the diagnosis in October was made all the more difficult as it took place months after her mother's death in June.
The 61-year-old died from the neurological condition Multiple System Atrophy,
'In a way I am pleased she did not know that my cancer had returned,' Miss Hughes said. 'I'm glad she did not have to worry about that.'
In November, Miss Hughes underwent a three-hour operation to have her humeral head removed and replaced.
Less than three weeks later and she started a course of chemotherapy - the second time she has had to endure the treatment.
She said: 'The side effects were horrendous. It was every three weeks, but it would take three weeks to recover from.
'I lost most of my hair again and generally felt unwell.'
Along with the chemotherapy, Miss Hughes was put on a new type of drug to control her cancer.
But it meant she had to take yet another difficult decision - whether or not to have children in the future.
'I cannot have children on the drug,' she said. 'And if I came off it, I would not be able to go back on it.
'Recent scans show the cancer has spread to my spine and pelvis, and without this drug it would spread much quicker.'
Instead, Miss Hughes, and her 35-year-old boyfriend Bradley Middleton, have bought a dog.
She said the cocker spaniel, Tilly, had made 'her family complete' and given her a reason to smile again.
'When you have gone through something like cancer and chemotherapy, even if you are not feeling 100pc, if you are able to get out of bed and go out, you feel so much better.'
Despite the difficulties she will face in the future, Miss Hughes said she was determined to continue the fight against the disease.
And it is because of her resilience that she has been chosen as Cancer Research UK's Race for Life guest of honour.
The event takes place at the Norfolk Showground on May 14.
It is hoped her story will inspire other women to take part in the race to raise money for cancer research.
Rachel Parratt, event manager, said: 'Laura is an inspiration to all of the Race for Life team in the East.
'Despite having received the worst of news, she is determined to keep helping others and get people fundraising for research.
'We hope Laura's story will inspire other women, of all ages.'