A BREAST cancer patient who feared she wouldn’t see her 31st birthday says she is living proof of the power of research.

Gemma Lovekin, 33, says she went from being a busy and fit working woman to scheduling her life around hospital appointments and chemotherapy sessions.

She owes her life to drugs Cancer Research UK helped develop, and is backing the charity’s ambitious plan for how the next UK Government could help avoid around 1,900 cancer deaths a year in the South West by 2040.

She said: “Research into better treatments has given me the greatest gift - more time with my loved ones.

"I celebrated my wedding to my amazing partner Yasmin last year, we are now expecting a baby in March and life is very different now.

"I am still in treatment and that is what is keeping me alive, but life is wonderful and it’s important for people to know that you can live with cancer and experience joy.

"These are all moments that were impossible to imagine when I heard those terrifying words, ‘It’s cancer'.

Gemma was diagnosed with stage 4 inflammatory breast cancer in May 2020.

She remembers things quickly becoming painful and distressing when her right breast doubled in size overnight.

Her GP ‘examined’ her online and she attended Southmead Hospital for a mammogram and biopsy.

While awaiting her results, Gemma’s symptoms gradually worsened. The skin on her breast dimpled and her nipple inverted, the constant swelling became excruciating.

She added: “I was told as I sat on my own that I had breast cancer. I was stunned and couldn’t think straight.”

Weeks later Gemma and Yasmin, who live in Clevedon, were told the cancer was aggressive inflammatory breast cancer and had spread to her shoulder, breast-bone, spine, pelvis and hips.

“My scan lit up like a firework display,” said Gemma.

“I was to find out that inflammatory breast cancer can grow rapidly, often over a period of days or weeks. But I am in awe of the treatment and the science and progression of cancer treatment that is keeping me alive.”

The couple were told that Gemma’s type of breast cancer could potentially be controlled by a targeted treatment called Herceptin and Pertuzumab developed by Cancer Research UK to stop cancerous cells growing and dividing.

Gemma added: “I’m so grateful for the treatment that is saving my life. Being diagnosed with cancer was devastating, but my story shows that there is hope.

"So many people’s lives are touched by this disease and the numbers are only growing. That’s why we all need to get behind this manifesto and have our voices heard, so that more families like mine can enjoy more moments with the people they love.”

Cancer Research UK has published Longer, better lives: a manifesto for cancer research and care that outlines five key missions to speed up progress in preventing, diagnosing and treating cancer.

Thanks to research, cancer survival in the UK has doubled since the 1970s. But the charity warned that with NHS cancer services in crisis and rising numbers of new cancer cases, this hard-won progress is at risk of stalling.

The UK lags behind comparable countries when it comes to cancer survival, it said, and called on all political parties to make cancer a top priority in their election manifestos.

Whoever wins the next general election must commit to a 10-year cancer plan and address a more than £1billion funding gap for research into cancer.

Cancer Research UK also called for: measures to end cancers caused by smoking; improved early detection of cancer through initiatives including a lung screening programme; action to ensure cancer wait time targets are met; and a National Cancer Council to drive cross-government action on the disease.

The charity believes that, if its cancer plan is adopted by the next Government, England could be among the best in the world for cancer survival by 2035.

Cancer Research UK spokesperson for the South West Alison Birkett said: “We’re grateful to Gemma for her support.

"We've made huge progress in beating cancer over the last 50 years, but it remains the defining health issue of our time.

"Cases are rising and we estimate that half a million people will be diagnosed with cancer in the UK every year by 2040.

"People continue to face unacceptable delays to diagnosis and treatment and the UK lags behind comparable countries when it comes to cancer survival.

“The public expect and deserve action. We calculate that the recommendations made within our Manifesto for Cancer Research and Care, will reduce cancer mortality by 15 per cent by 2040 - helping avoid 20,000 cancer deaths in the UK every year. But only if we act now.

"I urge everyone to support the manifesto and sign our open letter to party leaders. The prize is a legacy of life-saving cancer research and care that will benefit the UK for decades to come.”