REAL LIFE

Jaide Ward, a can­cer sur­vivor, was told she would never have kids. Then, a mir­a­cle hap­pened... in fact, three!

Friday - - Editor’s Letter -

R Run­ning my fingers through my hair, I gig­gled as I saw it come away in clumps. But tears filled my mum’s eyes, and she ran out of the ward.

At four years old, I didn’t re­alise my hair was fall­ing out be­cause of the chemo I’d had af­ter I’d been di­ag­nosed with neu­rob­las­toma when doc­tors dis­cov­ered a tu­mour in my pelvis, wrapped around my spine.

I was too young to un­der­stand any­thing. I spent nine months in Alder Hey Hospi­tal, Liver­pool, en­dur­ing 276 hours of chemo­ther­apy.

I didn’t know it at the time, but when Mum was told the di­ag­no­sis, her first ques­tion was: ‘Does it mean Jaide will never be able to have chil­dren?’

My doc­tor, Dr Pizer, told Mum that the tu­mour’s lo­ca­tion in my pelvis, cou­pled with the tox­i­c­ity of the chemo, could leave me in­fer­tile. But if I didn’t have chemo, I’d die.

Af­ter the sec­ond round of chemo – still just four years old – an MRI re­vealed the tu­mour was not shrink­ing. The only op­tion now was a type of chemo­ther­apy still on trial. Mum agreed it was my only hope.

The chemo was so toxic that when it made me sick, Mum had to wear gloves when she cleaned up af­ter me, so my vomit didn’t burn her hands.

I was so poorly, Mum even started plan­ning my fu­neral, think­ing they’d play Rob­bie Wil­liam’s An­gels at the ser­vice.

I had a nine-hour op­er­a­tion to try to re­move the tu­mour, leav­ing me with a scar across my tummy. The tu­mour was the size of a large or­ange. Un­for­tu­nately, the sur­geons were un­able to re­move it be­cause it was so deeply con­nected to the tis­sue sur­round­ing it.

Chemo­ther­apy con­tin­ued. When­ever I felt well enough, Mum and I would paint pic­tures from my hospi­tal bed. What made me hap­pi­est was play­ing with dolls. When I

could leave hospi­tal, I in­sisted on push­ing around a pram full of dolls. I was too young to no­tice the tears in Mum’s eyes, think­ing how sad it was that I’d never have kids.

Af­ter a year, when I was five, the tu­mour was de­clared be­nign and chemo was of­fi­cially over. I still had to visit the Clat­ter­bridge Can­cer unit, about an hour from our home, ev­ery six months, be­cause I was at risk of sec­ondary can­cers de­vel­op­ing. I was so sus­cep­ti­ble to bugs that I couldn’t risk go­ing to school in case I picked up even a com­mon cold. I was home-schooled un­til I was seven, when it was deemed safe for me to re­turn.

My lit­tle brother Cal­lum, two years younger, kept me com­pany.

The scans, nurses, ap­point­ments and other pa­tients were a part of my ev­ery­day life. I’d never known any­thing dif­fer­ent. I was the girl who had beaten can­cer and would need reg­u­lar checks for life.

Mum had been hon­est with me about my in­fer­til­ity from day one. She loved hav­ing kids. She said we were the mak­ing of her. So to think I wouldn’t be able to have that ex­pe­ri­ence my­self broke her heart.

‘There are other op­tions,’ Mum used to say. ‘You could adopt. Or I’ll do­nate my own eggs. If you want chil­dren, we’ll find a way.’

But we al­ways said that though I may have been in­fer­tile, I was alive – in­fer­til­ity was a small price to pay for my life. I grew up kid­ding my­self that it was fine, I didn’t want chil­dren any­way.

That was un­til I fell in love with Scott Ward, 24, when I was 19. We’d met through friends and as an elec­tri­cian, Scott had come to my house to fix my shower. Corny as it may sound, I knew there and then I wanted to spend my life with him. He was tall and slim, with dark hair and stub­ble. He was quiet, but as we got to know each other, he was so af­fec­tion­ate. He made me feel very loved.

Just a week later Scott told me he loved me. He had a big fam­ily and as I watched how nat­u­ral he was around his nieces and neph­ews, I knew he’d make a great dad.

I had to tell Scott that I might be in­fer­tile – it wasn’t fair for him to fall in love with me with­out know­ing what the fu­ture would hold for us.

