In the hit hospital drama Casualty, Nina Farr cried as she cut off her step sister’s hair because she had cancer. However, the actress Rebekah Gibbs did not know that some time later she would be cutting off her own hair after battling breast cancer herself. She was diagnosed with cancer nine weeks after giving birth to a beautiful baby girl and she decided to take part in testing a new cancer fighting drug.
Rebekah found the lump two days before Christmas when she was seven months pregnant. Originally she thought it was the baby’s foot, as it was quite low down under her arm. After a trip to the doctor, Rebekah was told that she had a blocked duct, but after the baby was born and the lump had failed to disappear she went to get advice from a specialist.
She said, “My friend gave me her consultant’s number and I rang his secretary and, in between great sobs, begged for an appointment that day. An hour later, he saw me and after examining me told me bluntly “I’ll buy you a bottle of Champagne if that’s not cancer.”
The next day, Rebekah underwent a needle biopsy and was told she had grade 3 cancer. She had an operation to remove the tumour, followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy. It is likely that the cancer began during pregnancy because of the extra oestrogen, and Rebekah has taken the decision to not have any more children to help improve her chances of seeing her daughter grow up.
It was her daughter who helped Rebekah stay strong throughout the ordeal. In the bleakest moments, a smile from her daughter lifted her spirits. She was also one of 400 women to trial a new treatment, Lapatinib. It will take two years to know if the drug is successful and if it is, it will be an improved version of the widely used drug Herceptin.