Rosa Martin, 39, from Southsea, feared her three under-fives would be too young to remember her if she did not beat the disease.
But after a mastectomy, and embarking on a new career as a healthcare assistant at Queen Alexandra Hospital, she is now preparing to join thousands of others in the Race for Life event on Southsea Common next month.
After discovering a lump in her left breast early last year when she was pregnant with her daughter Saya, now one, Rosa initially put it down to pregnancy hormones.
Rosa said: ‘I hoped the lump would disappear once I had the baby.
‘But it continued to grow once I had delivered my daughter, so I told my GP and was referred to the breast clinic at the QA Hospital.
‘I had a scan and was told it was OK as it looked hormonal.
‘But a nurse suggested we took a biopsy just to be sure.
‘That nurse turned out to be my guardian angel because if it hadn’t been for her, I might not be here today.’
Just days after having the biopsy, when Saya was just eight weeks old, and sons Noah and Kai were four and two respectively, Rosa was given the devastating news that she had cancer.
Rosa said: ‘It was very frightening and the first thing I thought was, “How can I care for my children?”. They were so young and I was worried that if I didn’t make it, they wouldn’t remember me, or that I would be so poorly, they would only remember me as a dying mum.’
After a series of tests, doctors decided the best option was to carry out a mastectomy.
Rosa said: ‘My parents came over from Spain and stayed with us to help look after the children and I also became very good at using one arm.’
Thankfully, Rosa’s surgeon managed to remove all of her cancer and she was relieved that she didn’t require any further treatment.
Rosa even created her own t-shirt that proudly demonstrated how her mastectomy had given her life back.
She said: ‘I had my operation on September 27 last year and I walked the Race for Life 10k with a friend just a month later.
‘I wanted to do it because I know that everything helps towards research into the disease and will help to create new treatments.
‘I will do it again this year because everything everybody does, really counts.’
As well as giving her support to Cancer Research UK, Rosa also wanted to give something back to the hospital that treated her after being told the news that she was cancer free.
She added: ‘My illness made me think about my life and what I wanted to do.
‘I am a biologist and had been thinking about changing jobs but then having cancer made me realise I definitely wanted a change.
‘Now I work as a healthcare assistant at the QA, working nights.
‘It is my way of giving back to everyone who helped me.’
Cancer Research’s Race for Life events raise funds for world-class research to help beat 200 types of cancer – including bowel cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, testicular cancer, brain cancer, children’s cancers, and leukaemia.
Every year around 55,800 people are diagnosed with cancer in the south east with 1,000 people in Portsmouth alone affected by the disease.
Entries are open now for both Pretty Muddy Portsmouth, on Saturday, July 2, and the 3k, 5k and 10k Race for Life events, which will take place on Sunday, July 3 - both days being held on which is on Southsea Common.
There is also the chance for boys and girls aged five to 12 to take part in Pretty Muddy Kids.
Elisa Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s spokeswoman in Portsmouth, said: ‘We are incredibly grateful to Fran and her team for their support by not only taking part in Pretty Muddy but for their work and dedication to cancer patients across the city.
‘Sadly, cancer affects all of us in some way.
‘Whether people are living with cancer, taking part in honour of or in memory of a loved one with cancer or signing up to protect their own children’s future, everyone has a reason to Race for Life.
‘Our Race for Life events are open to all.
‘For some people, the Race for Life is literally a walk in the park. Slow and steady still wins. For others, it’s a jog.
‘Others may opt to push themselves harder, taking up the challenge of the 10K distance and even pushing for a new personal best time.
‘We’re looking forward to welcoming people of all ages and abilities. Race for Portsmouth will be fun, emotional, colourful, uplifting and an unforgettable event this year.’
Money raised at Race for Life not only funds lab research but also clinical trials which are offered to patients once basic translational research has identified new or kinder drugs that may improve outcomes.
The trial stages aim to find out if that new treatment or procedure is safer and better than the current treatment.
To enter, visit raceforlife.org.