A mother who was diagnosed with incurable breast cancer during the Covid-19 pandemic has seen her tumour shrink after starting a combination of alternative treatments and chemotherapy tablets.

Holly Sherris, from Ingleby Barwick, North Yorkshire, was first diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer aged 24, while she was five months pregnant in 2017. 

Holly, 28, underwent a mastectomy followed by eight months of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and she gave birth to her daughter Harper, now three-years-old, in the middle of her treatment.

She was in remission when the cancer returned in June last year, and Holly and her husband James, 35, were tragically told it was incurable, with Holly being given a two-year statistical life expectancy.

Holly Sherris, from Ingleby Barwick, Yorkshire, was diagnosed with breast cancer while she was pregnant with her daughter Harper (both pictured with her husband James) in 2017

Holly, 28, underwent a mastectomy followed by eight months of chemotherapy, giving birth to her daughter Harper, now three years old, during her treatment (Holly and James pictured with their daughter at their wedding in 2019)

James explained that after starting the alternative therapies, Holly went for a second scan earlier in January and they were amazingly told that the cancer had shrunk

After three months, the couple were told the treatment wasn’t working, leading Holly to start alternative therapies not available on the NHS. 

Alongside her NHS chemotherapy treatment, Holly takes Vitamin C tablets, uses CBD oil, and has stopped drinking alcohol and eating meat as part of a strict vegan juicing diet.  

The mother-of-one is also undergoing mistletoe therapy, which she had to take needle training for, and involves her injecting herself with mistletoe every three days.

Her NHS treatments have also seen her start taking chemotherapy tablets, luckily reducing the amount she needs to go into hospital amid the Covid-19 lockdown. 

James explained that after starting the alternative therapies and continuing with chemotherapy, Holly went for a second scan in January and they were amazingly told that the tumour had shrunk.

What is mistletoe therapy?  

Mistletoe therapy is an anthroposophical medicine and can be integrated with conventional cancer treatment. 

It involves the prescribed use of mistletoe, which is obtained from European mistletoe plant and is pharmaceutically prepared, by qualified doctors and nurses. 

Mistletoe is available as ampoules for injection or drops to be taken by mouth. Mistletoe therapy does not replace recommended cancer treatment.

Source: nhsggc.org.uk 

He continued: ‘We celebrated the fact that it [the tumour] was looking like it had shrunk, based on what she’d been doing.

‘It’s obviously still there but it’s a good and really positive in terms of the past results.’

James admitted that he thinks it is a ‘shame’ the alternative treatments are not widely used and available because they have had ‘amazing’ effects for his wife.

He said: ‘It’s been amazing to be fair and it’s a shame it’s not widely used because it’s obviously working. 

‘She got told statistically, it might only be two years life expectancy, but obviously she’s young and has age on her side. 

‘But to get told one thing last year, which you thought “that’s horrendous”, to then be able to improve and reduce the tumour.

‘Just off our own backs doing research and things like that, we’ve managed to shrink it.’

But the alternative therapies have cost the family more than £1,700 a month, so they desperately set up a JustGiving page to raise the vital funds needed to continue Holly’s treatments.

Incredibly, they managed to raise enough for a year’s supply of the treatments in less than 48 hours, and have so far raised a total of £27,945.

James said: ‘The cost that it was, we thought that we’d do the JustGiving page, because we know it’s working, we thought “we need to carry this on”.

‘We managed to get a year’s worth in 48 hours, which is amazing support from friends and family. It’s unbelievable. We’ve been taken aback, overwhelmed and humbled by the support really. We were due some luck really, so it’s all good.’  

She was in remission when her cancer returned in June, with Holly and her husband James (both pictured at their wedding) being told it was inoperable, incurable but ‘treatable’ 

After three months of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and immunotherapy, Holly was told the treatment wasn’t working, leading her to start alternative therapies (above: Holly and James)

Alongside her NHS treatments, Holly (pictured with James) began mistletoe therapy, taking Vitamin C tablets, using CBD oil, and has adopted a strict vegan juicing diet

Holly previously raised more than £12,000 for the local breast unit at the University Hospital of North Tees by hosting a dance-athon, with James admitting it was difficult to ask people for money again.

He said: ‘To ask again, we were feeling a little bit – not guilty – but to ask for money again off people. 

What is triple-negative breast cancer? 

Triple-negative breast cancer is cancer that tests negative for oestrogen receptors, progesterone receptors, and excess HER2 protein.

These results mean the growth of the cancer is not fuelled by the hormones oestrogen and progesterone, or by the HER2 protein. 

So, triple-negative breast cancer does not respond to hormonal therapy medicines or medicines that target HER2 protein receptors. Still, other medicines are used to successfully treat triple-negative breast cancer.

