In June 2017 Kirsten was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was 38 years old, 31 weeks pregnant with their second child, preparing for their son to start school in September and eagerly awaiting maternity leave to start.
To hear the words “I’m afraid it is Breast Cancer” is a shock to say the least. All I could think was “So, what do we do about it?”. I didn’t have chance to worry about myself, I was more anxious for my son and unborn daughter and how this would affect them. But the reassurances came in being told that it had been caught early, they could operate whilst I was pregnant, it wasn’t an aggressive form and it didn’t appear to have spread. I was so thankful that the timing meant I wouldn’t need to be induced any earlier than 39 weeks either.
And so my story in a nutshell – I was diagnosed in June, had surgery in July, our beautiful daughter was born in August and I started six cycles of chemotherapy in September. Twenty fractions of radiotherapy followed in January and my active treatment finished at the end of February 2018. To call it a whirlwind 8 months doesn’t quite cut it.
I feel so lucky to have been surrounded by wonderful family, truly amazing friends and my son’s incredibly supportive school. However none of them really understood exactly what I was going through. There is plenty of support if you have cancer, there is plenty of support if you’re pregnant, but it’s very much unchartered territory if you mix the two. A friend mentioned that she’d heard of Mummy’s Star but didn’t know what they were about so I did some research. I had no idea that so much help was available and most invaluable of all was, and still is, the online forum. A wonderful group of ladies who have been through all number of different experiences, some similar to mine, and who are always on hand to offer advice. They made the whole thing feel not quite so extraordinary. They also made me realise how extremely lucky I was and really count my blessings.
When I was diagnosed I was told “You need to have something bigger than the cancer to focus on” and with a newborn, you don’t really have much choice there. Although most of our daughter’s first six months and my son’s first year at school are very much a sleepy, chemo foggy blur, I was determined that they shouldn’t see cancer as a scary word.
It’s this time of year that I get a bit reminiscent about what actually happened back in 2017 and thank my lucky stars to be here and to be healthy today. It’s purely coincidental that it happens to be “Cancer in Pregnancy Awareness Week” just a few days before my own anniversary, but that made me realise that I should do something positive this year.
You don’t expect to get cancer. And you really don’t expect it when you’re planning on welcoming a new member to the family. It’s a confusing time when your focus should be on the new baby but actually you’re just desperately trying to stay alive.
There is a lot of help out there if you have cancer. There is a lot of help out there if you are pregnant. But I only found one place to turn to where they truly understood the conflicting place in which I found myself and I am still am so very grateful for Mummy’s Star.
Their online forum was and still is invaluable, though at times a difficult place to be. So many women going through or having been through unimaginable times, experiencing all different cancers at different stages of pregnancy / motherhood. I feel lucky that I caught it so early, I feel lucky that I didn’t need chemo whilst I was pregnant (I didn’t even know that was a thing!), I feel lucky that I was never asked to choose between my baby or fighting the cancer, I feel lucky that I had family support, I feel lucky that I had amazing friends, I feel lucky that I had one of the most common (and therefore well researched) types of cancer and this year I feel beyond lucky that I am not going through treatment right now with the added risk of Covid-19 meaning that some women have been told to shield away from their own children.
And so I’m supporting Mummy’s Star, who support women going through all those situations. I was meant to be running the GRC’s Summer Solstice 10k on Friday 19th, but inevitably that had to be cancelled. Therefore, I decided to run my own 10k. This isn’t an easy challenge for me as every time I try to run further than 5k, I am plagued with various injuries. To help spur me along, if people can donate even just £1 I would be so grateful, and so would the wonderful people at Mummy’s Star.
You can donate to Kirsten’s page here: http://www.justgiving.com/Kirsten-Crutchley1