Two women with incurable breast cancer set up 'Secondary Sisters' support group to offer hope to others

Nicky Newman and Laura Middleton-Hughes have set up a support group for people living with incurable cancer [Photo: PA]
Nicky Newman and Laura Middleton-Hughes have set up a support group for people living with incurable cancer [Photo: PA]

Two women with incurable breast cancer have set up a group to offer hope to others.

Nicky Newman, from Guildford, Surrey and Laura Middleton-Hughes, from Norwich, both 31, have stage four cancer that has spread around their bodies.

Both women have been robbed of their chance to have children and suffer fatigue and pain on a daily basis.

But, determined to live life to the full, the pair have founded an online community, called Secondary Sisters, which aims to change perceptions of people living with incurable cancer and offer support for those in the same position.

Nicky first discovered she had cancer about a year ago when she noticed a lump in her right breast.

At the time, she was undergoing IVF and was told it could be a side-effect of the treatment, but after spotting an indentation in her breast and a change in her nipple, she decided to visit her doctor who fast-tracked her for tests.

She was later diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer.

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"Before the word 'cancer' was even mentioned, I could see it in the doctor's face,” she said.

"My first question was 'What's going to happen to my eggs'? At that point, the most important thing to me was having a child. They told me not to panic.

"I didn't know if I was going to live or die. The whole thing was an absolute blur."

Nicky needed strong medication to control the pain and temporarily lost her ability to walk.

But having been put on the drug palbociclib (Ibrance), which had only just been approved on the NHS, her disease is currently stable.

"When I left hospital, I was grieving more for the fact that I had lost my chance to be a mother, than because I had cancer," she explains.

"It was only six months down the line that I could finally say 'Oh my God, I have incurable cancer.'

"Then I had to grieve again for the life I thought I would have, or should have had."

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Laura was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014 after finding a lump in her left breast while on holiday in Australia.

She underwent a mastectomy and chemotherapy and recovered, but began to feel pain in her right shoulder in April 2016.

Following a scan doctors found that a tumour had overtaken the head of the humerus - the long bone in the arm from the shoulder to the elbow.

"I didn't know at that point if it had spread anywhere else but immediately I feared it had and I had only weeks to live," she recalls.

She underwent a shoulder replacement, which caused her agonising pain, and then started chemotherapy.

She currently has traces of cancer in her spine, 12 vertebrae and pelvis, but though incurable the disease is currently stable.

"I'm very, very grateful that the treatment I'm having is managing to give me a fairly normal life," she said.

The women are taking part in a campaign for Stand up to Cancer [Photo: PA]
The women are taking part in a campaign for Stand up to Cancer [Photo: PA]

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Laura and Nicky met by chance through an online cancer community and bonded immediately.

They set up Secondary Sisters to raise awareness and offer support about living with secondary cancer.

"There are tough times, of course, and we don't shy away from that. But our focus is on living your life and living it well," Nicky says.

As part of Stand Up To Cancer, both women have painted their bodies with words which help describe their cancer journey, including "pain", "infertility", "fatigue" and "stage 4".

The campaign aims to unite scientists, celebrities and communities across the UK to raise cash for rapid new treatments.

It is supported by a host of celebrities including presenters Davina McCall and Maya Jama, comedians Alan Carr and Joe Lycett, and Olympic champion Greg Rutherford.

Lynn Daly, spokeswoman for Cancer Research UK, said: "Faced with such a difficult prognosis, Nicky and Laura are being unbelievably brave and positive in sharing their very personal stories.

"There's been amazing progress in the past few decades and more people are now surviving cancer than ever before.

"But with one in two in the UK set to develop the disease at some point in our lives, and thousands and thousands of people in the same position as Nicky and Laura, there's still so much more to do.

"Supporting Stand Up To Cancer enables scientists to explore brave new ways to fight the disease and develop radical treatments, meaning more lives are saved."

To find out more about Stand Up To Cancer go to or or follow the campaign on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.