'I didn't want cancer to dictate our life'
Fiona was diagnosed at 24 weeks pregnant with her first child.
After suffering four miscarriages, Fiona found a lump during her fifth pregnancy which turned out to be Breast Cancer. A few years later the thought of becoming pregnant again was scary, and she wondered whether she would even be able to conceive after chemotherapy.
This is her story…
I have always wanted two children. We had gone through a lot to have our amazing daughter, and we would have been perfectly happy as a family of three. But we still wanted to try, and not spend forever wondering what could have been. I also didn’t want cancer to dictate the rest of our lives. Of course it was unlikely. Chemotherapy can leave recipients infertile and it ages the body five years apparently, so I didn’t have time on my side. My oncologist advised us to wait two years before trying for a baby, for two clear mammograms. Then I needed to be emotionally ready which took a little longer than I’d expected.
After four miscarriages, then breast cancer with my fifth pregnancy, it was a scary prospect to become pregnant again. But my body had proved it was capable of having a baby. In March 2017 we were thrilled to discover I was pregnant. There were so many experiences I felt I missed out on last time. I wanted to be able to feel all the feelings that a “normal” pregnancy and the “fourth trimester” provide, whether good or bad. Instead of being forced to deliver at 34 weeks, I went to 42! I gave birth to a beautiful bouncing baby boy of 9lbs 8oz.
Although they are completely different babies with different experiences, it has felt quite healing to have them born at the same time of year (November). With every event, new season and flower in bloom, I couldn’t help comparing and looking back at the same time four years ago and thinking when she was this old I was shaving my head for the first time or having my PICC line fitted.
The main difference this time was to be able to keep my baby with me as soon as he was born, rather than be whisked up to special care and to be free to breastfeed as long as I wanted to. Breastfeeding proved pretty tough going with just one functioning boob, so after a couple of weeks, completely engorged and with a red raw nipple we introduced a bottle which he took gladly. Using the bottle as my “other boob” was the solution we needed and it has enabled me to continue breastfeeding for seven months.
I’m now making the difficult decision to start to stop. I have loved breastfeeding, but I didn’t have my annual mammogram last year because I was pregnant, so I really feel like I need to have this one. Of course I still worry about it coming back. I’m still reticent to say that I feel lucky, as I’m so mindful of it (cancer) returning. I now realise how vital my own health is for health of my family - if I’m not well, it doesn’t work. So I know it’s the right thing to do and the right time, plus he has teeth now!
During those darker moments four years ago if I could have jumped ahead to see where I am now I would have hardly believed it. I detested chemotherapy, not least because of how dreadful I felt by the end, but because it meant I had to stop breastfeeding after 10 days and had to have my baby at just 34 weeks with all that entailed for her.
When I look back at photos now I’m reminded of how incredibly special our little girl is. We are totally blessed to have her. It’s like she knew I needed extra hugs. The pure joy of my daughter got me through what would otherwise have been a hellish time.
I’m happy to say thinking of the whole experience now feels like I’m watching a film, or like a bad dream. Mummy’s Star provided much needed counselling sessions for me. I needed to vent my feelings and thoughts and didn’t want Dave to have to take them on, as brave as he was I knew he must be experiencing his own feelings without adding mine.
I’m in awe of what our bodies and minds can withstand, enabling us to continue to enjoy our lives. Having cancer taught me to find the joy in the everyday moments, my daughter making jokes, my son’s laugh and my husband’s endless devotion to us.
Now some time has passed and my daughter is a lively, clever and kind four year old I am eternally grateful for all the treatment I was given. It’s enabled me to be here still to live the life I’ve always dreamed of with my family of four.
Team Parker is complete!