Amy Dowden has credited her Strictly Come Dancing colleagues for their incredible support after informing them of her breast cancer diagnosis during a group meeting.
Professional ballroom dancer Amy, 32, confirmed the diagnosis in May after discovering a lump on her breast while preparing for her honeymoon with husband Ben Jones in April.
She has since received a wave of public support from her co-stars on the BBC flagship, with Strictly producers confirming her position on the show will remain vacant until she returns.
Acknowledging their response, she told HELLO: ‘The pros have been amazing. They all told me how they would be there every step of the way until I join them on the dancefloor again.’
Husband Ben, who exchanged vows with the dancer in South Wales last July, also credited family members for helping them maintain a positive outlook.
Giving praise: Amy Dowden has credited her Strictly Come Dancing colleagues for their incredible support after informing them of her breast cancer diagnosis during a group meeting
Close: (L-R) Strictly Come Dancing professionals Michelle Tsiakkas, Nancy Xu, Luba Mushtuk, Jowita Przystal, Dianne Buswell and Amy Dowden
He said: ‘Amy has had a lot to deal with in her life and, as I expected, has shown great resilience in the past couple of weeks.
‘We are both surrounded by lots of family and friends who are going to be an important support to us in the coming months. We are both staying very positive and remain optimistic moving forward.’
The Strictly Come Dancing professional shared her diagnosis on Instagram in May and discussed the possibility of returning to the BBC show for its new series later this year.
She wrote: ‘Hey all, I’ve got some news which isn’t easy to share. I’ve recently been diagnosed with breast cancer but I’m determined to get back on that dance floor before you know it. Welsh love Amy.’
The dancer has battled gut condition Crohn’s disease since she was a child and said she has already been through ‘quite a lot’ in her life with health struggles.
She told HELLO at the time: ‘You just don’t ever think it’s going to happen to you. I hadn’t thought it was possible to get breast cancer at my age. My mum has had breast cancer, but she had it at a later age, in her 50s.’
Amy said it was taking part in the CoppaTrek! walk last June in support of breast health awareness charity CoppaFeel! that led her to discover her own cancer.
She realised that she doesn’t ‘check her breasts’ and then made a conscious effort to check herself, saying CoppaFeel! has ‘potentially saved her life’.
Happy: Amy with husband Ben Jones. The couple married in South Wales last July after the coronavirus pandemic forced them to postpone their original wedding ceremony
Tight knit community: Amy has credited her Strictly friends for their support (L-R Dianne Buswell, Nadiya Bychkova and Amy Dowden in 2017)
‘I don’t know how long this lump could have been there before I would have noticed and done something about it,’ she added.
Amy said she found a lump in her right breast in April, a day before she and her husband flew to the Maldives for a belated honeymoon after their wedding last July.
The dancer said she was ‘in shock’ and decided to keep an eye on the lump, before going to the doctor when the lump grew on her return home.
She was immediately sent for an emergency referral, where she was told the lump looked ‘suspicious’ and to ‘prepare for the worst’.
After a biopsy, Amy was told she had grade three breast cancer, saying her first question was when she could get back on the dance floor.
Grade three cancer is when the cells look very different to normal breast cells and tend to spread more quickly. The grade describes how a cancer cell looks under a microscope.
It is different to a cancer stage, which describes the size of the cancer and how far it has spread. Amy is yet to find out what stage of cancer she has.
Amy said her cancer has been caught ‘early’ and she is now waiting for more information before she is given a full treatment plan, which will include surgery.
What is breast cancer, how many people does it strike and what are the symptoms?
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world. Each year in the UK there are more than 55,000 new cases, and the disease claims the lives of 11,500 women.
What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer develops from a cancerous cell which develops in the lining of a duct or lobule in one of the breasts.
When the breast cancer has spread into surrounding breast tissue it is called an ‘invasive’ breast cancer. Some people are diagnosed with ‘carcinoma in situ’, where no cancer cells have grown beyond the duct or lobule.
Most cases develop in women over the age of 50 but younger women are sometimes affected. Breast cancer can develop in men, though this is rare.
Staging means how big the cancer is and whether it has spread. Stage 1 is the earliest stage and stage 4 means the cancer has spread to another part of the body.
The cancerous cells are graded from low, which means a slow growth, to high, which is fast-growing. High-grade cancers are more likely to come back after they have first been treated.
What causes breast cancer?
A cancerous tumour starts from one abnormal cell. The exact reason why a cell becomes cancerous is unclear. It is thought that something damages or alters certain genes in the cell. This makes the cell abnormal and multiply.
There are some risk factors that can increase the chance of developing breast cancer, such as genetics.
What are the symptoms of breast cancer?
The usual first symptom is a painless lump in the breast, although most breast lumps are not cancerous and are fluid filled cysts, which are benign.
