Woman who had nightmares' that she was dying discovers she had cancer

Healthy woman, 51, who had ‘terrifying nightmares’ that she was dying is diagnosed with advanced breast cancer – despite doctors initially telling her they were 80% sure she didn’t have deadly illness

  • Carolann Bruce, 51, from Stockport, Lancashire, had dreams she was dying
  • Despite feeling healthy went to doctor for a check-up and was told she was okay
  • Decided to go for a private screening and was diagnosed with Stage 2 cancer 
  • She is now healthy and happy but has a check up every two years for cancer

A ‘healthy’ woman who decided to go to the doctors after having ‘terrifying nightmares’ she was dying was shocked discover she had advanced breast cancer.

Carolann Bruce, now 51, says her dreams saved her life after they pushed her to get checked twice even after doctors told her they were ’80 percent sure’ she didn’t have cancer.

The mum-of-two from Stockport, Lancashire, had been experiencing nightmares on a nightly basis starting in January 2011, which lasted for nearly a year and left her terrified to go to sleep.

‘These dreams were just the scariest dreams you can ever imagine, I had a dark shadow man who would visit me on a daily basis.

‘I’d think I was awake and he would take over my body. It was absolutely terrifying. I used to tell my mum I wanted to stay up all night because I was so scared,’ she said. 

Had she not gone to a doctor despite showing no symptoms, she said there was a very real possibility she would have been terminal within a year. 

A ‘healthy’ woman who decided to go to the doctors after having ‘terrifying nightmares’ she was dying was shocked discover she had advanced breast cancer. Carolann Bruce, 51, says her dreams saved her life after they pushed her to get checked twice even after doctors told her they were ’80 percent sure’ she didn’t have cancer.

She began to journal her dreams and on November 11, 2011 she dreamed a shadowy figure took her to a hospital where she was a patient who kept dying of cancer.

The following day she felt a lump on her breast, and headed to Marple Cottage Surgery in tears as she was certain she had cancer.

She was told she had to wait two weeks for a test, but Carolann said she ‘couldn’t wait any longer’ and booked an appointment at a private hospital.

A consultant at the Alexandra Hospital in Cheadle conducted a mammogram which came back negative but Carolann said her dreams were so vivid she challenged her diagnosis and insisted on further tests.

The mum-of-two from Stockport, Lancashire, had been experiencing nightmares on a nightly basis starting in January 2011, which lasted for nearly a year and left her terrified to go to sleep. She is pictured now, healthy


She began to journal her dreams and on November 11, 2011 she dreamed a shadowy figure took her to a hospital where she was a patient who kept dying of cancer. She is pictured in hospital after losing her hair 

The following day, on November 15, she returned and told doctors they were wrong despite assuring her they were ’80 percent sure’ she didn’t have cancer. 

However, a further scan and biopsy revealed she had Stage 2 breast cancer which needed immediate surgery.

Doctors said her malignant carcinoma had been doubling in size each day and performed a life-saving £10,000 mastectomy in early December to remove it.

Discussing the terrifying dreams, Carolann added:  ‘I didn’t know if I was awake or asleep.

 A consultant at the Alexandra Hospital in Cheadle conducted a mammogram which came back negative but Carolann said her dreams were so vivid she challenged her diagnosis and insisted on further tests. She is pictured in hospital 

‘I started keeping a journal to see if I could make some sense of it.

‘One night I had the most terrifying nightmare yet, I was taken to a hospital I’d never been to before and I saw myself – I was a dying patient.

‘I felt so helpless and I kept crying because I kept dying over and over again. When I woke up I put my hand on my breast and I felt a lump – and I knew I had cancer.

Carolann, who was born in Glasgow, Scotland, says she hasn’t had a single nightmare since her surgery nearly a decade ago.

Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world and affects more than two MILLION women a year

Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world. Each year in the UK there are more than 55,000 new cases, and the disease claims the lives of 11,500 women. In the US, it strikes 266,000 each year and kills 40,000. But what causes it and how can it be treated?

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer develops from a cancerous cell which develops in the lining of a duct or lobule in one of the breasts.

When the breast cancer has spread into surrounding breast tissue it is called an ‘invasive’ breast cancer. Some people are diagnosed with ‘carcinoma in situ’, where no cancer cells have grown beyond the duct or lobule.

Most cases develop in women over the age of 50 but younger women are sometimes affected. Breast cancer can develop in men though this is rare.

Staging means how big the cancer is and whether it has spread. Stage 1 is the earliest stage and stage 4 means the cancer has spread to another part of the body.

The cancerous cells are graded from low, which means a slow growth, to high, which is fast growing. High grade cancers are more likely to come back after they have first been treated.

