Even prior to developing terminal breast cancer, Vicki Turner was no stranger to adversity. When she was just three years old, she was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer known as a Wilms tumor. Luckily, the disease, which only affects about 70 children under the age of five in the UK each year, is highly treatable, and 90 percent survive. Vicki had a stage-three tumor roughly the size of a grapefruit surgically removed from her body, followed by a year of chemotherapy and blood transfusions.
Vicki survived the cancer, but she was far from done with her health issues. She had her appendix removed at the age of 14, and when she began having severe migraines at age 19, she was diagnosed with a cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, a blood clot in the area that drains blood from the brain.
“A nurse said to me that I have been unlucky,” remembers Vicki, “but I think I’ve been extremely lucky. I could have died when I had my first cancer, I could have had a stroke when I had my blood clot, but I didn’t.”
Then when she was 21, in November of 2016, just four months after meeting the man who is now her fiancé, Vicki discovered a lump in her breast while getting ready to go out on a date. She talked to her mother and then went to see her doctor about it. Then she underwent a mammogram and a biopsy, after which she was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer.
“Mum was with me, and while I was totally shocked, I think she’d had her suspicions,” Vicki says. “Still, we both just cried and cried and cried.”
As was the case with her two previous diagnoses, Vicki’s new disease is a rare one for someone of her age. Only 31 people under the age of 24 in the UK are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, and she had no family history either.
Vicky underwent a double mastectomy, reconstructive surgery, and six months of chemotherapy, as well as hormone repression treatment.
“Every time I get taken down to surgery I cry. I can’t quite get the hang of being brave when it comes to going into surgery,” Vicki says. “But the most difficult ordeal was the chemotherapy. It’s the hardest thing I have ever had to endure. You lose your hair and your confidence. I lost the ability to physically do what I wanted. I got tired going up the stairs, and, while it saves lives, it’s a massively destructive path to go down in order to save your life.”
Vicki went into remission and thought she was done with cancer for good. But then in early 2019, doctors found another lump during a routine examination. Vicki’s cancer had come back with a vengeance.
“It grew between the skin and the silicon and saline implant, so I could feel it below the nipple,” Vicki remembers. “A nurse asked me to come in to the hospital and I thought ‘I don’t like this.’ I asked why and made them tell me on the phone. Something in me wanted to hear it and my first question was ‘Am I going to die?’ I think my breast care nurse just said something to console me. I just didn’t think it was my turn to go through it all again. I had thought it might come back but not until I was 30 or later.”
Less than a month after Vicki’s latest cancer diagnosis, her boyfriend, 25-year-old Simon Eastaugh, proposed. “I’m a massive Anne Boleyn fan, and he proposed in the chapel of the Tower of London where her body was buried,” Vicki recalls. “I couldn’t have met anyone more perfect for me. He’s so positive and he just lifts me up and makes everything fine.”
Just the next day, however, the results of Vicki’s CT scan came back. Doctors informed her that there was a “speck” on two of her spinal vertebrae. The cancer was now in stage IV and considered incurable. She was told she could live anywhere from three to 30 more years, but an MRI scan will hopefully soon give her a better idea of how long she has left.
“This cancer will never be out of me now. There’s nothing I can do,” says Vicki. “I eat healthily, I don’t smoke, there’s literally no reason for me to have been dealt this card. I’m most scared of not being around to watch my family grow old. And I want to get married and have children, or even see my friends and brother have children and get married. I’d like to look after my parents when they get old too.”
Since her terminal diagnosis, Vicky, who works as a human resources auditor, has been doing the best she can to maintain normalcy and live out her dreams before it’s too late. She wants to own a horse, for example, because riding horses has always been her therapy when things aren’t going wrong. She also hopes to marry her fiancé in a fairytale wedding at Leeds Castle in Kent.
Watch the video below to learn more about Vicki’s incredible life.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?