A woman with terminal cancer says she is determined to make the most of her life after being given just a few years to live.
Vicky McDowell, 32, from Manchester, has secondary breast cancer, which describes when a cancer first found in the breast has now spread elsewhere. In Vicky’s case, tumours are now in her spine, lungs, liver and brain.
She takes morphine, and has had chemotherapy to keep the cancer at bay, after taking leave from her digital marketing job this January.
But despite her prognosis, and the challenges of living with a terminal diagnosis, she has vowed to have a sunny attitude to life and keep having fun, documenting her life online, and ‘mocking’ her illness ‘before it catches up to [her]’.
Vicky McDowell was recently given the diagnosis of terminal cancer and given a prognosis of a few years. The 32-year-old, from Manchester, has secondary breast cancer in her spine, lungs, liver and brain after first having breast cancer in 2015 and getting the all-clear
Vicky, pictured with puppy Rupert, is on morphine and has had chemotherapy to keep the cancer at bay after taking leave from her digital marketing job this January. But despite her prognosis of a few years and challenges she faces along the way, she has vowed to have a sunny attitude to life and keep having fun
The 32-year-old, pictured with boyfriend Fraser, runs Instagram and TikTok accounts @dyingforafollowing, which she set up to poke fun at her diagnosis and document her life after she found out that her diagnosis was terminal
She runs Instagram and TikTok accounts @dyingforafollowing, which she set up to poke fun at her diagnosis and document her life after she found out that her diagnosis was terminal.
Vicky was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, when she was 25, and was told the cancer had been caught at a good stage.
She had chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and was eventually given the all clear.
However, the 32-year-old was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer at the start of this year.
She has been on morphine and had chemotherapy to keep the cancer at bay after taking leave from her marketing job in January. Her most recent round of chemotherapy finished in the middle of June.
Vicky has since had to add seizure medication to her routine, after suffering a seizure while her puppy’s dog breeder came round for a visit.
She was drinking a glass of sparkling water which she dropped and began convulsing. She now takes Levetiracetam, a medication used to treat epilepsy, daily.
The 32-year-old told FEMAIL that the seizures resulted from her brain tumours shrinking, and the resulting space being filled with liquid – which she discovered after having an MRI scan.
In one of her clips, filmed on her 32nd birthday, Vicky explained that she had woken up in a hospital bay after having two seizures and quipped ‘bae in the birthday bay’ and told her followers she would be taking anti-seizure medication
The 32-year-old told FEMAIL that she had the seizures as an MRI scan discovered more shrinkage of the brain tumours which opened up space around them and filled with liquid which then caused them
‘I am now for the foreseeable on seizure medication, four tablets a day. You have to look at some positives there.
‘I may now have seizures but I also have less brain tumour. You have to find the silver lining in everything. I do have seizures but as a result of something good,’ she said.
Since being given her terminal diagnosis in March of this year, Vicky has turned her attention to living each day to the full, admitting that it is ‘liberating in a weird way’.
She said: ‘It’s just like, well today could be the last day, so what am I doing?’
She continued: ‘You still want to live your life and work a job and have friends and family and date and get a puppy and buy a house.’
‘If I have only got a few years which is what I am predicted then they are going to be some good f*****g years.’
The 32-year-old, who has been living with her mother in Manchester since the start of the COVID pandemic, recently got her puppy and bought a house where she will soon be living with her boyfriend Fraser and her dog.
She explained: ‘We were old school friends. He was actually two academic years younger than me. We got back in touch over a podcast and he messaged me about it and we started chatting.
Another of Vicky’s videos shows her being taken to hospital for a chest infection, pictured, again updating her followers. She wrote that she was posting both the good and bad times and joked that the ‘free ride’ was a positive
‘We were hanging out as friends and then our friendship became more. We dated for a few months and then I got diagnosed. The boy never signed up for this but he has taken it in his stride in the funnest way.’
The 32-year-old added that the pair have the same morbid sense of humour and he will often joke: ‘when you die this is mine’ and point at things belonging to her.
Vicky said she has always been outspoken with a dark sense of humour and is unfiltered with a big personality, which she credits with helping her deal with her situation.
‘I’m just a little bit more able to take it in my stride then maybe people who struggle more with putting themselves out there and being like f**k it. Maybe that is a benefit, I find that it’s a luxury.’
Vicky uses this sense of humour in her TikTok videos.
In one of her clips, filmed on her 32nd birthday, Vicky says: ‘Good morning everyone. It is the 22nd June. It is Wednesday, it’s my birthday.
‘I am 32 years old today. I am also in a hospital bay.’ She then quips: ‘Bae in the birthday bay.’
In another video, Vicky is taken to hospital after contracting a chest infection.
She wrote: ‘I know I am posting the good times, but I am also posting the bad times. So I am en route to hospital and I am classing this as a good time because its a free ride. No, this is a bad time. I’ll keep you informed if anything goes awry.’
The 32-year-old also wants to put recommendations of how to support a family member, friend or loved one with cancer on her website
Additionally she wants to do a podcast where she speaks to people with chronic illnesses such as endometriosis in order to raise awareness. And she said she wants to have guest posts on her website from people with the illnesses
Speaking to FEMAIL, Vicky said she is creating her own little legacy through her social media content, adding: ‘My social medias are a bit of a diary to myself.’
Along with her TikTok and Instagram accounts, Vicky has now set up a website which she is planning to use to help other people find out vital information about cancer.
‘What I want to do, is basically a big, free [asset-rich] resource that I wish I had, that is readily and easily accessible, and somewhat welcome when someone does get diagnosed with cancer,’ she explained.
Vicky added she wants to make it clear how much support is available to people through making her website.
She explained that there is stigma around claiming benefits but the ‘whole point’ is that there is a support system and it is not a trick or a shame.
Vicky added that if she only has a few years she wants to make sure they are ‘f*****g good ones’ spent with friends and family and on holiday
She said that as she knows she has a terminal diagnosis, she lives for what she can do now, which she described as ‘actually quite liberating in a weird way’
Vicky is also hoping to put in recommendations of how to support a family member, friend or loved one with cancer on her website.
She added: ‘I want to have my social media streams and do a podcast as well and talk to people and go over topics as well.
‘I want to cover other chronic illnesses as well such as Crohn’s and Endometriosis.’
Speaking about how people react when you tell them you have cancer, she said it is common for people to say ‘I’m so sorry’ but for many people with the illness such as Vicky, it is the last phrase they want to hear.
‘It’s not what you want right now. There is some merit to throwing your own pity party. You can do all of those things. You can have a cry, you can spend those days in bed.
‘But eventually you are all cried out. Well what the f**k now? Because I can’t stay sad. Now what? You want to get up and look around and do something productive and make something. I want to prove that I am alive.’
She added: ‘This diagnosis has given me a purpose. It has given me a motivation. It is kind of sad but at the same time kind of liberating which is also something which has been unexpected but is something I hope to take in my stride and deal with every day.’