A few weeks in, Scott ques­tioned me about my scar. It seemed like the right time to tell him every­thing.

‘I don’t think I’ll ever be able to have kids,’ I said.

‘We don’t need to have kids,’ he replied, hug­ging me close. But I knew how much he wanted them.

I wanted them too, so I booked an ap­point­ment with my GP and re­quested a check-up. She asked me to do a blood test that checked my ovu­la­tion.

Once the re­sults were ready, she called me into the room. ‘You don’t ovu­late prop­erly, I’m afraid it’s in­cred­i­bly un­likely you’ll ever have kids,’ she said. ‘Due to the chemo­ther­apy you’ve en­dured, there’s a strong chance you’ll go through menopause by the time you’re 24.’

Although it was not a shock to know about my in­fer­til­ity, only when the doc­tor sat me down and said that I might never have chil­dren did I un­der­stand the mag­ni­tude of what had been taken away from me.

Des­per­ate, I bought 90 ovu­la­tion kits and ev­ery day for three months, I checked at home, test­ing my ovu­la­tion my­self. But ev­ery day, the same re­sult. I wasn’t ovu­lat­ing. I had pe­ri­ods, but they were known as ‘blank’ pe­ri­ods.

Scott tried to con­vince me it was OK. ‘Think of the hol­i­days we can go on! Think how tidy our house will be,’ he said, cheer­ing me up.

But I didn’t want a tidy house. I wanted a house full of chil­dren. I wanted to trip up on Lego, I wanted to get the muddy stains out from the knees of my kids’ dun­ga­rees.

To cheer me up, Scott took me to a ho­tel for one night and we went out to din­ner. When we re­turned to our room, his sis­ter had dec­o­rated it with can­dles and flow­ers. Scott bent down on one knee and pro­posed. Tears filled my eyes – he re­ally did want to be with me for­ever, even though he knew we couldn’t be par­ents.

We de­cided to have a big wed­ding in San­torini, Greece, in the sum­mer of 2015. Then one night, we were watch­ing the rom-com What To Ex­pect When

You’re Ex­pect­ing, when I sud­denly felt in­cred­i­bly nau­seous.

Even though I never thought I could be preg­nant, I did a test. Im­me­di­ately, two lines ap­peared. Pos­i­tive!

I couldn’t be­lieve it. I con­tin­ued test­ing for 15 days, and all were pos­i­tive. Scott and I sat to­gether in be­wil­dered

‘You don’t OVU­LATE prop­erly, I’m afraid it’s in­cred­i­bly un­likely you’ll ever have kids,’ the doc­tor said. ‘Due to the CHEMO­THER­APY, there’s a strong chance you’ll go through MENOPAUSE by the time you’re 24’

si­lence. We couldn’t be­lieve it. We were hav­ing a baby!

It was so won­der­ful to tell Mum. She was over the moon. ‘I’m so happy, I just can’t be­lieve it,’ she said, through tears.

Then at five weeks, I be­gan to bleed. Scott was away at work but I sum­moned an am­bu­lance, which rushed me to the hospi­tal, where the doc­tor ran some tests, did a check-up and told me it was noth­ing to worry. He also had a sur­prise for me.

‘It’s twins,’ he said. ‘But don’t get ex­cited, it’s very early days. Any­thing can hap­pen.’

Still, I rang Scott with the good news. ‘We’re not hav­ing one baby. We’re hav­ing two!’ I said, as Scott cheered.

We set a new date for our wed­ding, Au­gust 2014, at the Hol­i­day Inn in Hay­dock. We had just five weeks to plan every­thing.

I didn’t have time to buy a tiara, bor­row­ing one off Mum. Nearly every­thing was bor­rowed. But all that mat­tered to us was that we were of­fi­cially a fam­ily when the twins ar­rived.

I found my dress in a fac­tory out­let. With an A-line shape and a bow above my baby bump, I matched it with a blue-and-white flo­ral bou­quet.

My tummy was huge as I tried on my dress two weeks be­fore the wed­ding.

‘I can­not fit into this!’ I laughed, won­der­ing why I was so big at just un­der 12 weeks preg­nant. Then I re­mem­bered – I was hav­ing twins.

I had to go for an ex­tra scan be­cause I’d bled and again, be­cause Scott was at work Mum came along with me.

‘How many ba­bies do you think you’re hav­ing?’ the sono­g­ra­pher asked.

