Can­cer… … on her 1st birth­day

It was her beau­ti­ful babby’s first birth­day. But the bumps were about to ruin it for Chloe

Real People - - NEWS - Chloe Arme, 24, Derby

Squeals of de­light roared from the mass of mul­ti­coloured balls.

‘Tickle at­tack!’ I laughed, rum­mag­ing in among them to find a chubby leg. Then an­other.

I plucked out my tod­dler, Dyl­lan, fol­lowed by his lit­tle sis­ter, Emmi.

Wrap­ping them in my arms, I tick­led their wrig­gling bod­ies to peals of gig­gles.

My fi­ancé, Lee, laughed along with the kids.

Well, it was a special day. 1 October 2015 was lit­tle Emmi’s first birth­day.

And look­ing at my beau­ti­ful fam­ily – Emmi just learn­ing to walk and Dyl­lan, two, such a proud big brother – I could’ve pinched my­self. To think they’d all said it would never work!

I’d been 18 when I met Lee Wood, 20, through friends.

We’d been to­gether just 10 months when I’d un­ex­pect­edly fallen preg­nant. We were shocked, but de­ter­mined to make the best of it.

On Christ­mas Day that year, Lee had got down on one knee.

Then we’d moved into our own place, a month be­fore baby Dyl­lan had ar­rived in May 2013.

I stayed home, fin­ger-paint­ing and singing nurs­ery rhymes, while

Lee went out to work.

Just 17 months later, Emmi, our sec­ond sur­prise, com­pleted our fam­ily, and Lee got a bet­ter-paid job with the Wa­ter Board.

So now we were splash­ing out on

Emmi’s big day, just be­cause we could.

That morn­ing, I’d scooped her out of her cot and whis­pered, ‘Happy birth­day, princess.’

All morn­ing, Lee had snapped pic­tures while Emmi opened her moun­tain of gifts, laughing as the wrap­ping pa­per scrunched in her hands.

The baby doll, toy horse, bag, hair­brush set, teddy bears, clothes and beaded bracelet we’d bought her sat un­touched!

She’d been much more in­ter­ested in an af­ter­noon at Freddy’s Play King­dom, this soft-play cen­tre nearby.

Now, I hopped out of the ball pool and winced. That lump again!

A golf ball-sized bump on my left knee had been hurt­ing for months, ever since I’d slipped on the stairs. I’d been for an X-ray, MRI and CT scan, but it seemed doc­tors couldn’t get to the bot­tom of it. ‘Would you mind tak­ing over?’ I asked Lee after lunch.

For the rest of the af­ter­noon, he played with the kids while I rested my knee.

Around din­ner­time, we headed home. Open­ing the front door, with Emmi in my arms, I heard a let­ter scrunch un­der my foot.

Hand­ing Emmi to her dad, I took it to the kitchen.

My eyes scanned the type­script: Ap­point­ment... con­sul­tant... Royal Or­thopaedic

Hospi­tal, Birm­ing­ham. Then they

snagged on a word… ‘What does “onc… on­col­ogy” mean?’ I called to Lee, who was in the other room with the kids. ‘Dunno,’ he shouted back. Pulling out my phone, I typed the word into Google. The re­sults turned my blood to ice. No. Please, no.

With shak­ing hands, I phoned the num­ber on the let­ter.

‘Can you help?’ I whis­pered. ‘I’ve got this ap­point­ment and I think… I think I have can­cer.’

‘I’m afraid the clinic is closed. You’ll have to call back to­mor­row,’ the woman ex­plained.

It was al­ready past 5pm. Stuff­ing the let­ter into the drawer, I pasted on a smile as I walked into the liv­ing room.

‘How’s my birth­day girl, then?’ I breezed, sit­ting down to play with Emmi’s dol­lies.

Lee looked at me. He wasn’t fooled for a sec­ond.

‘On­col­ogy. It means can­cer,’ I ad­mit­ted to him un­der my breath.

The chil­dren were too young to un­der­stand, but Lee wrapped his arms around me.

Just like he had years be­fore, he promised me it’d all be OK.

‘They’ll be look­ing at ev­ery pos­si­bil­ity,’ he said.

But, after putting the chil­dren to bed, I sat up, sob­bing. Was I dy­ing? Would I ever see Emmi have an­other birth­day?

At 9am on the dot the next morn­ing, I called the hospi­tal.

They put me straight through to some­one from the Teenage Can­cer Trust.

‘Are you sure you want to hear this over the phone?’ the woman asked.

