louise mcguiness.jpg


Photo: Rossendale mum Louise McGuinness 

A Lancashire mum who once feared she might not live to see her triplets start school is now enjoying life with them as teenagers and is urging others to never give up hope.

Louise McGuinness, 41, is married to Daniel and the couple who live in Rossendale have 13-year-old triplets Hannah, Charlotte and Cameron.

In 2006, when their children were two, Louise found a lump in her breast and went to the doctor thinking it was just a blocked milk duct.

Louise was sent for breast screening at Burnley General Teaching Hospital (BGTH) and a mammogram revealed it was cancer.

Louise recalls: “It was a shock but initially we thought it was early stage breast cancer and that I would be able to have a trial experimental drug.

“But when I went to start treatment, they did an ultrasound and discovered the cancer had spread out of my lymph nodes and saturated my liver and become secondary liver cancer.

“I went from thinking I had early stage breast cancer to being told it was Stage 4 liver cancer.

“Ironically, it was Friday 13 when I was given my cancer diagnosis.”

Further investigations revealed Louise had 12 lesions on her liver and she was given between four and six months to live.

Louise remembers: “At first I felt angry that this was happening to me but once the shock of it had sunk in, it was a case of getting on with it.

“At that point, I did not think I would live to see my children go to school.

“I wanted to be at home with my children but I had to go to hospital to have all my treatment.

“The children were my light at the end of the tunnel and I did not have time to dwell on my diagnosis as I knew I had to be optimistic and positive for them.

“I am a very pragmatic person and have always had a ‘glass half full’ outlook so I just got on with it.

“It was a difficult time with our triplets being so young but we had amazing neighbours and friends who helped out.

“It is very hard when you are facing the prospect of not surviving.

“After my diagnosis, I thought that Christmas was going to be my last and a lot of people were coming to see me and say their goodbyes.”

Louise had 12 weeks of chemotherapy at East Lancashire Hospitals followed by a mastectomy in February 2007 and another three months of chemotherapy.

Louise says: “I had really long hair but after starting chemotherapy, my hair began falling out.

“My husband ended up shaving my head for me.”

Herceptin hailed as a “wonder drug” for breast cancer had recently become available at the time of Louise’s diagnosis but it was surrounded by a “Postcode lottery”.

Luckily, Louise was eligible for Herceptin and was put on the drug together with chemotherapy.

Eleven years on, Louise is still on Herceptin and goes to Burnley Hospital every three weeks for her treatment.

Louise has Herceptin administered through her thigh at the new Primrose Chemotherapy Suite at the Burnley site at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust.

The new £750,000 chemotherapy and breast care facilities are located in the hospital’s Edith Watson building which holds a special place in Louise’s heart.

She explains: “I gave birth to my children in the Edith Watson unit and now the new chemotherapy suite is there so it is quite poetic.

“It makes it feel like a special place.”

The combination of Herceptin and chemotherapy shrank the tumours and Louise’s liver is now cancer-free.

Louise, who is a bookkeeper in accounts and has only recently gone back to work after a sabbatical, says: “I just have to keep going with the Herceptin until it gets to the stage where it doesn’t work.

“It can cause issues with the heart so I have to have regular heart scans, but at the moment, everything is going well.

“My life expectancy has gone from four months to maybe 40 years – I just don’t know.

“It is nice to be able to say: ‘How long is a piece of string?’ when it comes to my prognosis when at one point, it was a very short string.

“I went from maybe not seeing my children go to school to watching them through primary school and move to high school to having their first boyfriends and girlfriends. The next thing will be university!

“My friend and I have promise ourselves we will go on a cruise together when we hit 50 – so that is my next goal.

“Life is looking good and the cancer is under control and I have been on Herceptin for 11 years.

“I hope my story inspires other people not to give up.

“I do sometimes worry about the cancer coming back.

“There is always a dark cloud in the distance. It is just a question of how far away it is.

“Some days it is completely out of sight; others it is not.

“But I just love being with my children. I wanted them to have memories of who I am and I have accomplished that. My legacy is my children.

“Now, I am just living my life as normal.

“My experience has made me appreciate life more and I don’t let insignificant things get to me.”

Louise is full of praise for all the care and treatment she has received at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust and says her oncologist and all the staff at the chemotherapy suite have been superb.

She says: “All the staff at the chemotherapy unit are wonderful. They are friendly and consistent and always try and pick you up when you are down.

“They don’t pity you but they empathise and they sit and listen and are always there for you when you need them.

“There is a really good community spirit at the unit.

“All the care I have received at East Lancashire Hospitals has been excellent.”