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A grandmother has revealed how she met the love of her life just 24 hours after a mammogram that led to a breast cancer diagnosis.
Sam Steele, 51, had a mammogram on her 50th birthday and was given the news that she likely had cancer, which was later confirmed with a biopsy.
She explained that she 'blurted out' her situation to Paul Ferguson, 52, an IT worker, while on a dog walk, and the pair struck up a connection that's led to an engagement.
The mum and grandmother-of-four explained that her now fiancé comforted her on the morning of her cancer surgery.
Sam, who is from Birmingham, said: "Being diagnosed with cancer on my birthday completely changed my personality. It made me rethink everything and start to focus on what I really wanted."
Sam first noticed a 'hard mass' in her breast last July, when she was living with her mother.
"I was in the shower and just thought I'd check my breasts, as you do," she said.
"On my left breast, behind the nipple, there was a hard mass just over three centimetres.
"But as soon as I felt it, I just knew what it was."
She tried to get a timely appointment with her GP to have the mass investigated, but sadly wasn't able to.
"The appointments they could offer were weeks away," Sam recalled. "I kept calling back and the receptionist told me to use the Livi app."
This is a typically private app that offers online GP and medical appointments, however, it is currently partnered with the NHS at select practices, one of which Sam belonged to.
She said: "I was told to ring my doctor and mention I'd spoken to Livi and needed an urgent appointment. I was given one that same day.
"A referral was made for the mammogram and that happened within two weeks on my 50th birthday on July 26 last year."
She said that she'd initially hoped to mark her milestone birthday with a low-key family celebration, but decided to keep the entire day free for the mammogram.
Sam had her mammogram at Good Hope Hospital, where was told to prepare herself for the worst.
"As cheesy as it sounds, I just said 'bring it on'," she remembers. "I just thought of this as another thing to get through."
However, despite initially putting on a brave face, she said she broke down when she told her children.
The next day while out walking her dogs, she told Paul.
"Paul and I had seen each other out walking the dogs for about 18 months," she said.
"I'd thought he looked a bit of alright. We'd gone through lockdown spotting each other. We'd slowly got to the waving stage then the hello stage.
"I saw him out walking the day after my mammogram and just blurted out the news. That's what really got us talking."
She explained that they officially became a couple when Paul comforted her the morning of her cancer surgery as she knew then that he was 'a keeper'.
But her ordeal was far from over, and Sam learned that her cancer had spread to her lymph nodes.
She had to have chemotherapy for six months, and during this time she moved in with Paul, who popped the question this summer.
She now has a good prognosis for the future and is undergoing radiotherapy, after which she will need to take tablets for 10 years to keep the cancer at bay.
"Bizarrely, a lot of good has come out of this," Sam said. "There is a life with cancer and, if you're lucky, after cancer too."
If you’ve been affected by any of these issues and want to speak to someone in confidence, contact Macmillan’s Cancer Support Line on 0808 808 00 00, 8am–8pm seven days a week