'I owe my life to this special lad' - Nephew of Sheffield woman accidentally knocked breast which revealed cancerous lump

It was just another day for Michelle Brown looking after her cheeky chappie nephew Freddy - but what transpired lead the three-year-old to ultimately saving her life.

Saturday, 4th November 2017, 1:24 pm
Updated Saturday, 4th November 2017, 1:32 pm
Michelle and her number one supporter Freddy

On a bland November afternoon during babysitting duties as Freddy's parents were away for the weekend, the energetic youngster started to clamber up onto Michelle accidentally knocking her breast.

Feeling a sharp pain, Michelle, aged 46, of Ulley Crescent, Woodthorpe, said she didn't think much of it but a few days later, she noticed a lump had appeared.

The start of it all: The pair continue to share a special bond

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And so it began. A trip to the doctors lead to scans and a biopsy. The 'big C' was in the back of Michelle's mind. She hadn't told any of her family what she was going through.

The talented snooker and pool player, who is one of the organisers for Ladies Day during the World Championships in Sheffield, was diagnosed with cancer at the end of November, 2016. What she didn't know is after the initial surgery, the cancer has spread to lymph nodes in her armpit.

Michelle, who has represented England in over in China, with a number of national title in both snooker and pool, is under no illusions the significance of what Freddy did.

"I owe my life to this special little lad - I honestly know what would've happened if he hadn't started to climb all over me," she said.

Michelle during a round of chemotheraphy

"I found out the lump wasn't that big but it was quite deep and Freddy had managed to bring it to the surface."

An all too familiar conversation with a consultant for many brought her world crashing down.

"It's awful. You're sat in a pretty bland room and you get told it's cancer.

"I told my mum and I broke down. The first initial stage is the hardest but my mum told me she cysts and that everything would be okay. I took comfort in that."

Players on the ladies circuit dedicated an event in Derby to Michelle and her fight

But it was Freddy again who provided some much needed reassurance - the little lad showing maturity well beyond his youthful years.

"We went to the pub to kind of get our heads around it and Freddy came up to me, put his arms around me and said 'you're not going anywhere auntie Shell'.

"From there you just need to get on with it. I wasn't going to sulk I needed to look forward."

Michelle's journey on the road to recovery began. A gruelling course of chemotherapy followed, backed by her army of supporters and the close social circle in the world of the ladies circuit of snooker and pool.

Michelle at Freddy's nursery graduation

She's finished her treatment and has just undergone a hysterectomy as a precaution.

Wanting to keep the worst of the illness away from Freddy, Michelle said she went to some lengths to conceal the inevitable hair loss from chemotherapy.

"I didn't want Freddy to see me like that and I did try to cover it up. But one day, his mum came to the door with him and I wasn't wearing anything on my head - I wasn't expecting him.

"But his reaction was one of curiosity and it didn't really bother him. He just said 'Oh, auntie Shell. Where's your hair gone? It was really innocent."

And Michelle believes everything happens for a reason. She was made redundant from EMI Music a few years ago and was thinking of her next move.

"I've lived all over really and was pondering my next move," the auntie of six said.

"I headed for Sheffield mainly because Freddy was born and I know it may seem a bit far-fetched but it's a bit like fate it's happened to me in this way."

The pair were back at Weston Park cancer hospital to meet up with staff and update them on her fundraising efforts.

Michelle has been backed by dozens of people from where she lives, her local, the High Noon and many supporters from the world of snooker and pool.

She's raised nearly £4,000 and doesn't want to stop there.

"Weston Park is absolutely fantastic - It's a special place. I'm due to move away from Sheffield but I've said I'm going to carry on fundraising because it's a place close to my heart.

"I've not long had my hysterectomy and instead of a PA ringing me up, a top oncologist took time out to chat to see how I got on. I thought it was really nice.

"The staff in general are absolutely phenomenal, nothing is too big or small for them."

But her on her main supporter, she said: "We have an incredible bond and he's been with me to some of the doctors and hospital appointments with me. He doesn't fully understand the seriousness of what I've gone through he just knows auntie Shell has been poorly.

"When he's older, I'm sure he'll know the significance of what he's done."

And through her own experience, her message is loud and clear.

"I wasn't one for checking for lumps. So if this encourages one person to check, I'd feel really happy. I can't stress how important it is."

To donate to Michelle's Weston Park fundraising efforts, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/teambrownieuk

The start of it all: The pair continue to share a special bond
Michelle during a round of chemotheraphy
Players on the ladies circuit dedicated an event in Derby to Michelle and her fight
Michelle at Freddy's nursery graduation