'I was so worried about protecting my baby, I didn’t have a chance to worry about the cancer.'
Rachel was 21 weeks pregnant when she started bleeding. Scans revealed a large tumour attached to one kidney.
This is her story...
Before the bleeding I didn't have any unusual symptoms. I was tired a lot and my back was aching a bit, but I was pregnant, so I just put it down to that. Then, when I started bleeding, I was rushed for an emergency scan to check on my baby. She was fine and healthy but the doctors found something that needed investigating. I had an MRI and biopsy, which showed the six-centimetre mass was malignant.
I’ve had problems with my kidneys since a young child, so I really just thought it was going to be that. I actually went to get my results by myself. Three doctors sat in the room with me and explained that I had a large cancerous tumour on my kidney.
I sat there frozen. I just went numb.
They showed me the scan and the tumour; there at the bottom of the scan I could see my baby's little feet. I don’t know how or why but, somehow, I didn’t cry. I sat and sent a text to my family group chat saying 'I have cancer' like it was nothing. It didn’t even cross my mind that the message might upset people.
I didn’t cry until I got home, but it wasn’t about the cancer. I was just worried for my baby. I was so worried about protecting her, I didn’t have a chance to worry about the cancer.
Thankfully, because the pregnancy scan had revealed the tumour in the early stages, so it was operable. Phoenix was born in March 2022, naturally, and I had two weeks at home with her before I had to go back to the hospital for my surgery.
Having to leave my new born baby to have an operation, was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
I had to self-isolate beforehand because this all happened during the Coronavirus outbreak, before having robotic keyhole surgery to remove both the tumour and part of my kidney. By the time they operated, the tumour had already grown to nine centimetres.
The surgery was a success and I was home with Phoenix and my family within 25 hours. My Mum was a huge support to me. She flew back from Australia as soon as she found out and came to all my appointments with me. She even slept on the sofa with me after my operation.
Being a new mum and recovering from surgery is not easy. I lost a lot of weight from the stress on my body.
Not being able to hold my baby properly or rock her to sleep, because I was in so much pain was heartbreaking.
Also my scars. I was really upset in the beginning, because I didn’t get any stretch marks from pregnancy and I was so happy about that and then to be covered in scars anyway felt awful. Like they would just be a constant reminder of what I'd been through.
It cheered me up when I put a post on the Mummy's Star forum, and someone encouraged me to something see them as battle scars, and that I was a warrior who had fought a battle not everyone wins. That made me feel so much better about them and now I even forget they are there. They are just a part of me now. My nephew even told his nursery that I was bitten by a shark, which is pretty funny! The first time my daughter asked about them was tough though; that did set me back a bit.
Now, we are doing very well. I’ve managed to put most of the weight back on. Slowly but surely I'm getting back to myself again. Phoenix is doing amazing, she’s such a funny and bright little lady. She brings so much joy to my days.
There's no doubt in my mind that Phoenix saved my live as the cancerous tumour would have been left undetected is I wasn't pregnant.
I had always wanted a family and I waited so long to get pregnant. Phoenix has been a true blessing.