After being told to 'soldier on' through postpartum breast changes, mom is dying of breast cancer

When she first noticed the lump, she thought her body was changing because she was pregnant. Then she learned she had breast cancer that was not curable.

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/ Source: TODAY
By Meghan Holohan

After learning that her breast cancer is not curable, a mom in the United Kingdom shared a touching message encouraging people, and especially mothers, to be “selfish” about their health.

“I used to say to myself, ‘Oh my God, I am dying for a wee’ and then I would hold it for like hours because I wouldn’t want to leave the children by themselves. And the irony in that now is that I’m going to leave the children without me forever,” Clair Milling said in a Facebook video that has been shared 1,100 times. “Please don’t let that be you.”

'Weird' pregnancy changes

When Milling, 40, was three months pregnant with her youngest son, Elliott, now 7 months old, she found a lump in her armpit.

“I was shaving and I saw that my armpit was — instead of being inwards as your armpit is — was protruding,” she said in the video.

She understood that being pregnant meant "your body changes in all weird and wonderful ways,” but to be safe she called her doctor.

“I was concerned so I spoke to my local GP, who said it was swollen glands under my armpit and blocked ducts in my breasts due to pregnancy,” Milling told TODAY via Facebook Messenger.

That made sense so Milling didn’t push it. The rest of her pregnancy was uneventful, but after Elliott was born, Milling noticed that breastfeeding didn’t come as naturally as it had with her other children, Sebastian, 5, and Olivia, 2.

“I was only producing milk from my left breast,” she recalled in the video. “I said to the nurse at the time, ‘I am not getting any milk out of my right breast. It is really hard. It is solid.’”

As a mom, Clair Milling often put herself second to care for her three children. Since learning she has breast cancer, she's been trying to make the most of her time with her family. Courtesy Clair Milling

The nurse said that the duct was probably clogged and that Milling should massage it and continue breastfeeding.

“I took and followed their advice as they are the experts,” she said.

Then she and her family went into COVID-19 lockdown and her breastfeeding difficulties took a backseat. She felt like she didn’t want to inconvenience the doctors with her challenges.

“I don’t want to bother people. It is the coronavirus,” she said in the video. "That is what I thought.”

But then one day Milling took a bath to relax and noticed something startling.

“So my left nipple was lovely and normal, poking in the right direction. My right nipple was inverted," she said in the video. "I thought that is not right.”

The next day she called her doctor and went for a series of tests in June. She has learned that she has breast cancer and it had spread to the lymph nodes in her right arm, the left side of her neck and her chest wall “behind my ribs and between my lungs.”

“My diagnosis has hit us hard. If I could turn back time I would, but now I need to focus on the future and the time I have left whilst trying to raise awareness to people,” she said. “(My husband) is struggling to come to terms that his wife, best friend and mother of his children is dying and they will never get the chance to do all the things they wanted to do when growing old together."

'Stop making excuses'

Milling, too, grapples with her diagnosis and at times shares her message through tears.

“I made up a lot of excuses why I didn’t (check myself). I’ve got three children. I don’t have time to check myself. I’m in the shower, I’m out, I’m done, which is fair, we all do that,” she said in the video.

She’s undergone two rounds of chemotherapy and immunotherapy and has four more rounds to finish before an additional immunotherapy, which hopefully will give her more time. She hopes that people will see their doctors regularly and get screened for cancer, and other illnesses, even as the pandemic continues.

“All we hear about is coronavirus and there are still a lot of people out there dying of other diseases and horrible things, too,” she said in the video.

After she learned she was dying of breast cancer, Clair Milling urges others to be "selfish" with their health and see a doctor any time things seem off. Courtesy Clair Milling

Milling urges moms, in particular, to put their health first.

“I hope people stop making excuses for not giving themselves a time out to check themselves over,” she said. “Had I done this I would have been able to bring up my own children.”