A daughter described her shock when she discovered she had breast cancer just four months after her mum was diagnosed with the same condition.

Nicola Szkopinska, 38, from Watford, said she only examined herself for lumps after her mum Sheila, 72, broke the news that she had been diagnosed with stage two breast cancer in November 2018.

The mother and daughter pair went through the cancer treatments at the same time and finished their treatments in July - within a week of each other.

They are now waiting for their six-month scans, but doctors are satisfied they are cancer-free.

Sheila, a part-time shop assistant at Morrisons, first went to the GP when she noticed a change in appearance of her left nipple.

Watford Observer:

Shelia Szkopinska in hospital. Photo: SWNS

She was sent for a mammogram – a specialist breast x-ray – and doctors discovered a 2cm tumour in November 2018.

Further tests revealed the heartbreaking news that Sheila had developed stage two breast cancer and it had spread to her lymph nodes.

Nicola, a complaints manager, said: “Mum kept it to herself before she was officially diagnosed because she didn’t want to worry us.

“When she told me she had cancer I thought I was going to lose her - I was completely devastated.

“We’d just booked a family holiday as well before she found out, so we spent the trip worrying about her.

Watford Observer:

Nicola Szkopinska 37, Luka Smith and her mother Sheila. Photo: SWNS

“She had surgery the day after we returned from Gran Canaria to remove the tumour and then she started having chemotherapy.

“She had a treatment plan in place and we tried to stay positive.

“I went to everything with her including her appointments and I was there waiting for her after her operation.

“I supported her throughout it all – I didn’t want her to go through it alone.”

While watching her mum go through cancer treatment, Nicola realised she had never examined her own breasts.

Watford Observer:

Nicola Szkopinska, 38, and her mother Sheila, 72, on a beach. Photo: SWNS

While checking herself in the bath, Nicola felt a lump in her right breast so she booked an appointment at GenesisCare, Elstree, Borehamwood, March 2019.

An ultrasound revealed Nicola had two tumours in her breast and she was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer in March 2019.

Nicola said: “It was devastating when mum told me she had breast cancer and then to find out I had it too, it was a total shock.

“My mum’s my best friend and I tell her everything but it was hard breaking that news to her.

“Going through the same thing definitely brought us closer together and I wouldn’t have got through it without her.

Watford Observer:

Nicola Szkopinska in hospital. Photo: SWNS

“Mum getting cancer was the only reason I checked myself for lumps – she saved my life.”

Mum Sheila added: "Nicola was an incredible support.

"When she told me she had cancer too it was a total bombshell - it brought my whole world crashing down.

"The only good thing was that she didn't have to go through chemo - I wouldn't wish that on anyone.

"I'm so pleased that Nicola is doing well and it's time for us both to get back on track after a tough year."

Nicola underwent surgery in April 2019 to remove the tumours at Spire Bushey Hospital, Watford, followed by daily radiotherapy for four weeks.

Watford Observer:

Mum Sheila and daughter Nicola went through cancer treatments at the same time. Photo: SWNS

After her surgery in November 2018, Sheila had six sessions of chemotherapy at Mount Vernon Hospital, Northwood, followed by 15 daily sessions of radiotherapy for three weeks.

Nicola said: “You never think it’s going to happen to you and that’s what I thought for a long time.

“Then someone you know goes through it all seems real.

“I never would have checked myself it wasn’t for my mum, but hopefully our story can help other people.

“It takes no time to check and it’s worth a 30 minute doctor’s appointment to rule it out.

“It’s been the worst year of our lives but we’ve come to end now and getting our lives back to normal.”