‘Yes,’ I in­sisted. My ap­point­ment wasn’t for an­other two weeks. I couldn’t wait that long for in­for­ma­tion.

She ex­plained that I had bone

“On­col­ogy. What does that mean?” I asked

can­cer. Parosteal os­teosar­coma. ‘Will I die?’ I asked. ‘You’ll need more tests to in­ves­ti­gate the sever­ity of the can­cer,’ she said. ‘But it’s likely very cur­able.’

Next day, Lee’s fam­ily came over for Emmi’s birth­day party, and I put on a brave face.

‘It’s not a bad type of can­cer,’ I par­roted. ‘Very cur­able, ap­par­ently.’

Two weeks later, a biopsy con­firmed the can­cer was di­ag­nosed as low-grade.

‘I don’t even need chemo,’ I smiled to Lee.

Just a quick op.

In De­cem­ber, I was ad­mit­ted to hospi­tal to have part of the bone in my leg re­moved.

‘Mummy will be home in just a few days,’ I promised the kids, squeez­ing them tight. But days rolled into weeks.

Tests showed the can­cer wasn’t low-grade after all.

After spend­ing Christ­mas away from the kids, I was trans­ferred to Not­ting­ham City Hospi­tal on 8 Jan­uary to start chemo­ther­apy.

The four dif­fer­ent drugs I was put on rav­aged me. One made my face swell up. An­other gave me con­stant flu.

My long brown hair fell out in chunks, un­til I pleaded with a nurse to just shave it off.

After hav­ing the kids, I’d be­come a hefty 18st at 5ft 5in. Now, my mouth was so full of ul­cers that I could only eat tiny pots of cus­tard.

In less than two months, I lost more than 8st. Bones jut­ted from my pale flesh.

Icy cold gripped me, mak­ing me shiver all the time.

Lee brought the kids in most days to see me.

Emmi was obliv­i­ous to what was go­ing on, but Dyl­lan looked ter­ri­fied at see­ing his mummy chang­ing so much.

‘He’s been throw­ing up a lot,’ Lee told me.

‘Take him to the doc­tor,’ I in­sisted.

The GP di­ag­nosed stressin­duced re­flux.

My poor two-year-old was so wor­ried about me that he was be­ing phys­i­cally sick.

Some days, I’d lie in my hospi­tal bed and just want to give up. But then I’d think of the kids.

Emmi, our so­cial but­ter­fly, happy to chat to any­one she met; Dyl­lan, my re­served lit­tle soul, mad about cars and al­ways keep­ing an eye on his lit­tle sis­ter.

What would they do with­out me? I had to fight. I had no choice.

In Au­gust 2016, I was fi­nally al­lowed home. Be­ing on chemo, though, meant I couldn’t start physio to build up strength in my leg.

In­stead, my limb sat in a cage of pins. Use­less.

When Lee lost his job for tak­ing time off to watch the kids, we had to dip into our £2,000 wed­ding fund to get by.

Still, I in­sisted on tak­ing the chil­dren out ev­ery day. Lee wheeled me around, with Emmi perched on my lap and Dyl­lan hold­ing my hand.

We didn’t have the cash for big day trips, but just get­ting the sun on my face told me I was alive.

Last October, we had a tea party when Emmi turned two.

‘I wish this day didn’t re­mind me of can­cer,’ I whis­pered to Lee.

‘Let it re­mind you of all you’ve got to live for,’ he replied.

Last De­cem­ber, I was fi­nally given the all-clear. My can­cer was gone.

My leg was still use­less, though. Where it hadn’t been ex­er­cised after the op, I’d lost all feel­ing in it.

This April, I had it am­pu­tated above the knee.

I still need a lot of help get­ting about, and the can­cer treat­ment has left me need­ing hear­ing aids and glasses, as it has weak­ened my sight and vi­sion – but the im­por­tant thing is I’m alive.

Me and Lee are get­ting mar­ried this October, just days after Emmi’s third birth­day.

Dyl­lan will be page boy and Emmi our flower girl.

I’m go­ing to walk down the aisle on a pros­thetic, with my dad and my brother on ei­ther side.

My baby’s first birth­day went from one of the best days of my life to the worst.

Fi­nally, we’ve got some­thing to cel­e­brate again!

Me and Emmi be­fore dis­as­ter hit our fam­ily

That lump on my leg was a tu­mour on the bone As told to Kelly Strange & Miyo Padi (sto­ries@re­alpeo­plemag.co.uk)

From hap­pi­ness to tears – two very dif­fer­ent birth­days

I may have lost a leg but I still have Lee and the kids

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