Posted on Tuesday 16 November 2021

Poppy’s Story: “I thought I was failing at being pregnant”

What should have been an exciting and happy time for Poppy, who was due to give birth any day, turned into one of terror as she was diagnosed with cancer just two days before giving birth to her daughter.

“Not long after I found out I was pregnant I started getting nose bleeds and headaches. I kept going to doctors and they kept telling me it was because I was pregnant. I was coughing up blood clots but apparently it was normal pregnancy symptoms – I thought I was failing at being pregnant, it baffled me that people went on to have more kids. I didn’t put much weight on, didn’t have a bump, lost my appetite, I would just get up go to work, come home and sleep, get up go to work, come home and sleep.”

Shortly after, Poppy found a lump in her nose. After many trips to the doctors and A&E, Poppy was still told that it was unlikely that it was cancer. However, she was becoming more and more unwell, and weeks later, her concerned mum took her to A&E again.

“I was septic, I had sinusitis where the tumour was growing in my face. They gave me oral-morph, so I thought I must have been bad as they gave me morphine while I was pregnant.”

Poppy was then taken in to hospital where she quickly deteriorated over the coming weeks.

“When I was first in hospital they would come in each day and say ‘haven’t got the results, keep hope’, building me up to think it wasn’t anything serious – I held on to that. I was so naïve to cancer that when they told me, all I asked was would I lose my hair?”

On 24th April 2019, 30 weeks pregnant, Poppy was finally diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma and her daughter, Arabella, was delivered six weeks early by caesarean just two days later, at just 4 lbs and 4 ounces, so that Poppy could go in for emergency surgery to remove the tumour.

Poppy post surgery

Poppy post surgery to remove part of her tumour

A month later, Poppy began her chemotherapy treatment. She should have been at home enjoying her newborn baby, but instead she was spending the majority of her time in hospital.

“It was difficult, I could see other people raising their babies how they wanted and there was me in hospital, away from her most of the time. But, she is the reason I kept going.”

After her first nine cycles of chemotherapy, Poppy was transferred to Manchester for proton beam therapy, where her mum, partner, and baby daughter all moved for eight weeks.

“I had 31 rounds of radiotherapy. I spend more than half the time in hospital there having radiotherapy and chemo. I was so poorly, I was in pain and I couldn’t eat because the cancer was in my jawbone. They tried to give me a nose tube but that wasn’t practical with Arabella so only lasted three days.”

Eventually, the family were able to come back home at the beginning of December. However, it was far from a normal first Christmas together as a family, as Poppy spent most of the holidays in hospital, not finishing her treatment until February 2020.

During this difficult time for Poppy, her and her partner both had to stop working, which meant financial stress on top of everything else they were facing as a family. Their Young Lives vs Cancer social worker, Liz, helped to ease the financial worries by pointing Poppy and her partner in the direction of different grants that were available to them.

“Thank god we had Liz, our social worker. Me and my partner had never been on benefits and it was hard with all the forms. It’s so hard to apply when you’re poorly and you really need it. I wouldn’t have got through it. She would give us Tesco vouchers and just little things to make our lives a lot easier. We got vouchers to do up our flat as well when we moved in, she was just generally really lovely and would put us in touch with people who could help us.”

Poppy’s first year as a mother was far from normal. She faced the toughest year of her life whilst also trying to navigate being a new mother and bonding with her newborn baby.

“It was all taken away from me, I wasn’t given a choice. They would let her and my partner stay with me if I had a side room but sometimes I just didn’t have the energy. There would be days when I couldn’t even lift her.”

Shortly after her treatment ended, Poppy went into isolation due to the coronavirus and she says that this gave her some quality time to be at home and bond with her daughter.

“The whole of last year I didn’t want to leave the house, now I’m up and about and I’ve missed so much with Bella. It upsets me she’s missed out but thank god I had treatment when I did and wasn’t diagnosed this year.

“I feel like me more every day. I’m taking this time as healing time. Some days I wake up and all I want to do is lie in bed and shut out the world but I can’t as I have a two year old and a dog who are keeping me busy!”

Poppy is now 20 months post treatment and thankfully is back to doing normal things with her daughter, Bella, now 2 and a half who enjoys ballet and swimming.

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