Stacey was 32 years old when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer at just 9 weeks pregnant following a routine smear test...
We had put off having children as I struggled with some long-term health problems, but in 2019 we decided to try for a baby! I had my contraceptive implant removed and five days later went for a routine smear test.
Around the same time, I was experiencing some bleeding and just put it down to my cycle getting back to normal again. One morning, I woke up at 5am with this almighty urge to take a pregnancy test. My whole body was telling me it needed to be done, which I thought was ridiculous at first because there was no way I was pregnant with so much bleeding.
But staring straight back at me was a big dark positive reading on the pregnancy stick. I was in utter shock! We were absolutely over the moon. We just couldn’t believe that we were actually having a baby.
Two weeks later, I received two letters through the post on the same day: one confirming my first midwife appointment and one with the results of my smear test.
The results showed that I had abnormal cells and needed to go for an emergency colposcopy the following week. I wasn’t too worried but as soon as I entered the room I felt something wasn’t right. The consultant was very serious and seemed very worried. She explained that something isn’t right in my cervix and needed attention ASAP.
While she was checking me, there was a huge amount of blood. I thought I was miscarrying the baby. In fact, the doctor had found a large tumour in my cervix and, although they would need a biopsy to confirm, she was 99.9% sure it was cancer because of the size.
They also said that as we were very early in the pregnancy, and the tumour was already very large, I would need to have a termination and hysterectomy. Everything had changed in that split second.
I was taken for my first scan and I just sat there thinking “It is going to be ok. I am going to fight for this child”.
My cancer nurse advised me not to look at the screen because of the likelihood of hysterectomy. I thought about it for a minute and then I said: “I’ve never been pregnant and, from what the doctor said, I might never get this chance again, so I need to look at that baby.”
The sonographer found the baby and discovered I was nine weeks pregnant. I looked and didn’t cry or get upset, I was just calm and had this belief that it was going to be ok. Everyone else in the room was crying because they thought that termination would be my only option. I was given pictures to take away.
Further tests in the weeks that followed showed the tumour was nearly 5cm and definitely cancerous, but it had luckily not spread beyond my cervix. Researching online, I found that a hysterectomy was recommended for tumours over 2cm but I knew that this would mean losing the baby and never being able to carry another one.
When some friends told me about the story of Sinead in Coronation Street, who had cervical cancer in pregnancy, I found Mummy’s Star who helped me figure out my options.
I found some other women who had been able to have treatment during their pregnancy to reduce the size of the tumour before giving birth, and having surgery after that. I just wanted to fight. My consultant recommended termination and hysterectomy but I said “There is another option, isn’t there.” He told me it was my choice and I said:
“I’m not scared of dying, I’m scared of living and not trying.”
Although incredibly rare for someone so early in their pregnancy, doctors agreed that they would treat me with chemotherapy to try to reduce the tumour and stop it spreading while I was pregnant. They planned to deliver the baby at 28 weeks and then I would have surgery, followed by more chemotherapy and radiotherapy. It was risky for both of us, but I started chemotherapy at 17 weeks pregnant. I felt like I just had to try. I was lowering my chance of survival, but I had to see if we could do this. I had two types of chemotherapy every three weeks for 15 weeks.
Miraculously, the chemotherapy worked better than anyone had expected and got rid of the tumour, so I was able to wait until 34 weeks to give birth. No one could believe the results.
Even through chemotherapy, I would do my makeup and try to keep things as normal as possible as that was my way of coping.
Baby Auburn was born by c-section at 34 weeks, weighing 4lb 3oz. He came out with the strongest lungs. He was screaming. I met him for about 30 seconds and though we couldn’t have skin to skin I knew my baby was ok and I didn’t care what happened to me. I was put to sleep and woke up on the recovery ward after the hysterectomy.
After a night in NICU, all tests showed that Auburn was fine and had not been affected at all by the cancer treatment. Just over a week later, he was able to leave hospital.
I didn’t need any further treatment as the tumour was all gone. I still struggle with some problems due to the surgery, but it’s a small price to pay because we’re both here.
We had so many miracles – that I got pregnant so quickly, that we managed to conceive even though there was a huge tumour, that Auburn somehow started to grow in the safest bit of my womb and that the tumour disappeared and we both ended up beating cancer.
My tumour had been there for quite some time before the bleeding (that I thought was because of the removal of the implant), prior to which I’d had no symptoms. Regular smear tests are so important and if you notice any changes, just go and get checked.