My name is Mandy and I am a midwife and infant feeding coordinator at a large midlands hospital.
I have a bit of a vested interest in younger ladies with cancer as have been in that situation myself, despite not being pregnant at the time. My children were 15, 12 and 5 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 41. My family was complete at this time. I was diagnosed in June 2012 at the exact same time as Mair.
I joined breast cancer cares online support forums, and came across a lady who was pregnant with breast cancer, at the same time as I read an article in the RCM journal about chemo in pregnancy. At that point having been a midwife for a long time this was the first time I became aware that this was even an option. Since then I’ve learnt a lot, but have many times heard midwives say they were also not aware that chemotherapy was actually a possibility in pregnancy.
I joined an online Facebook group for young ladies with breast cancer and then became an admin and this was the first time I heard of mummy’s star. I sit on the group having had cancer myself but also as a midwife to offer advice if I can do.
The First Lady I referred to mummy’s star was a delightful mum who I still hear from. She had cervical cancer diagnosed during her third pregnancy. She was still breastfeeding her toddler and was very focused on how she would be able to breast feed her baby when it arrived in between chemo treatments. She also needed help and advice suppressing lactation at that time too, so she could begin treatment. I think she became quite fixated on the breastfeeding as it was probably easier to focus on that than the bigger picture. Her baby arrived earlier than anticipated and we sent her breast milk off for analysis to see if chemo drugs were present in the milk. This lady really wanted to use donor milk for her baby however we faced opposition from the paediatricians in our hospital. Mummy’s Star advised us about this and supported the mum throughout.
Since this lady I have referred quite a number of mums to mummy’s star both at work and through YBCN (support group). Sadly oddly enough even coming across a lady today who has thyroid cancer.
I think a major thing for the mums is enabling them to feel less lonely. Cancer as a younger women feels extremely lonely and I cannot begin to imagine how this feels if you throw cancer into the mix. It is one of the cruelest things I can imagine.
Your average midwife probably knows very little about cancer in pregnancy. I feel as though I am a bit of a “go to” person in our unit and know more than most, however I still don’t know much and will need support as a professional from time to time. Knowing that mummy’s star is there and will have the biggest chance of having come across what is thank goodness still a relatively unusual situation is invaluable and reassuring. I hope all units across the country are aware of mummy’s star and that no ladies miss out on thus invaluable support.
The main message I would give to mums who are facing cancer in pregnancy is to contact yourselves and see what you can offer, be it information, financial support, or support of other ladies having been through the same.