Baby Emily’s Journey Through Cancer – Part One

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When I fell pregnant in July 2015, myself and my husband Matt were so excited and over the moon. We already had one son, Charlie who is 7, and he had been on our case for years to have another baby as he was desperate for a sibling. The gap of seven years wasn’t intentionally and we had actually fallen pregnant in 2013, but I miscarried at 8 weeks and after that a house move and a change in job pushed back our plans even further. When we finally did see that little blue line again, we were thrilled, but scared.  It had taken 2 long years to finally get here and we spent nine months eagerly awaiting the day, our new baby would arrive.

Claire FamilyI had a really good pregnancy overall. I was tired and a bit more sick than I was with Charlie, but I was healthy, didn’t put on too much weight and I was looking forward to some time off. Towards the end of the pregnancy, I ended up in hospital with a chest infection. I think this was due to the fact that I spent most of my pregnancy working hard and running around after Charlie and Matt, that when I went on maternity leave, my body thought hold on, what’s going on here! I spent three days in Lewisham Hospital on antibiotics and bed rest.

After being discharged, I took it a little bit more easy and put my feet up, slept during the day and generally loafed around. I thought – why not – I won’t get much of a chance when baby arrives. 

And sure enough, she did arrive! Our daughter, Emily, was born on 16th March at 10.51pm after a long 18 hour labour that ended up with an epidural and a couple of nights in hospital.  And this is where our nightmare begins …..

When Emily was born, she was healthy and pink, just like a newborn should be.  She was checked by the midwives and doctors for the normal newborn checks and all seemed well.  She wasn’t feeding great, but I put that down to her being less than a day old !  However, when Matt was dressing her the day after her birth, he noticed that she had a hard lump sticking out of the left hand side of her chest. We showed it to the midwives and doctors who sent her for an ultra sound and a chest x-ray. They didn’t seem that worried and even told us there was no blood flow, so it was nothing to worry about. Lewisham decided to refer her to the Evelina and sent us home.

EmilyIt was then that things started to take a different direction. Dr Clare Skeritt, a consultant at the Evelina saw Emily about four weeks after her birth and said that she didn’t like the look of the lump and wanted to investigate further with another ultra sound and an MRI under general anaesthetic. The speed at which this all happened was alarming and I started to question whether this was actually a lot more serious than we had first thought.  One day, we were in a clinic in Lewisham getting the lump examined and the next, we were on a day ward in the Evelina with a cross and hungry baby waiting to hand her over to strangers who would out her to sleep! We were scared, confused and worried – what the hell were we about to face.

Waiting for Emily to come back to us after the MRI was torture.  We went for breakfast, read magazines and checked Twitter and Facebook, but those two hours were horrific.  Eventually, the nurses brought back a sleepy and hungry baby who was none the wiser to her ordeal. It was then a waiting game. Eventually that same day, the doctors called us into a room whilst the nurses kept an eye on Emily. I knew this wasn’t a good sign – something in my gut told me so. Dr Skeritt and her colleague (his name I cannot remember) told us that they thought Emily had a possible cancerous mass on her chest and she would need to be referred to the Royal Marsden. After that, their words were a blur.  All I heard was the word cancer. How could my four week old have cancer? That’s impossible right? No – as it turns out. They told us that it was very rare and a biopsy would be needed to confirm the diagnosis. They also said that they could be wrong as they weren’t the experts. My husband and I were floored. We cried and screamed and just couldn’t understand what the hell was happening. The baby we had waited for, for such a long time, had cancer. Would she die? Would she have to have chemotherapy? Was it treatable? What had we done to deserve this? So many questions were floating around my head.  I just couldn’t take it in. Eventually, we were referred to Great Ormond Street (GOSH) as the Marsden doesn’t look after under one’s. That evening, I received a call from Dr Olga Slater – a lady that we would get to know extremely well in the next few weeks.

After an overnight stay in the Evelina and further discussions with Dr Skeritt, we went home with this huge weight on our shoulders. It was now another waiting game to hear from GOSH and Dr Slater about a date for the biopsy and what she thought the lump might be.  That call came on a Friday afternoon. Dr Slater had no reason to contradict what Dr Skeritt had said but needed a biopsy to confirm. This was unlikely to happen for a couple of weeks, so we tried to carry on as normal as possible. 

But, a few days later we found ourselves on Penguin Ward in Great Ormond Street with a crying, starving baby signing a form giving them consent to put her to sleep and take away a piece of tumour that would dictate our lives for the next 12 months.

We will be following baby Emily’s journey throughout her treatment. Please make sure you sign up for our newsletter (find the link here: www.mummysginfund.co.uk/blog), so you don’t miss the next instalment.

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Claire Carter is a full time working mum of Charlie (aged 7) and Emily (aged 3 months). Currently on maternity leave from her role as a PA at Trinity Laban, Claire's passion is singing and she enjoys nothing better than spending the evening with her Popchoir buddies singing through their contemporary repertoire and entertaining the masses at numerous gigs.

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