What causes breast cancer?

A cancerous tumour starts from one abnormal cell. The exact reason why a cell becomes cancerous is unclear. It is thought that something damages or alters certain genes in the cell. This makes the cell abnormal and multiply ‘out of control’.

Although breast cancer can develop for no apparent reason, there are some risk factors that can increase the chance of developing breast cancer, such as genetics.

What are the symptoms of breast cancer?

The usual first symptom is a painless lump in the breast, although most breast lumps are not cancerous and are fluid filled cysts, which are benign. 

The first place that breast cancer usually spreads to is the lymph nodes in the armpit. If this occurs you will develop a swelling or lump in an armpit.

How is breast cancer diagnosed?

  • Initial assessment: A doctor examines the breasts and armpits. They may do tests such as a mammography, a special x-ray of the breast tissue which can indicate the possibility of tumours.
  • Biopsy: A biopsy is when a small sample of tissue is removed from a part of the body. The sample is then examined under the microscope to look for abnormal cells. The sample can confirm or rule out cancer.

If you are confirmed to have breast cancer, further tests may be needed to assess if it has spread. For example, blood tests, an ultrasound scan of the liver or a chest x-ray.

How is breast cancer treated?

Treatment options which may be considered include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormone treatment. Often a combination of two or more of these treatments are used.

  • Surgery: Breast-conserving surgery or the removal of the affected breast depending on the size of the tumour.
  • Radiotherapy: A treatment which uses high energy beams of radiation focussed on cancerous tissue. This kills cancer cells, or stops cancer cells from multiplying. It is mainly used in addition to surgery.
  • Chemotherapy: A treatment of cancer by using anti-cancer drugs which kill cancer cells, or stop them from multiplying
  • Hormone treatments: Some types of breast cancer are affected by the ‘female’ hormone oestrogen, which can stimulate the cancer cells to divide and multiply. Treatments which reduce the level of these hormones, or prevent them from working, are commonly used in people with breast cancer.

How successful is treatment?

The outlook is best in those who are diagnosed when the cancer is still small, and has not spread. Surgical removal of a tumour in an early stage may then give a good chance of cure.

The routine mammography offered to women between the ages of 50 and 70 mean more breast cancers are being diagnosed and treated at an early stage.

For more information visit breastcancercare.org.uk, breastcancernow.org or www.cancerhelp.org.uk

Carolann is pictured in hospital. If she had not gone to the doctor her cancer could have become terminal within a year

Pictured: Caroline’s scar from her mastectomy. The former nurse was told her tumour had been doubling in size each week and the cancer was on the verge of turning into stage three.

‘No one has been able to tell me why I had those dreams, people thought I was crazy.

‘Even the doctors didn’t think I had cancer, but I was sure of it. My dreams were too real and they saved my life.’

The former nurse was told her tumour had been doubling in size each week and the cancer was on the verge of turning into stage three.

In January 2012, she began the first of six rounds of chemotherapy which would last until the summer, which she says was the ‘worst thing in the world’.

Thankfully, her tumour has not returned since – nor have her nightmares which she hasn’t had since her surgery in late 2011. She is pictured now

Eight most common signs of breast cancer

• A change in size or shape

• A lump or area that feels thicker than the rest of the breast

• A change in skin texture such as puckering or dimpling (like the skin of an orange)

• A redness or rash on the skin and/or around the nipple

• Your nipple has become pulled in or looks different, for example changed its position or shape

• Liquid that comes from the nipple without squeezing

• Pain in your breast or your armpit that’s there all or almost all of the time

• A swelling in your armpit or around your collarbone

The grandmother-of-two said: ‘They told me it was doubling in size each week, but I was just turning into stage three and maybe a year later I would have been terminal.

‘Going through chemotherapy was worse than any nightmare I could have imagined.

‘The only way I can describe it is they poison you and take you on the brink of death and then bring you back to life, only to bring you to the brink of death again.

‘It’s the worst thing in the world.

‘I needed my son and partner to help me in the toilet. I was so unwell, it was so horrific.’

Doctors believe the cancer had been growing in her breast for roughly six to nine months before the surgery – around the time her nightmares began.

Thankfully, her tumour has not returned since – nor have her nightmares which she hasn’t had since her surgery in late 2011.

She said: ‘I look back on it now and I thank God I had the nightmares as they saved my life.

‘Never had a dream after I was diagnosed, the dreams, the dark man, all vanished.’

Carolann gets tested every two years but has otherwise led a healthy and normal life supported by her husband Jarrod Plant, 51 and her two kids Ryan James, 29, and Jenna Browne, 36.

She had been writing journals throughout her ordeal which has now become a book, ‘The Dream That Saved My Life’.

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