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Sarah on a cancer diagnosis during pregnancy

I was diagnosed with cervical cancer when I was 35. I was 24 weeks pregnant with my second child.

Before I got pregnant, I was having some irregular bleeding which my GP said was likely a cervical ectropion. The bleeding continued and at 20 weeks, I had a particularly heavy bleed. I needed an examination, which was quite painful. The baby was fine, but they took a biopsy of my cervix to see what was going on.

"We decided quickly to have the baby 4 weeks early"

Quite soon after that, I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. I was seen within days and had my MRI scan within two weeks. I felt very fortunate with the speed of this given the pandemic. I couldn’t have a PET scan due to the radioactivity though.

Then of course came the dilemma of what to do, taking into account the pregnancy. We decided quickly to have the baby 4 weeks early and for me to have 3 rounds of chemotherapy before that, to keep the tumour from growing while I was waiting to start the rest of the treatment.

The first round of treatment was very, very daunting. The staff at the hospital were brilliant and really reassured me. I had been given a leaflet about Jo’s, and read the stories from others who had been diagnosed with cervical cancer which were all positive. They stuck in my mind and gave me a positive outlook.

"Looking back, I can’t believe I got through it"

Luckily, I didn’t suffer too badly physically with sickness but I then had to homeschool my 4-year old as the schools were shut. At the time, you don’t really think about it too much, you just do it. But looking back, I can’t believe I got through it.

My baby was born by c-section and she was fine. We had about 6 weeks together just being able to enjoy being a new mum, recovering from the operation. My mum helped out a lot – she came to stay and we took turns to homeschool and to look after the baby. We relied on my mum so much during the course of my treatment, plus support from my brother in law and sister in law who helped to look after the baby when my mum was home.

"If someone offers to help – say yes!"

When she was 6 weeks old, I started my cancer treatment. I had radiotherapy every day for 7 weeks, chemotherapy on top once a week and brachytherapy at the end. I tried to keep my appointments to the middle of the day so that I could see my daughter off to school in the morning and be there for her in the evening. I relied on the support of other mums around me who would pick my daughter up and take her home. I would say to everybody going through cancer, no matter how busy you are, if someone offers to help – say yes!

My life was one huge rush – it’s a big blur of lunches eaten in cars and trying to get home for my daughter. It was an extremely stressful time, but you do just go onto autopilot because you have to. If I stopped at all to think about what was happening, it was too crazy.

I was very tired but fortunately I was not too sick. The nature of needing to travel to treatment is very tiring, but having a newborn as well meant I was up every night with her. Chemo did affect me physically, but more that I didn’t look like myself, I felt bloated and wiped out. 

"The best little pick-me-ups were messages, calls and gifts from family and friends"

When I was waiting around in hospitals, or during the many hours we spent in the car, I would try to put a podcast on and just switch off even if only for two minute, and just block the world out for a little while. The best little pick-me-ups were messages, calls and gifts from family and friends, which got me through the lowest times. My husband was my rock throughout. He was amazing and is the one who gave me the confidence to share my story in the first place.

We started coming out of lockdown a bit during treatment. Every weekend we would do something together as a family which was fun, like teaching my daughter to ride her bike in the park or catching up with people we hadn’t seen. I wasn’t able to get out and about as much towards the end as the effects of treatment accumulated. But we always had at least one plan at the weekend for my daughter.

"I am still living with cancer, the worry and the doubt and the what ifs"

The strangest part is now. I’m 6 months on and so happy that my latest scan showed that there is no evidence of disease. But at the same time, part of me is like ‘now what?’ I used to see my consultant every day, but I don’t have that comfort anymore. The news is all good, but I am still living with cancer, the worry and the doubt and the what ifs.

Sometimes I stop and think that I have been through so much, but I had no time to reflect or think about it at the time. I was also up to date with all my smear tests, they were all clear, and I was due to have my next one while I was pregnant. I think my story shows why they’re so important, as so much can change in a really short time. 

Physically I feel now more like myself, pre-cancer and pre-pregnancy and have been getting back to work. Life is much more hectic now, with 2 kids, but I am just so grateful to be over the cancer and feel so fortunate to have my children despite my diagnosis. I used to be somebody who always thought about everyone else before me, but I think about myself a bit more now. It’s cheesy but life really is short – you should do whatever makes you happy.

You don't have to go through a cervical cancer diagnosis alone. Find out how we can support you > 

Going to and from the hospital was very overwhelming. It was stressful trying to get there on time and sorting out my children
Read Charlene's story
Last Updated: 
19 Jan 2022