When Rinal Patel was three months pregnant with her second child she woke up one morning to find a lump had appeared on her neck.

She was referred to hospital, where tests revealed she had non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a rare and aggressive cancer that had spread to her stomach and groin.

She and her husband Ketan were forced to make the devastating decision to end the pregnancy so she could begin treatment to save her life.

Rinal, a branch manager at Nationwide, said: “When I was told the news it was like a bombshell and all I could think about was would the baby be OK.

"I was on the phone, begging to be seen as quickly as possible. The urgency wasn’t for me, but for our baby. When I saw my consultant he told me I was Stage 3 - the cancer was everywhere and very aggressive. We were advised to make a decision fast and that was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to contemplate."

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a blood cancer that develops when white blood cells start to multiply in an abnormal way. The affected white blood cells collect in parts of the system and lose their infection-fighting properties, making the person more vulnerable to infection.

The diagnosis came in 2010, but the years that followed were not easy.

A week after her pregnancy was ended, Rinal began a gruelling course of treatment, starting with six rounds of chemotherapy during which she lost her hair.

That was followed with two and a half years maintenance treatment taking the drug Rituximab.

Rinal, whose daughter Shona was just two when she was diagnosed, said: “It didn’t stop after the treatment. The four years that followed were very hard for me, my immune system was depleted, and I had awful infections. But I am much better now and focused on helping and giving back in whatever way I can.”

Rinal was determined to raise awareness of cancer and lose the stigma surrounding it in the Asian community, so in March 2017 she set up the Asian Patient group on Facebook, to encourage people to open up and talk about their symptoms and health issues.

She said: “The aim was to knock down those barriers and give people a voice. There is a real stigma attached to being diagnosed with cancer within the Asian community and this is something we really need to break.”

Almost 10 years after her diagnosis, Rinal, now 40, has been chosen as the VIP to open Cancer Research UK's charity shop.

She said: “I feel really honoured and quite emotional to be opening Cancer Research UK’s brand new shop here in my home town of Watford. I hope people come down and join the celebrations and help raise money for a very good cause.”

The Watford branch of Cancer Research will be the 601st in the charity’s portfolio and will be packed with hundreds of items of pre-loved clothing as well as a selection of homeware, books and children’s toys.

Every week around 620 people are diagnosed with cancer in the South East of England and all profits from the shop support the charity’s life-saving research.

Julie Byard, director of trading for Cancer Research UK said: “We are delighted to be opening the doors of our new shop in Watford. We will be providing a mix of quality items at bargain prices that I am confident shoppers in the town will love.

“Our shops and superstores up and down the country continue to prove a real hit with customers and we are really proud to be adding Watford to the collection. I hope that people come and join us as we celebrate the opening of the store and take the opportunity to grab a bargain while they are there.”

The shop, at 76 High Street, will be opened by Rinal at 10.30am on February 13.