What it feels like to be diagnosed with breast cancer at 26

When you’re in your 20’s you feel totally invincible. Like you could take on the world and nothing bad could possibly happen to you. At least, that’s how I used to feel. I never thought something as life changing as cancer would affect me, until it did.


I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer at 26 in November 2020. My whole world fell apart. Suddenly, my life went from the 9-5 grind and Friday night cocktails with the girls, to this whirlwind of scans, blood tests, hospital appointments, calls with surgeons and oncologists and geneticists, and before I knew it, I could barely remember what my life even was pre-cancer.

Breast cancer is rare in young women, but it does happen – I’m proof of that. It is the most common cancer in women, with 1 in 8 women in the UK diagnosed every single year. The majority of these women are older, yet around 5,000 women under the age of 45 are diagnosed with the disease annually and this figure appears to be rising.

Prior to being diagnosed, I hadn’t even considered the possibility of getting breast cancer. I was young, fit, healthy, a non-smoker, a casual but not a binge drinker, and I had no family history. On paper, there was no reason why I should be at risk of getting it at this age. So, when I found a rock-solid lump in my breast, cancer certainly crossed my mind, but after speaking to friends and family, and a few Google searches later, I was reassured. This was obviously just a cyst or a typical hormonal change. I’d get it checked out, but I wasn’t worried.

Thankfully, despite the pandemic there were no delays, and I was seen at the breast clinic within two weeks. After an initial look and feel the consultant uttered the exact words, “that’s a fibroadenoma” – meaning a benign, non-cancerous lump. I was so relieved, hopping straight onto WhatsApp to tell my boyfriend everything was fine. I just needed an ultrasound and biopsy to make sure. Well, I’m sure you can work out what happened next!


Since then, I’ve had seven grueling rounds of chemotherapy, I’ve lost all of my hair, and I’ll soon be undergoing a mastectomy and breast reconstruction followed by a year of anti-HER2 treatment and 5-10 years of hormone therapy. I no longer ‘look’ like myself thanks to the bald head, thinning eyebrows and disappearing eyelashes, steroid induced puffiness, weight gain, acne, broken nails and biopsy scars. I’ll go through medical menopause which isn’t fun for anyone, let alone a woman in her 20’s. I’ve had to make tough decisions about my fertility, and I’ve even had to face my own mortality in ways I never have before.

Being diagnosed in your 20’s is a lonely experience, but strangely there have been some positives too. For one, it’s strengthened my relationship with my family and my wonderful boyfriend who have been the best support network possible. It’s brought me together with an incredible cancer community of strong, inspiring young women. I now appreciate the smaller things in life, and I’ve learned not to stress about the insignificant things I used to stress about.

I want to share my story through blogging, Instagram and TikTok (@tabbyduff on both) because I want to raise awareness of breast cancer in young women and the various extra challenges we face. I want women (and men!) to get to know their bodies and what is normal or not for them. I want young women to be taken seriously by medical teams if they think something doesn’t feel right. Because cancer doesn’t care that I was ‘too young’. I wasn’t and neither are you. – Tabby Duff

Click here to read more stories about being too young for breast cancer.

You may also be interested in

3 Things to Know When Considering National Pharamacare
Myth: Injuring your breasts can damage the cells and cause cancer.
body acceptance
How I Finally Accepted My Body After A Preventative Double Mastectomy
50 Carroll Street Toronto, Ontario Canada M4M 3G3
Phone: 416 220 0700
Registered Charity #: 892176116RR0001

Join Our Movement

Follow Us

Donate Now

You can make a positive impact in the lives of people impacted by breast cancer