A brief blog I wrote for The Christie website to promote #CancerandPregnancy awareness week:
That was until my wife Mair was diagnosed with Breast Cancer when midway through her second pregnancy in June 2012. She underwent chemotherapy, gave birth to our healthy baby boy and the tumour was responding well to the treatment. Sadly though it spread to the lining of her brain and she passed away very quickly shortly before Christmas that same year with Merlin only 10 weeks old and my daughter Martha just 3.
The circumstances of her diagnosis in pregnancy and the lack of support tailored to this situation led to the charity Mummy’s Star being established in her memory in 2013 by my family, Mair’s friends and also members of the medical teams that had looked after her. Our aim is ‘Supporting Pregnancy Through Cancer and Beyond’
Since launching we have grown quickly, supporting women across the country who are diagnosed with cancer either during pregnancy or within 12 months of a new birth and also raising awareness of the fact that this does actually happen to women. We also receive regular referrals from existing large, long established cancer charities and hospitals nationwide one of which is The Christie, where Mair was treated.
Referrals from organisations such as The Christie tell us something really important as a charity. It shows us the importance that is being placed on our service by other professionals who have been working in the cancer sector for many many years, a recognition that we have created something that wasn’t there previously for those women who are diagnosed at a time when they should be celebrating a pregnancy or new birth but which is cruelly interrupted by a cancer diagnosis.
Cancer can be a scary time for anyone whether it is your first, second, third or fourth child. A cancer diagnosis only seeks to heighten that feeling of fear 100 fold
As we approach our second birthday on June 18th we also see our second ‘Cancer and Pregnancy Awareness Week take place from the 15-22 June. When we did this last year it was again a first in the UK like the charity, and it saw a big increase in the number of women getting in touch with us to access our support. Our work is done through four main strands
- Providing a one stop shop for advice on cancer diagnosis in pregnancy including links to localised services. This information is regularly reviewed by our advisors in oncology, midwifery and child/family therapy.
- Facilitating peer support in a supervised setting via the use of administrated internet forums for affected women, their partners and wider family members. Also, where appropriate, providing support for affected women individually via email, phone, Facebook and occasionally in person, thereby reducing isolation.
- Advocacy/Campaigning for changes to make it easier for families in these circumstances for example to transfer maternity leave to a partner/surviving partner, dealing with benefits/changes etc. This element will also offer employment rights advice.
- Small grants for families which could be for anything which is deemed as supporting the family such as paying for a support carer/nanny to help in the house, payment to make up for unpaid leave taken by a partner to support at home above and beyond the allowances of paternity and travel costs. This is not an exhaustive list
For further information about our work please visit www.mummysstar.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter
As part of our awareness week between 15th and 19th June we will be providing an exhibition stand on the glass corridor at The Christie to talk to patients and their families and to help raise awareness.
We will also be holding our first conference on Thursday 18 June.
Taking place at the University of Salford, we are aiming to hold an informative conference with a mix of midwifery, obstetrics and oncology professionals present as well as representatives from charities which focus on the cancers that we are seeing most often in the women we are supporting.
The aim ultimately is that those present leave the conference with a heightened awareness of both the challenges that cancer in pregnancy/post birth presents, the difficulties of pregnancy shielding potential cancer symptoms and a wider knowledge of the potential treatment options for women i.e. that chemotherapy is possible during pregnancy being just one!
We have confirmation as speakers from our patron Dr Jacque Gerrard (Director of England, RCM), Caroline De Bie (Pregnancy & Medicine Initiative, Belgium), our advisor, oncologist Dr Richard Simcock and finally the award winning Bradford RI maternity team who cared for a pregnant mum with terminal cancer recently
We will also have a number of workshops in the afternoon covering other parts of the support that both we offer but also those that we work in partnership with for example Children’s Therapy, North West Milk Bank, Beauty Despite Cancer, Younger Breast Cancer Network & The Strength of Forum Support.
The day will close with an account from one of the Mums we support about her own journey
If you wish to register to attend the conference please follow the link below http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/mummys-star-inaugural-conference-tickets-16155629924