The first place that breast cancer usually spreads to is the lymph nodes in the armpit. If this occurs you will develop a swelling or lump in an armpit.
For more information visit breastcancernow.org or call its free helpline on 0808 800 6000
Health: The Strictly Come Dancing professional took to her Instagram Stories to share her health update, saying she is ‘determined’ to get back on the dance floor
She is waiting for an MRI scan and a biopsy after medics found a second lump in her right breast, and she will be given a full prognosis after that step.
After sharing her diagnosis on Instagram, Amy was flooded with comments of support from her fellow Strictly pros and stars who appeared on the show.
Dianne Buswell said: ‘Our Welsh dragon is going to fight this !!!! and I can not wait for the moment you are back on that dance floor with us. We love you so much Amy.’
Oti Mabuse commented: ‘Sending you love and power and all the strength – you’re such an incredible woman love you Amy! Take care of yourself.’
Ellie Taylor, who competed on the show last year, said: ‘Oh beautiful Amy. Sending heaps of love. Xxx.’
Giovanna Fletcher added: ‘Love love love you. Xxxx.’
Karen Hauer posted: ‘We love you and we are here with you in every little step . You are strong and you will beat this ♥️.
Neil Jones wrote: ‘Amy, I know you will beat this 1 million percent.
‘Sending you all my love and positive energy. I can’t wait to dance with you again on the dance floor.’
We’re with you! After sharing her diagnosis on Instagram, Amy was flooded with comments of support from her fellow Strictly pros and stars who appeared on the show
Dancing: She admitted it wasn’t easy to share the news as she discussed whether she will be able to rejoin the BBC dance show for its new series later this year (pictured with James Bye)
Former contestant Alex Jones wrote: ‘Oh Amy! Thinking of you and sending you so much love. Cariad mawr.’
Former pro Kevin Clifton wrote: ‘We love you sis. Ur the best. U got this,’ while Katya Jones added: ‘We’re with you all the way! The strongest woman I know! Can’t wait to have you in the dance floor real soon!!’
Strictly’s 2018 winner Stacey Dooley commented: ‘all the love sis x.’
Former pro and It Takes Two host Janette Manrara commented: ‘If anyone one has the strength, it’s you. We are all by your side all the way. Love you to the moon and back’.
2016 winner Ore Oduba said: ‘Oh Amy. All our love, there is nothing YOU cannot fight. And what an almighty dance it’ll be when you’re back. So much love.’
Dr Ranj Singh, who previously competed on the show, said: ‘Sending you HUGE love and strength darling! Always here if you need anything at all.’
Joanne Clifton wrote: ‘Amy, sending you all the strength and power… we are all with you,’ while Gemma Atkinson added: ‘We’re all Fighting behind you all the way Amy!!!!! Sending so much love to you.’
Strictly’s head judge Shirley Ballas shared a lengthy message of support, writing: ‘@amy_dowden my precious girl. Nanny and I are thinking about you at this time. You are a strong example to so many of resilience which I’ve witnessed first hand.
‘A beautiful kind and funny young lady who will face things head on. You are sooo loved. I’ll see you soon my darling friend hugs and lots of warm cuddles.’
Conccern: Amy explained how she found a lump in her breast before going on her honeymoon with her husband Ben Jones in April
What is Crohn’s disease?
Crohn’s disease is an agonising digestive condition that blights the lives of 115,000 people in Britain and as many as 1.6 million in the US.
Symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhoea and potentially dangerous weight loss. Magician Dynamo is a famous sufferer.
Eight out of ten patients will need a part of the intestine removed as it becomes so damaged it prevents digestion.
Its cause is still not known and there is currently no cure but some with the condition have considered their diet to be a factor.
However, bacteria is already known to play a major role in causing Crohn’s disease, in addition to genetics and diet.
Conventional treatment is with drugs that suppress the immune system’s production of a protein called TNF, which causes inflammation.
Amy said she received heartfelt support from friends Giovanna and Tom Fletcher when she told them the news, saying they were ‘central’ in her decision to tell her story in a bid to help others.
Tyler West, who appeared on Strictly last year with Dianne Buswell, spoke about Amy’s diagnosis on Wednesday’s Lorraine.
He said: ‘She’s all right, Aims she’s the Welsh dragon, she’s a fighter, so strong, so inspirational, it was a massive shock the system for everyone to everyone this morning.
‘She is incredible, Amy, and I have no doubt she will be powering through it.’
Amy has dealt with an array of health struggles over the years after being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at the age of 11.
Crohn’s disease is described by the NHS as a ‘lifelong condition’, which sees parts of the digestive system inflamed.
Among other symptoms, suffers can experience extreme abdominal pain, vomiting, exhaustion and diarrhoea.