Doctors have told a mother she has just 12 months to live after the “harmless” lump she found in her breast during pregnancy turned out to be something much more sinister.
Keely Langshaw, 36, from Canberra, discovered a small, pea-sized lump seven months into her pregnancy, but, reassured by doctors, waited to have it examined until she gave birth.
After undergoing tests, she received the devastating news that breast cancer had spread throughout her body – known as metastatic cancer – leaving her with just a year to live.
But after grueling chemotherapy and months of uncertainty, Keely received some good news.
Her breast cancer had not only been killed by chemo, but the cancerous masses found elsewhere in her body turned out to be benign.
Incredibly, they were caused by a rare autoimmune disease that looks like cancer on scans.
Keely now looks forward to a long future with her husband Josh, 38, and two daughters, Polly, four, and Tottie, 10 months – but the experience has changed her life forever.
Then and now: Eight months ago, Keely Langshaw was given just a year to live after doctors thought her breast cancer had spread throughout her body. Miraculously, she no longer has cancer
Keely’s ordeal began in late 2022, when she was seven months pregnant with her daughter Tottie and felt a small bump on her chest.
“I was sitting in bed one night and I felt this little thing under my arm, which was the size of a pea or a small marble,” she told FEMAIL.
She carries the BRCA1 gene which predisposes her to breast cancer and undergoes biannual screenings.
Because they require the patient to lie face down, testing was almost impossible with a pregnant belly.
“I contacted my doctor who does my follow-ups and exams and they told me it was probably something pregnancy-related, but we’ll keep an eye on it,” Keely said.
A few weeks later, Keely went into “spontaneous labor” with Tottie who was then in hospital for a month, further delaying the mother’s examination.
“I don’t know if she said to me, ‘Something bad is happening here. I’m leaving.’ She was five weeks premature,” she laughed.
Keely’s ordeal began in late 2022, when she was seven months pregnant and felt a small lump on her breast the size of a pea and only had it examined after the childbirth (photo with her husband Josh, 38 years old)
“During this period, the lump grew very quickly. It has become a golf ball. When they sent my daughter home from the hospital, I thought I would have to make do.
The lump had started out painful when she first discovered it, but was now painful to the point of “agony.”
Biopsies ultimately showed that Keely had triple negative breast cancer (TNBC), a type of breast cancer that lacks any of the three receptors commonly found on breast cancer cells.
During Keely’s first visit with her oncologist, she had “the worst conversation of her life.”
With Josh by her side, she was told scans showed the cancer had spread throughout her body – with a prognosis of just 12 months to live.
“I literally screamed, I let out this noise, I don’t know where it came from. I had to lie down and couldn’t pull myself together for quite a long time. Josh was hysterical too,” she recalls.
Weeks after the family welcomed their second daughter Tottie, now 10 months old, Keely learned she had metastasized breast cancer and had undergone chemotherapy with a toddler and newborn .
Doctors were certain their diagnosis was correct, but they performed further tests to confirm their suspicions and decide on a treatment plan.
“Over the next two weeks it was horrible. It was the darkest two weeks of our lives. We found ourselves constantly crying in the corner,” Keely said.
Keely’s tests and scans created more questions than answers, but she still underwent 15 rounds of chemotherapy, all accompanied by a toddler and a seven-week-old baby.
“It was a really difficult time because having these little girls, every interaction with them was excruciating in some way,” she said.
“I was thinking: what’s going to happen? Who is going to do this with them? It was definitely the worst.
In anticipation of the possibility that Keely wouldn’t be able to see her daughters grow up, she began taking notes that Josh could refer to if she lost her battle with cancer.
She began taking notes for Josh to raise their daughters Tottie (left) and Polly (right) if she lost her battle with cancer: “The little things I did as a mother that he wouldn’t think about -be not”.
Keely’s tests created more questions than answers, but she underwent curative treatment and 15 rounds of chemotherapy, all accompanied by a toddler and a seven-week-old baby.
“My automatic reaction was to start leaking all this information to Josh. The little intricacies of how I did things. I sent him a shared note on our phones with everything,” she said.
“Just little things. Make sure to brush their hair every night before bed, otherwise it will get tangles. The little things I did as a mother that maybe he didn’t think about.
Luckily, Josh would never need those notes.
After intense chemo and even more tests, Keely learned not only that the breast cancer treatment had worked, but that it had ultimately never spread.
“I took my daughter to the GP to have her vaccination and my own GP came storming in and smashing the door down shouting: ‘Oh my God! Oh my God!’
“And I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ She said, ‘The result, the results!’” Keely said.
After an intense period of chemotherapy and even more tests, Keely learned not only that the treatment had worked, but that her cancer had never metastasized.
“I said, ‘I didn’t see the damn results, no one gave them to me.’
She said to me, ‘Oh, my God!’ and ran out of the room and came back with this piece of paper.’
Circled on this piece of paper were the words “no evidence of cancer” and a diagnosis of sarcoidosis.
Sarcoidosis causes immune system cells to cluster together and form non-cancerous masses throughout the body and very rarely, but in Keely’s case, it mimics metastasized cancer.
Eight months after being told she only had a year to live, Keely was now “saveable” and opted for a mastectomy to reduce the chance of the cancer returning due to her genetic predisposition.
Eight months after being told she only had a year to live, Keely was now “saveable” and opted for a mastectomy to reduce her chances of the cancer coming back.
After recovering from surgery, Keely met with her oncologist to find out her next steps.
“She said I had what’s called a pathological complete response, which means cancer is huge,” she said.
“PCR, as it’s called, only happens in about 30% of cases, but basically the chemo completely killed my cancer. There was nothing.’
Keely has a long journey ahead of her treating sarcoidosis, but her cancer journey has given her enough tools to deal with it.
“It gave me so much perspective. Receiving this very bad diagnosis at first, and then having it changed, just gave me the momentum to keep going. It could be much worse,” she said.
‘I’m feeling lucky. It sounds so cliche and I hate it coming out of my own mouth, but coming out the other side, I feel happier than ever. I appreciate life so much more. It’s crazy.’