New mum, 30, discovers she has cancer while applying fake tan at home


A new mum was left horrified after she found a lump on her breast while applying fake tan.

Two months after giving birth go baby Elle McNelis, Lorna Cobb, 30, had a pamper night where she had a face mask, painted her nails and fake tanned.

However, as she used the tanning mits across her body, Lorna was shocked to discover a plum-sized lump on her left breast.

The mum, from Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, was initially reassured by her friends that it sounded like a blocked milk duct.

A doctor then also supported this diagnosis – but when she tried to break down the supposed blockage, it wouldn’t go away.

Later, she began to feel unwell at home and was diagnosed with breast cancer after attending A&E.

Lorna said: “Doing my fake tan saved my life.

“I was applying the tan from my neck down to my chest and as I was doing it I felt something hard, then I took off the mitt and had a feel.

“When I grabbed onto it I could feel the lump in my hand, it was the size of a plum. I remember thinking ‘oh my god’, I totally didn’t expect it.

“I was meant to be giving myself some self-care to make myself relaxed and I went from super-chilled to super-stressed in the space of five minutes.”

Lorna’s “mum friends” WhatsApp group initially told her the lump was likely to be a blocked milk duct.

She said: “I’m on a WhatsApp group full of mums and most already have kids. They all said it’d be a blocked milk duct as I’d just stopped breastfeeding.

“I was totally unaware that the milk can get trapped in a duct and it can produce a lump.

“As soon as I read that I was super reassured and thought that’s what it must be as the timing was too coincidental for it not to be that.

“Online it mentioned other things – benign cysts, hormonal changes – there were literally hundreds of things it could be – and then obviously there was cancer as well.”

Days later, Lorna went to her GP and was assessed by a doctor who said it appeared to be a blocked milk duct too.

Lorna said: “I went in and it was a student doctor that saw me. She had a feel about and asked what my main worry was.

“I don’t blame her for thinking it was a blocked milk duct. I could have gone to the highest doctor and just because of the timing they would have sent me away as well thinking it was that.

“She told me to put heat on it as it would break down the blockage. She said to stand in the shower with the shower head pointing towards where it is and massage it out.

“I’ve never had a blocked milk duct before but everyone in the mum’s group was like ‘yeah you’ve got to really go for it, massage it and break it down’.

“I tried to do it but I kept putting it off because it didn’t feel right poking about at it, it was like my intuition telling me that I shouldn’t be touching it.”

But one evening in August last year, when her fiancé Ed was away, Lorna tried to massage the lump to shift the blockage.

Lorna said: “One night I remember thinking ‘I’m going to have to go for this’ because it was starting to be painful, it was a constant, dull ache.

“I got into the bath and massaged it to try and get the lump out. It should just unblock and your milk starts coming out, but it wasn’t.

“I remember lying in the bath then all of a sudden I felt really ill, I felt sick touching it.

“It felt like I was getting a temperature and my left-hand side started to feel really weak and numb. I just felt really uneasy and dizzy.

“I went onto a mums’ Facebook group and described my symptoms and someone said it sounded like mastitis and to ring 111, which I did.

“The operator sent an ambulance round as they were concerned about some of my symptoms.

“When the paramedics had a look they said when you get mastitis your whole breast goes really red and mine wasn’t.

“They could feel the lump and said because some of my symptoms weren’t sitting right that they were going to take me to A&E.”

Lorna was taken to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary where doctors began to run tests including x-rays and referred her to the breast clinic.

Six weeks later, after an ultrasound, mammogram, biopsy, the newly-engaged mum was told the heartbreaking news that she had breast cancer.

Lorna said: “I didn’t hear anything else after the doctor said the words ‘breast cancer’.

“At home I sat at the top of the stairs and I got so upset. I’ve never experienced a panic attack but I felt like I was about to have one.

“It was like a nightmare, I kept thinking ‘I’ve just had a baby, I’m only 29, I’m going to die’.

“Then after the initial shock I wanted to know everything about it.”

The surgeon told her the biopsy confirmed that Lorna had HER2-positive breast cancer and recommended she undergo chemotherapy before surgery.

Lorna began the first of six gruelling rounds of chemo on October 26th 2020, whilst finishing her BA in Childhood Studies at the Open University.

Lorna then had surgery at BMI Albyn Hospital, on March 15th 2021 before having 15 sessions of radiotherapy that she completed on July 28th.

Whilst her active treatment has finished, she will be kept under the watchful eye of doctors and undergo maintenance treatment and check-ups for the next few years.

Following her ordeal, Lorna is urging other people to undergo regular self-examinations and “know their normal” so they know when they need medical treatment.

Lorna said: “When I was diagnosed I thought ‘can this even happen when you’re 29?’ I was so oblivious.

“Through the cancer community on social media it’s surreal how many girls have been affected by it in their 20s.