Bride-to-be, 24, suffering from chest pains discovers she has stage four skin cancer – Mirror Online

A bride-to-be who suffered from chest pains was shocked to discover they were the first symptoms of stage four skin cancer.

Super fit Kate Wignall, 24, was over the moon when her partner of nine years, Ryan Dixon, a lab technician who is also 24, popped the question during a walk near their hometown of St Austell, Cornwall, in May.

But the next morning, from nowhere, she was hit by agonising chest pains which doctors believed to be caused by a trapped nerve.

Her symptoms worsened and six weeks later she was taken to Royal Cornwall Hospital while vomiting blood, Devon Live reports.

There, after a series of tests, she was alone – because of Covid-19 restrictions – when doctors told her she had stage four malignant melanoma, a type of skin cancer, meaning she then had to break the news to her family and friends.

Doctors told Kate she had stage four malignant melanoma, a type of skin cancer

Doctors told Kate she had stage four malignant melanoma which is a type of skin cancer
(Image: PA Real Life)

She said: “I had begun to suspect that something was seriously wrong, purely because I was so poorly, but hearing the word ‘cancer’ out loud was still such a shock.”

She added: “It was heartbreaking telling Ryan. We’d been on such a high, having just got engaged – and now, our lives were suddenly and sharply going in a different direction.”

A health conscious gym bunny, who worked out several times a week, ate well and did not smoke, Kate believed she was in robust health – the only sign that anything was wrong being a small lump she found on her neck in January this year.

Told by doctors it was probably a cyst – a fluid filled sac that can grow anywhere in the body – she felt reassured and, despite the pandemic, was enjoying a wonderful year, after buying her first home with Ryan and getting engaged.

Kate and Ryan had only just get engaged when her cancer was diagnosed

Kate and Ryan had only just get engaged when her cancer was diagnosed
(Image: PA Real Life)

She said: “Covid-19 has been, of course, very difficult for everybody, but at the start of the year, Ryan and I still managed to make some really amazing memories.

“We’ve been together nine years, ever since we were introduced by mutual friends at 15. We didn’t go to the same school, but would hang out all the time and have been together ever since.

“He proposed on May 30, which is actually the day before our anniversary, so I had no idea it was coming. He did it on one of our favourite local walks, then we went and had some champagne.”

But just 24 hours later, on May 31, she began suffering with severe chest pain and, concerned it might be a heart problem, called the non-emergency NHS number, 111.

Examined by a doctor, she was told it was likely a trapped nerve or pulled muscle.

“I did think it was strange to have hit so out of the blue,” she said. “I work out a lot and had never had that problem before – plus I couldn’t think of anything I’d done that would’ve hurt my muscles. But I also had no reason, at that point, to suspect it was anything else.”

Resting up at home, on doctors’ advice, during the next six weeks her symptoms worsened.

Doctors initially thought Kate had trapped nerve or pulled a muscle

Doctors initially thought Kate had trapped nerve or pulled a muscle
(Image: PA Real Life)

“I went back and forth to the doctors, but kept being told it was muscular or a trapped nerve,” she said. “The pain was getting so bad that I lost my appetite and could barely sleep.”

With medics concerned she may have rheumatoid arthritis – a long-term condition that causes pain and swelling in the joints – Kate was referred to a specialist.

But before she reached her appointment, she started vomiting persistently – even bringing up blood – and was taken to Royal Cornwall Hospital in July with a temperature of 39 degrees, which can indicate an infection.

Given antibiotics while medics ran tests, including a CT scan, they discovered she had cancer.

Kate explained: “At that stage, doctors didn’t know exactly what kind of cancer I had. They had just seen masses on the scan. Because of coronavirus restrictions, I was on my own when I got the news.

“Telling my family over the phone was absolutely heartbreaking. At that point, I didn’t have any answers and didn’t really know what was going on,” she continued. “The only face to face visit I had was from Ryan, who was allowed to come in for one hour that night. I really needed someone there, so was so grateful that could happen.”

After further tests, including MRI scans and biopsies, Kate was officially diagnosed with stage four advanced melanoma, which has spread to her brain, spine, spleen, kidney and lungs.

Kate was officially diagnosed with stage four advanced melanoma, which has spread to her brain, spine, spleen, kidney and lungs

Kate was officially diagnosed with stage four advanced melanoma, which has spread to her brain, spine, spleen, kidney and lungs
(Image: PA Real Life)

According to Cancer Research UK, who have supported her throughout her journey, a more common warning sign of melanoma is a change in the appearance of a mole.

But, when the disease has spread to other parts of the body, symptoms can include hard lumps, swollen lymph nodes, unexplained weight loss, breathlessness, coughing up blood, persistent infections and backache.

Kate said: “I never suspected I’d have skin cancer. Like many people, I associated it with sun damage or moles. Doctors don’t know where it started in my case, but I never noticed any changes in my skin to worry about.

“It was a real shock to everybody, even the doctors. In the blink of an eye, I’d gone from working as an occupational therapist on a stroke ward, to being a cancer patient on an oncology ward.”

That same day, Kate began targeted therapy – a combination of two oral chemotherapy drugs, encorafenib and binimetinib, which she continues to take daily.

Discharged five days later, on 24 July, she has since had regular meetings with her oncologist and continues to be monitored by scans, which have so far shown that the cancer has shrunk by 50 per cent.

Her disease is incurable, but she remains hopeful about the future and does not have a definite prognosis at the moment.

She said: “The cancer won’t ever go away – I’m going to live with it forever – but it’s stable, for now. I’ll be on these drugs for as long as they work and then we will switch to immunotherapy as a plan B.

“Advances in medicine are being made all the time, so who knows what else may be available to help me in the future. Right now, though, I actually feel physically very well – the best I have in a long time.

“Mentally, it has been a rollercoaster. Understanding what life will be like for me now has been a process, but I’m getting there. I still struggle with the uncertainty of it all.

“Like everybody, I had a plan for my life, and just a few short months ago, it was all on track,” she added. “The support of Ryan, my family, my friends and my medical team has been amazing, though.”

Kate has been helping to raise awareness of the illness

Kate has been helping to raise awareness of the illness
(Image: PA Real Life)

Now, Kate is looking ahead to 2022, when she plans to marry Ryan in Greece on May 30 – two years to the day since they got engaged.

By sharing her story, she wants to raise awareness of the lesser-known symptoms of melanoma and support Cancer Research UK who, like many charities, have been hugely affected by Covid-19, after being forced to cancel fundraising events.

Kate, who has always been vigilant about sun safety, said: “I told myself I was too young to get cancer, but the truth is that anybody at any age can get it.

“It’s so important to know your own body and push for answers if you feel something is wrong.

“It’s absolutely vital to back charities like Cancer Research UK, too, and invest in life-saving research. Statistics show that one in two people will get cancer in their lifetime.”

She concluded: “That might be you, or someone you love, and so we all need to work together to make sure charities can survive and that help is there if we need it.”

Covid-19 has slowed down Cancer Research UK’s research. To help the charity continue its life-saving work to create better cancer treatments for tomorrow visit cruk.org/donate.