‘Two?’ I said ten­ta­tively, won­der­ing why he was ask­ing.

‘Well, we’ve found an ex­tra one,’ he said. ‘It’s triplets!’

I was speech­less. Mum’s eyes lit up in de­light. She knew more than any­one what I’d been through. I was car­ry­ing three lit­tle mir­a­cles.

I called Scott. ‘You’re not go­ing to be­lieve this,’ I said. ‘It’s triplets!’

Scott cried with joy. ‘No more scans!’ he joked. ‘It’ll be quads next time you go in!’

Our wed­ding day took on a whole new sparkle as friends and fam­ily con­grat­u­lated us on our news. Then a spe­cial guest ar­rived – Dr Pizer. Mum had in­vited him as a sur­prise to me. He had cared for me through my can­cer bat­tle and was our guest of hon­our. He was so happy to hear that I, his first-ever pa­tient, was car­ry­ing triplets.

I grew big, fast. Nurses at the can­cer cen­tre said they’d never heard of any­thing like it be­fore. They mon­i­tored me closely through­out the preg­nancy to make sure I was OK.

At 22 weeks, a scan re­vealed that of the two ba­bies shar­ing a pla­centa, one was suf­fer­ing from growth re­stric­tion. I was warned the smaller baby might not make it.

It was tor­ture. We didn’t dare buy three of any­thing or dec­o­rate their nurs­ery, be­cause we just didn’t know what would hap­pen.

At 31 weeks and six days, I had an elec­tive C-sec­tion on Jan­uary 2 last year, and had my three mir­a­cles – girls – Scar­lett, Caitlin and Francesca.

Scar­lett and Caitlin are iden­ti­cal, ex­cept they’re not, be­cause Scar­lett is so tiny. Francesca is non-iden­ti­cal. Francesca looked like me, with a lit­tle nose and round face, whereas Scar­lett, with her stick-out ears, was the spit­ting im­age of Scott.

The girls spent sev­eral weeks in in­ten­sive care, feed­ing and gain­ing strength.

With nurses help­ing us feed them, it didn’t sink in that they were ours. We didn’t get to hold them for a month and at night, we’d go home, eat a quiet din­ner to­gether and watch TV un­til we were al­lowed back in the ward in the morn­ing. It felt like we were go­ing to visit some­one else’s ba­bies. That was, un­til Caitlin and Francesca came back to our Wi­gan home on Fe­bru­ary 9 and Scar­lett came home eight days later.

In their Win­nie-the-Pooh bed­room, in three lit­tle cots, lay our three lit­tle ba­bies. No sooner had I fed one, than an­other would need feed­ing, and it hit me. We did it! We had ba­bies – we were Mum and Dad.

We soon bought three of every­thing we needed. We could tell them apart but our fam­ily strug­gled, so we’d paint Francesca’s toe­nails blue, Caitlin’s pink, and noth­ing for Scar­lett, as she was so much smaller than the other two that it was easy to iden­tify her.

Scar­lett is cheeky. She pulls funny faces and we know she’ll be the mis­chievous one when she’s older. Caitlin is a diva, she throws huge tantrums when she doesn’t get her own way. Francesca is grumpy. We have to work hard to get a smile out of her.

Can­cer left me with a low im­mune sys­tem. Over the years I’ve been back in hospi­tal nu­mer­ous times, bat­tling meningitis and var­i­ous other ill­nesses. But since the triplets were born, I’ve never been in bet­ter health. It’s like they saved me from my past.

The tu­mour re­mains on my spine but is, for now, not can­cer­ous. I have no guar­an­tee that it’ll stay like that, so I savour ev­ery mo­ment of my very lucky life. Jaide Ward, 22, lives with her fam­ily in Abram, Wi­gan.

At 22 weeks, a scan re­vealed one of the THREE ba­bies was suf­fer­ing from growth RE­STRIC­TION. I was warned the smaller baby might not make it. It was TOR­TURE. We didn’t dare buy three of any­thing

When Scott told me he loved me, I had to let him know the fu­ture for us meant no kids. I had no idea that the fu­ture in fact meant triplets!

Me with my younger brother Cal­lum. Can­cer might have taken away all of my hair at the age of four, but not my smile

I never thought I’d see the day where I’d be­come Mum, so my gor­geous girls Scar­lett, Caitlin and Francesca are so pre­cious

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