LYNSEY Ritchie was completely blindsided by her cancer diagnosis.

An active mother to four young boys, and who didn’t smoke and rarely drank, her first thought was: “How could this happen to me?”

Still breastfeeding her youngest son, she felt a lump under her arm. She went to her GP, hoping it was a cyst, but hospital tests showed Lynsey had triple negative breast cancer.

Now, one year on from her diagnosis, having completed treatment for the disease, the mother is backing a new campaign to get cancer research back on track, highlighting the funding gap caused by Covid-19.

Following the cancellation of fundraising events like Race for Life, Cancer Research UK has predicted £160 million drop in income in the year ahead.

The charity has already cut £44 million in research funding but warned that this is likely to be just the beginning. Lynsey, 43, from Denny, Stirlingshire, hopes that her story will inspire people across Scotland to donate to potentially life-saving work.

“No words will ever be able to describe the moment I knew I had cancer. It was a huge shock as I was a fit, healthy and active mum of four boys under seven. I rarely drank, didn’t smoke and I was still breastfeeding my baby at diagnosis. I thought I was too young to get cancer,” she explained.

“The fear of the unknown was horrendous and the waiting was worse than the actual investigations, treatment and operation. Nothing was ever as bad as I feared. Breast cancer took away all control and left me with no choice, so I decided to embark on the journey my way opting for positivity and humour to help me on my way.

“It’s thanks to improved treatments that I’ve been given more precious time with my loved ones. It upsets me to think about research being held up and what this might mean for people affected by cancer in the months and years to come.”

Lynsey, who is mother to Cailean, eight, Brodie, six, Darragh, four, and Odhran, two, had 15 rounds of chemotherapy treatment which finished on December 11 last year.

Surrounded by family and friends, including her husband Neil, a solider, who is usually based in Belast but was given compassionate leave to support Lynsey through treatment, she held a special ‘Thank you for the Mammaries’ party ahead of surgery on December 20 to remove both breasts.

She attracted messages of support from across the world after blogging about her treatment, including ordering a book cake ahead of her double mastectomy.

Lynsey said: “My boobs played a very special role in my life. I’d volunteered as an NHS breast feeding peer supporter to help new mums breastfeed and fed all four of my own boys. “My boobs deserved a send off but I wasn’t defined by them.”

“I own my body with all its bumps, scrapes and scars. I’ve got through thanks to an amazing family and friends – ‘Team Ritchie’ – and a husband who has been by my side, wiped away my tears, carried me when I felt I couldn’t take another step and always believed in me. Now I’m feeling stronger again. I’m getting back in to yoga and embracing every challenge. I hope in some small way my journey will help others in the future. My healing is ongoing but I’m proud of my body and how far I’ve come.”

In March, after 15 rounds of radiotherapy, Lynsey rang the bell at the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre in Glasgow to mark the end of treatment, just as the nation went in to lockdown to protect people from Covid-19.

She hopes her experience will highlight the threat the funding gap caused by Covid-19 poses to future breakthroughs for people with cancer, starring in a new TV appeal.

Lisa Adams, Cancer Research UK spokeswoman in Scotland, said: “We’re grateful to Lynsey for helping to underline the stark reality of the current situation. Covid-19 has put so much of our research on pause, leaving us facing a crisis where every day and every pound counts.

“With around 32,200 people are diagnosed with cancer every year in Scotland, we will never stop striving to create better treatments. “But we can’t do it alone.

“Whether they donate, sign up to Race for Life at Home or shop in our stores – with the help of people across Scotland we believe that together we will still beat cancer.”