About 10-20% of breast cancers are triple-negative breast cancers. For doctors and researchers, there is intense interest in finding new medications that can treat this kind of breast cancer. 

Studies are trying to find out whether certain medications can interfere with the processes that cause triple-negative breast cancer to grow.

Source: breastcancer.org

‘But people appreciated what Holly did last year and everyone’s been really generous. It’s been amazing, we can’t really ask for more.’

Holly was re-diagnosed with cancer after the Covid-19 crisis hit last year, when she felt something that ‘wasn’t quite right’ in her sternum, initially thinking it was due to doing extra exercise after she started Joe Wicks’ online workouts.

Holly, who runs a dance academy, went to get checked and was given the heartbreaking news that her breast cancer had returned, and it was incurable, inoperable but ‘treatable’.

James continued: ‘There was nothing showing on any scans, so we thought we were in the clear. Then there was the lockdown last year in March, and Holly was doing all the Joe Wicks fitness stuff. 

‘She felt something she thought was related to that, because she’d started doing extra fitness, and she just felt something wasn’t quite right on her chest bone, her sternum. 

‘As you would, you’d be a bit extra nervous, so she went down and found out it was that [cancer] again.

‘Bit of shock and disbelief again, but this time, we were told it was incurable and inoperable secondary version.’

On the same day that they were given the devastating diagnosis, James found out that he was allowed to return to work after being furloughed in March.

He described it as a ‘double-ended sword’ as although he wanted to work and earn money, he also wanted to stay at home with Holly during her treatment.

James explained: ‘I got furloughed last March and then went back to work in June.

‘I found out the same day as Holly’s diagnosis that I was going back to work, so it was kind of like a double-ended sword.

‘I wanted to go back to work to earn money but I also wanted to be at home with Holly, so it was bad-timing I guess.’

But it was not Holly’s first cancer diagnosis, as she was first given the ‘shocking’ news back in 2017 while she was pregnant, with her husband saying they realised something was wrong while they were on holiday.

James, who works for Mini car dealership, said: ‘We thought something was wrong when we were actually on holiday in Ibiza in May 2017. 

‘Holly was already pregnant at this point, but only like early days in the pregnancy. She basically felt something that felt a bit unusual and as a young women, she went and got checked.

‘We then got the scary news that it was that [cancer]. We were in shock and obviously a bit scared about Holly and the baby at the time. 

‘She had some chemotherapy while she was pregnant, which is quite scary as well because they assured us that the baby would be fine, but you never know with these things.’ 

 But the therapies cost more than £1,700 a month, so Holly (pictured with James and Harper) and James set up a JustGiving page to raise the funds needed to continue the treatments

James added: ‘It was a bit of a tough year, obviously not knowing what was going to happen with the baby.’ 

He explained that their daughter Harper was delivered by caesarian section at 35 weeks and spent ten days in neonatal care, but was thankfully ‘absolutely fine’. 

After giving birth, Holly continued with radiotherapy and chemotherapy at the University Hospital of North Tees, until they were told that nothing was showing on the scans, leading them to think they were ‘in the clear’.

The couple, who had already been together for around five years, then decided to get married at Windermere in November 2019, inviting around 80 of their loved ones to celebrate with them.

But Holly restarted her cancer treatments amid the Covid-19 crisis, with James praising the NHS for their hard work amid the Covid-19 crisis, saying Holly was still given treatment quickly despite the strains of the pandemic.

Speaking about people’s reluctance to attend hospitals and GP surgeries amid the ongoing pandemic, James said that Holly getting checked quickly has ‘helped a lot’. 

Incredibly, they managed to raise enough for a year’s supply of the treatments in less than 48 hours, and have so far raised a total of £27,945 (Pictured: Holly with her daughter Harper)

James (pictured with Holly) said that they are hoping that catching her cancer early and beginning the alternative treatments will ‘prolong’ her time with her daughter Harper

He also added that her pregnancy was a ‘Godsend’ as they might not have found out about Holly’s cancer the first time without it, which could have made it ‘a lot worse’.

James said that they are hoping that catching her cancer early and beginning the alternative treatments will ‘prolong’ her time with her daughter Harper. 

James explained: ‘Although she’s been dealt a pretty bad hand, I think she’s not dwelled on anything and got checked up straight away when she thought something was wrong. I think that has helped a lot. 

‘I think the pregnancy was a bit of a Godsend, because the cancer came to light. 

‘If she hadn’t been pregnant, we might not have found out and it could have been a lot worse at the time. 

‘But obviously this time it’s come back, hopefully we’ve found it as early as we can and we can keep it at bay or shrink it and we can prolong everything.’ 

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