The miracle maker

Me and the kids shouldn't be here - but against all odds we are...

Published by: Lucy Laing and Sarah Veness
Published on: 21st July 2011

Head over the toilet, waves of sickness washed over me. Outside, Mum waited nervously.
‘Is-is everything okay?’ she asked, faltering as I started retching again. ‘Are-are you pregnant?’
Flushing the loo, I emerged from the bathroom, wiping my mouth with a towel.
‘No Mum, I’m not,’ I croaked.
‘You’re keeping something from me,’ she said, her eyes narrowing.
And she was right. Most 16-year-old’s secrets revolved around boys, parties, cigarettes and, sometimes, unwanted pregnancies.
But mine was different, bigger, more terrifying.
Just weeks earlier, I’d gone for my first smear test, having started to get serious with my boyfriend Martin, 19. I hadn’t given it a second thought, even when the letter arrived saying they’d found abnormalities.
When I’d been summoned to James Paget Hospital in Norfolk, I’d gone alone.
I was young, it wouldn’t be anything to worry about.
But I’d been wrong.
I had cervical cancer.
I should have known – after all, cancer had torn my family apart.
My mum had lost her nan and granddad to the disease, as well as an uncle. How would she cope with knowing her daughter was suffering, too?
I just couldn’t do it to her.
So I’d decided to keep my cancer a secret – along with the chemotherapy I was having,
which was making me vomit.
‘I’m fine, honest,’ I lied now. ‘Must’ve been something I ate.’
Mum gave me another of her looks, but didn’t ask me any more questions. For now.
Then I started losing weight. That set Mum
off again.
‘You look terrible,’ she worried. ‘You’d tell me if something was wrong, wouldn’t you?’
‘Yes,’ I said, plastering on a fake smile.
‘It’s not… drugs… is it?’
she worried.
Well yes, but not the kind she meant. Looking into her frightened eyes, I knew I couldn’t hide it any more.
I’d kept the cancer from her because I didn’t want to worry her – but now it was making things worse. Her imagination was in overdrive, I could tell.
‘I-I’ve got cancer,’ I blurted. Mum stared at me. My heart beat once, twice, three times…
Then she burst into tears. ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’ she sobbed.
‘Because I’m going to beat this,’ I promised. ‘I’m going to be the person in my family that survives this, and I didn’t want you worrying about me.’
‘But I can be a support,’ she told me. ‘I’ll do everything I can for you and help you fight this.’
We stayed true to our promises – she looked after me and, after chemotherapy, I went into remission.
A year later, though, I found myself turning to Mum for support again.
‘There’s no easy way to say this,’ I said, sitting her down.
‘The cancer…?’ she panicked.
‘No, I’m pregnant,’ I beamed.
‘That’s amazing!’
In a way, it truly was.
Even before I’d had cancer, I’d suffered with polycystic ovary syndrome, which can cause fertility problems.
And the chemotherapy I’d had had lowered my chances of conception even further.
But the tiny flickering heartbeat on my scan proved this baby was a fighter, like me.
Although I hadn’t planned on being a mum at 18, and me and Martin had split while I was pregnant, when Jourdain arrived I couldn’t put her down.
‘I beat cancer so I could meet you,’ I told her.
I felt like the luckiest person
on earth. Against the odds, I’d survived cancer, and now I had a beautiful baby.
But, one morning, when Jourdain was 18- months-old, I was putting on my bra when my fingers brushed against something in my right breast.
‘Please no,’ I whispered, gently feeling a lump.
Yes – the cancer was back.
This time, I told my mum straight away. ‘I’ll fight it again,’ I told her firmly. ‘It’s not just you who needs me now, I have too much to live for.’
Surgeons removed the lump and surrounding tissue. Thankfully, I didn’t need chemotherapy.
‘See, I’m tough,’ I laughed to Mum afterwards.
But I was going to have to put up one hell of a fight because, a year later, tests showed I had cancer in my left breast.
‘What do I have to do to beat this once and for all?’ I cried to Mum.
‘You’re strong, you’ll get through this,’ she encouraged.
‘But how much more can my body take?!’ I sobbed.
It was being attacked from all sides, did I have the strength to battle it yet again?
And what if I wasn’t successful, what would happen to my beautiful baby Jourdain?
She wasn’t even three. I couldn’t leave her yet.
Being negative wouldn’t help anyone, though. I hadn’t thought like that when I was a single, carefree teenager and I couldn’t now I was a mum.
This time, doctors removed my whole breast and I started a more intensive course of chemotherapy.
But for me, bad
luck didn’t just come
in threes.
At the same time, my polycystic ovaries were causing me to bleed constantly. Doctors decided to do a dilation and curettage (D&C) to scrape out my womb.
Afterwards, I went for an ultrasound so they could check how things had gone.
As I lay there, the nurse stood up suddenly. ‘I’ll be back in a minute,’ she said, disappearing.
My heart sank.
The cervical cancer must be back.
All at once, the room was filled with doctors examining the screen.
Then one of them turned to me.
‘Have you been trying for a baby?’ he asked.
I stared at him, stunned. Was he serious?!
I was on chemotherapy, couldn’t stop bleeding, and had just had a D&C. ‘No,’ I frowned.
‘Well, this scan shows you’re pregnant,’ he said.
My head span.
Okay, me and Martin had
briefly rekindled our relationship a few weeks ago. But with everything that was going on, I never thought…
‘I’m pregnant?’ I breathed.
‘Yes,’ he said sadly. ‘But I’m afraid we’d advise that you have a termination. You need to focus on getting better.’
It was an agonising decision. Stopping chemotherapy to have this baby would put my life at risk. I couldn’t do that to Jourdain.
But the little person I was carrying needed me, too.
I’d fought to save my own life, and I had to fight to save this one as well. My mind was made up.
‘I’m going ahead with the pregnancy,’ I told the doctor. ‘I have to give this baby a chance.’
Doctors stopped my chemo and week by week, as my bump grew, they looked out for any signs of my cancer returning.
Luckily, the only thing that came along was my son Logan.
‘You’re my second little miracle,’ I smiled, as he was handed to me.
After a few weeks of breastfeeding, doctors restarted my chemotherapy and, eight months later… I got the all-clear!
Since then, I’ve had four lots of pre-cancerous cells removed from my cervix. But each time doctors have caught them in time.
Then, three months ago, I had a smear test and for the first time ever the results came back normal!
There’s been more good news in my life, too – I’m now married to a wonderful man called Nick, an old boyfriend of mine.
Today, life’s great. Ten years ago, I told Mum I’d beat cancer and I’m determined to keep that promise.
Janine Hunter, 26, Lowestoft, Suffolk