A born fighter
When Lisa Smith, 42, from Penrith, Cumbria, gave birth, she was horrified to see a melon-sized growth on her baby’s face…
Nervously pacing back and forth in my bathroom, I glanced at the plastic stick which was balanced on the side of the sink.
‘One more minute to wait,’ I sighed, checking my watch.
My husband Antony, 40, and I had been trying for a baby for the last couple of years, but after suffering the heartbreak of a miscarriage, I was anxious.
Then, when two feint little blue lines appeared on the pregnancy test, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
After letting the news sink in for a few seconds, I ran to my bedroom and grabbed my phone – shaking as I dialled Anthony’s number.
After a few rings, he picked up.
‘I’m pregnant,’ I whispered. The line went silent. I waited for Antony to speak, but I already knew what he was thinking.
We had been looking forward to starting a family for so long, but neither one of us wanted to get our hopes up.
‘That’s great news!’ he finally cheered.
To be absolutely sure it was positive, we decided to go to the GP to confirm my pregnancy.
It didn’t take long for the doctor to give us the big ‘yes’ we were destined for.
‘It’s really happening this time,’ I beamed at Antony. We couldn’t have been happier. As the months passed, everything seemed to be going well.
I was experiencing all the normal pregnancy symptoms – morning sickness, swollen feet and ankles, and cravings for my favourite pepperoni pizza.
Each ultra-scan we went to showed that our baby was healthy and growing as it should be.
Antony and I were also slowly starting to embrace the reality that we would soon be parents, something we were always too scared to do before.
We dashed out to buy babygrows, a cot and a pram.
Coming up to my 34 week scan, Antony and I went to our routine doctor’s appointment at Carlisle Hospital in Cumbria.
As I lay back on the hospital bed, I clutched Antony’s hand.
I could no longer contain myself as I began wiggling my toes with anticipation to see how the little one in my bump was doing.
As we waited for our doctor to give us the thumps up, I suddenly felt a cold shiver go down my spine.
‘Is everything OK with the baby?’ I asked, concerned.
‘I’ll be back in a tick,’ the doctor said to us, as he abruptly shot towards the door.
The next couple of minutes felt like a lifetime.
‘Something’s wrong,’ I whispered to Antony.
When the doctor returned, the look on his face said it all, something was definitely wrong.
I turned to Antony and he reassuringly stroked my back.
We both tried to brace ourselves for the worst.
‘I’m sorry to tell you, your baby has a 7cm tumour on their neck,’ the doctor said.
Shaking my head, I refused to believe it was true.
We were so close to finally having our own child, how could our baby possibly be taken away from us so soon?
The doctor also confirmed we were having a little girl, but the news was bittersweet.
We didn’t know whether she would survive or not.
We were then advised that it would be best for me to be induced earlier than planned and to have a C-section at 37 weeks.
The only thing I could do for now was go home and rest.
Trying to sleep that night was very uncomfortable.
Tossing and turning, my whole
body felt sore and achy and I felt horrible knowing that my poor baby was in pain.
‘I’m just going out for some air,’ I whispered to Antony as he rolled over in his groggy state.
Walking slowly to the bathroom, my bump felt heavier than usual.
But, just as I was about to go to the toilet, my waters broke.
‘Antony!’ I yelled in a panic.
It seemed like I had gained a lot of water retention.
My ankles were larger than normal and there was suddenly a lot of water spilling out of me.
‘This wasn’t meant to happen. This wasn’t the plan,’ I panicked, bursting into tears.
Jumping out of bed with a start, Antony quickly grabbed our things and drove us to the hospital, 30 minutes away.
Both lost for words, neither one
of us spoke in the car on the way there. Rushing into reception, the doctors looked just as
shocked as we were. It was obvious they hadn’t prepared for this, either.
I wasn’t supposed to be giving birth – not for a few more weeks.
‘Don’t worry, I’m right here with you,’ Antony soothed.
The next few hours became a bit hazy for me.
I was taken straight into theatre and put under a lot of anaesthetic.
The doctors had cut my stomach open to deliver my baby.
When I came to, I didn’t see Antony or our little girl.
I thought I had lost them both.
Antony later explained to me that he was unable to come into the theatre room with me whilst they operated on me for an hour.
‘But where is our baby?’ I asked him, worried.
The doctors had taken our little girl – who we decided to name Jenna – away to try and remove her grapefruit-sized tumour attached to her neck. I was eventually able to see her a couple of days later – but it was 16 weeks until I was able to hold her and cuddle her. It was torture. Baby Jenna was kept in hospital for two weeks.
On the second week, she was given a biopsy.
Our daughter looked so beautiful to us and her tumour didn’t phase us at all – although, of course, we wanted it gone so that she could be comfortable. Four months later, in July 2017, Jenna was finally undergoing surgery to remove the huge tumour from her little neck. Unsure of how it would go, Antony and I prepared ourselves to say goodbye.
We kissed her as she was wheeled away, and then I burst into tears, with Antony’s arms wrapped around me.
Pacing the corridor, it felt like we were waiting for an eternity.
An hour and a half later, the doctor finally came to our side in the waiting room.
‘The moment we started removing the tumour, the cancer died off instantly,’ the doctor told us.
Relieved and amazed by the news, Antony and I were finally able to hold our little fighter. It was such a special moment as I picked up my tiny baby. It was a moment I’d been dreaming of for so long. ‘We did it,’ I smiled at Antony, as I held our Jenna in my arms. During treatment, Jenna was also given a tracheostomy. This meant that a hole was surgically made through the front of her neck for a tube to be inserted to help her breathe. It meant Jenna would need fulltime care, so I made the decision to quit my job of 16 years and be a stay-at-home mum. As sad as it was to leave my job, it also felt right. Jenna needed me, and I was more than happy to stay at home and be there for her – be her mum. We had to make sure that Jenna was not around a lot of water, for fear that it could enter her lungs. We had to keep a close eye on her all the time. We soon decided it was best for our baby girl to also undergo chemotherapy for six months, to make sure the cancer would not come back for good. Jenna is now a year old and has come on leaps and bounds. To think that she went through so much from the moment she was born, she’s always been our little fighter, and we could not be more proud of her.
Our girl was born with cancer
We were so blessed to finally have a baby