Mary’s mental and physical wellbeing were thrown into turmoil following her breast cancer diagnosis in 2007. She was a personal trainer, and loved to be active, but her chemotherapy left her so exhausted that she couldn’t keep up with the demands of her work – meaning she had to take an 18 month break from her career.

She told her 14 year old son what was going on, but thought the news would be too disruptive for her twin daughters, Ellie and Lauren, as they were 10 years old and about to start secondary school.

However, that heartbreaking conversation happened eventually, as the twins found a letter from the hospital about her treatment.


“The girls could sense that something was up. Looking back, I have regrets that I didn’t tell them straight away, but it was too raw – I couldn’t bring myself to tell them. However, children are perceptive and the twins could sense changes in the family unit. I was a bit naïve at the time, thinking I could keep it from them, but I just wanted to protect them.”

Lauren, now aged 21

“We were quite young, so we understood what was going on to an extent. We didn’t know much detail about what it meant to have breast cancer, just that mum had to be away from us for long periods of time during treatment. It really only hit us until we got older, as mum shared more details with us and we started to learn more about breast cancer.”

Ellie, now aged 21

“When mum was going through treatment and her hair started to fall out, we understood that this was a difficult time for her, so we would do our best to keep it light hearted. Obviously, there was no expectation that we had to be strong and not cry about it – because how else could we process it?”

The girls were in their late teens when Mary had to tell them that her breast cancer had spread to her chest wall and collar bone. She had to tell them that when breast cancer spreads, it’s called secondary breast cancer. That when this happens, it’s incurable.

It wasn’t just this news that devastated her family. The side effects of her treatment were very difficult this time, and her children had to see her go through that.

Today, Mary is on daily oral chemotherapy tablets and hormone inhibitors, as well as a monthly injection. The support she received from her family was and continues to be everything to her during more difficult times, and considers the twins to be her #BosomBuddies as well as her daughters.


“Generally, now, I feel ok. I’m back at work - doing what I love, going out and enjoying myself. I can’t complain. I’m one of the lucky ones.

“I always encourage my girls to check their breasts regularly. Breast cancer doesn’t discriminate; it’s not just about older ladies, as younger women can develop the disease too. It’s important that Ellie and Lauren understand this and check - early detection is key.”

You can dress in solidarity with Mary, Ellie and Lauren by shopping our amazing River Island collection, with 30% of the purchase price of each item donating to Breast Cancer Now to help us to fund life-saving research.