We're supporting Cervical Cancer Awareness Week. #SmearForSmear. Stacey was 32 years old when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer at nine weeks pregnant. Here's her story...
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 regular 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 remember it clear as day – 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 is no way I was pregnant with having so much bleeding.
But staring straight back at me was a big dark positive reading on the pregnancy stick. I was in utter shock! It just didn’t make sense, especially with the dates. I just walked into the bedroom to wake Scott up and let him know. 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 about the appointment at first, 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. All I could hear from the consultant was “It’s not stopping, I can’t stop the bleeding”. I just knew there and then something really wasn’t right. She just directed me to get changed and meet her back in her office.
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. Because of the bleeding, I thought I was only seven weeks and I hadn’t even had a scan. Everything had changed in that split second.
I was taken for the scan and I was just sat there thinking “it is going to be ok. I am going to fight for this child”.
We were sat in this waiting room with my cancer nurse and she said “I need to advise you not to look at the screen because from what the consultant said, you are going to have to have a hysterectomy.” I thought about it for a minute and then I said: “Scott you can do what you want, but I need you to respect my wishes. 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 to show us on the screen and discovered I was actually nine weeks pregnant. I looked and I didn’t cry or get upset, I was just calm and I just had this belief that it was going to be ok. Everyone else in the room was crying because they thought that the termination would be my only option. I was given pictures to take away.
Telling my parents was the hardest thing. My mum had lost her mum to cancer and when something like that happens, you think the worst when you hear the word cancer again. Further tests in the weeks that followed showed that 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 it would mean I would lose the baby and never be able to carry another one.
After 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 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, but they were all in their second trimester when they were diagnosed. I just wanted to fight. My consultant said that termination and hysterectomy was what he recommended but I said “But 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 could 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.
I was originally going to have the baby at 28 weeks but miraculously, the chemotherapy worked better than anyone had expected and got rid of the tumour, so I was able to wait until 34 weeks. No one could believe the results. I was really positive throughout everything and I do feel like that helped. I really believe in the power of positivity.
Even through chemotherapy, I would do my makeup and try to keep things as normal as possible as that was my way of coping.
I was booked in for a c-section, followed by a hysterectomy on 5 December, at 34 weeks. I had an epidural for the c-section so I could meet my baby, followed by an anaesthetic for the hysterectomy. So, with Scott by my side, baby Auburn was born weighing 4lb 3oz at 2:36 pm. He came out with the strongest lungs. He was screaming. I met him for about 30 seconds and we couldn’t have skin to skin or anything as we were in an operating theatre rather than a delivery room. But 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.
Auburn was taken to neonatal intensive care and once I was well enough, I went to meet him for the first time. 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 and although I still struggle with some problems due to the surgery, it’s a small price to pay because we’re both here. We had so many miracles – the fact that I got pregnant so quickly, as if I have been earlier in my pregnancy, my path wouldn’t have been an option, the fact that we managed to conceive even though there was a huge tumour and the fact that Auburn somehow started to grow in the safest bit of my womb. Then during treatment, the fact that the tumour disappeared and we both ended up beating cancer.
People need to know to go and get checked. It’s five minutes of my life and without that, it could have cost me my whole life. It’s a silent killer. It had been there for quite some time and before the bleeding (that I thought was because of the removal of the implant) I’d had no symptoms. Regular smear tests are so important and if you notice any changes, just go and get checked.
Throughout everything miracles kept happening and we are so lucky that Auburn and I both beat cancer. He was worth every sacrifice and I want to show that there can be hope even in these situations. Auburn is doing so well and meeting all his milestones.
I just think about if I had had a termination, I would never had known him.
Recently, I unfortunately lost my own father to cancer after all what we had survived through. But this in itself is more reason why people need to get theirselves checked regularly, so we are able to catch it in its early stages and stand up to cancer for once and for all.