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#CPAW ’16 – Maintaining Normality – Joanne’s Story

FullSizeRenderI found a lump in my right breast around 34 weeks pregnant aged 36,

In my opinion I had a bad pregnancy and so just put it down to changes in hormones. Little did I know that at 37 weeks pregnant I would be told that they found a tumour and that I had triple negative breast cancer, which is a rare form of aggressive cancer.

I was told this on a Monday afternoon and my whole world came to a stand still. All my plans for an amazing maternity leave vanished.

By the Tuesday I was sat in the antenatal sweet discussing when they can deliver my baby. To my shock they suggested I come back in that afternoon whilst they induce me.  I was completely shocked at their response, I hadn’t even got over the devastating news, I felt that they hadn’t taken my emotional well being into consideration.

After much deliberation my husband and I decided that we would come back on the Friday to begin being induced.

I was told by my breast care team that I couldn’t breast feed which was something I wanted to try. Having spoken with Mummy’s Star some weeks later it turned out the information they gave me wasn’t necessarily true.   Unfortunately at that point it was too late.

We had already started to tell family and friends our devastating news and lots of friends and family then wanted to see me that week which is something I wanted, mainly because when my daughter arrived the focus must be on her rather than the cancer.  Everyone took this on board which I was thankful for.

I attended the antenatal sweet on the Friday, all the nurses and midwives on shift that day where very much aware of my situation. They had arranged for a private room and that my husband Sean could stay with me under the circumstances which was a massive relief.

Sienna was born on the Saturday.

I then had 4 weeks before aggressive chemotherapy would start and for me it is the only time I had normality in my life as a new mother.

My husband and I then spent as much time together as a family. We did normal things that new parents would do and took advantage of the time my husband had off whilst he was on paternity leave.  My chemotherapy started 4 weeks later and it literally knocked me off my feet. I felt as a new mum I couldn’t do all the things new mums can do. I couldn’t attend mother and baby classes, nor could I take her swimming and didn’t have the energy to take her for long walks with friends due to lack of energy and no immune system to fight off infection. However what we did do that worked well is that friends would call in on my good days to see Sienna and every third week my friends would attend our house with their children and we would have a BBQ.

What did work amazingly well is that my health care workers assessing Sienna’s development had been notified by my midwife of my situation and they made arrangements to come to the house to weigh her rather than me having to visit the centre. They were fully aware that I would be at risk of infection if I had to visit the centre every month.

Lastly having a cancer diagnosis whilst you’re pregnant and then having treatment following your child’s birth isn’t normal.  I felt very lonely at times. Nobody understood the challenges I had until introduced to the Mummy’s Star forum. What a relief because on that private forum I felt for the first time “normal”, and I am so grateful and privileged to part of the Mummy’s Star family.

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