A mum was diagnosed with breast cancer after finding a lump following a play flight with her young son.
Hollie Dring, from Preston in Lancashire, was diagnosed with the disease in February, after her two-year-old son Theo dived at her during a play-fight, causing the 34-year-old to grab her breast and feel a lump there.
The mum-of-one, whose relationship ended during lockdown, is facing a drawn out battle with cancer and says she fears her young son will forget her entirely if she succumbs to the disease.
She, and 110 other brave volunteers, known as the Hollie Dollies, will be running 100km each during March to raise money for Breast Cancer Research UK.
Hollie, whose mum died from breast cancer aged 57, is putting on a brave face ahead of her journey.
“When I first found out I was in absolute meltdown,” the hospice worker told LancsLive. “I couldn’t even talk, I was absolutely heartbroken and I immediately thought the worst; about death.
“I was thinking over all the bad situations, and about my mum. You hear about people dying from cancer and I couldn’t think of anything else but that.
“I just couldn’t get my head around it. What if I die and Theo isn’t old enough to remember me?”
On Friday, January 22, Hollie, who works as a personal assistant at St Catherine’s Hospice in Preston, was in bed playing with Theo.
Having been through the death of her mum, Linda Dring, who developed secondary breast cancer in 2012, Hollie has always been diligent when it came to checking herself for cancer.
So she was surprised when, in the midst of a play-fight with her son, she felt a lump on her breast.
She said: “Theo sometimes dives towards me, he thinks it’s funny, and when he did it, I just happened to grab my boobs.
“I remember thinking: ‘That feels a bit hard’. I called the GP and got seen within the hour, the nurse there was concerned and I was referred to the breast clinic.”
On February 8, following several tests and mammograms, Hollie was told by doctors that she most likely had cancer in her breast.
It wasn’t until February 15 that Hollie’s diagnosis was confirmed and the mum-of-one’s focus immediately turned to her infant son and his future.
“Theo is so young, I can’t remember anything before I was about five years old,” said Hollie.
“If I died he won’t even remember me, he would just have some photographs and that’s it.
“That is still my major worry at the moment.”
Hollie admits that she wanted to keep her diagnosis private to begin with.
But, after sharing a social media post about her situation, in which she urged people to check their breasts for potential signs of cancer, everything changed.
“I was really scared and upset about the diagnosis,” she added. “But after telling people about it and sharing that post I feel like I have a great support network around me.
“It’s keeping me focused, it’s keeping me occupied and it’s keeping me busy. I want to get through this for Theo and my friends. I didn’t realise how many friends I had before, and how much they love me.”
Hollie’s friends have rallied around her to promote her breast cancer awareness message and to form the Hollie Dollies; a group of people who will each run 100km throughout March to raise money for Breast Cancer Research UK.
Hollie’s friend of 10 years, Tara Nash, helped establish the Hollie Dollies.
The 38-year-old has heaped plaudits on her friend; calling Hollie an “inspiration” and a “ray of sunshine.”
“It’s been such a roller-coaster for Hollie, everything is so raw at the moment,” Tara told LancsLive.
“But she’s still trying to be joyful and positive about everything; that’s who she is.
“She’s the life and soul, she’s just a really fun person, if you met her on a night out you want to spend time with her.
“She’s full of sunshine and she has this lovely big smile, she’s just got so much about her.”
Hollie will undergo a mastectomy on March 19 as part of her breast cancer treatment.
When the surgery is complete, Hollie is likely to undergo chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
She said: “I’m dreading the surgery. Being female; your boobs and your hair are a big thing.
“Being single, I keep thinking: ‘will anyone want me with just one boob?’
“But if the surgery means getting the cancer out of my body, and being able to live for Theo, I will do whatever it takes.”