Couple celebrate daughter’s ‘miracle’ birth after both parents had cancer during pregnancy
A couple celebrate the miraculous birth of a healthy baby girl despite mom and dad undergoing chemotherapy for cancer while pregnant.
James and Bethany Jefferson-Loveday, from Evesham in Worcestershire, were devastated after they were each diagnosed with lymphoma just months apart.
James, 33, was told in December last year he had Hodgkin’s lymphoma – a cancer that develops in vessels and glands throughout the body.
The diagnosis prompted the couple to attempt to have a baby before beginning treatment for James, knowing that conception may be more difficult following chemotherapy.
James and Bethany Jefferson-Loveday, from Evesham in Worcestershire, are celebrating the birth of a healthy baby girl, despite both undergoing chemotherapy during pregnancy
The couple were “over the moon” when 30-year-old Bethany found out she was pregnant in January the following month.
But their joy turned to further despair when Bethany was diagnosed with high-grade non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at 21 weeks pregnant.
Doctors said the likelihood of developing this type of cancer during pregnancy was “extraordinarily rare,” and Bethany underwent chemotherapy because she would not have survived without it.
She also received the devastating news that her baby was unlikely to survive the pregnancy – while her husband was also under treatment.
The consulting hematologist Dr. Salim Shafeek (pictured with baby Heidi) said: “The combination of pregnancy and high-grade non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is exceptionally rare.”
However, against all odds, their daughter Heidi was delivered safely via caesarean section at Worcestershire Royal Hospital after Samantha finished her chemotherapy.
Both James and Bethany are now in remission, no longer requiring treatment and looking forward to their first Christmas together as a family.
Bethany said: “James and I both agree that Heidi’s birthday was the best day of our lives. It’s the happiest thing I’ve ever felt.’
Bethany’s symptoms began in her first trimester while her husband was still undergoing chemotherapy for his lymphoma.
After weeks of progressing minor symptoms, Bethany contacted her GP, but at that point it was assumed her symptoms were pregnancy-related.
Bethany said: “There was a lot of pressure building up in my head and I had the worst headache I’ve ever experienced.
“I became breathless, unable to do my usual activities and a hard bump appeared on my collarbone.
“Even so, I denied anything was wrong. I assumed my symptoms were pregnancy related and that the lump must have been a cyst.
Bethany, 30, and James, 33, (pictured while undergoing chemotherapy) were each diagnosed with lymphoma just months apart
“Eventually my mother persuaded me to go to the ER and I was then referred for an MRI, CT and biopsy.
“I will never forget the moment I received my diagnosis.
“I remember wondering how that was possible given that my husband was being treated for Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the time.”
Bethany then had what she calls “the most difficult conversation of my life” with a consultant obstetrician at the hospital about options for her pregnancy.
She added: “My obstetrician had to explain to me all the possible options for the pregnancy, including termination of the pregnancy.
“I walked out of the appointment feeling like 80 percent of my options were negative and that I had just a tiny glimmer of hope that the pregnancy would have a successful outcome.”
Because both husband and wife require chemotherapy so close together, the couple said they shared a unique understanding of the experience of their treatment.
Bethany said: “I was absolutely devastated at the thought of having chemotherapy and losing my hair, but James was such a support to me, he completely understood what I was going through.
“He shaved my head when my hair started falling out, just like I did for him earlier in the year.
“The nurses were so nice and we talked a lot while they were administering my chemo, which distracted me.
What is non-Hodgkin lymphoma?
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a type of cancer that starts in your lymphatic system, which is part of your body’s germ-fighting immune system.
In non-Hodgkin lymphoma, white blood cells called lymphocytes grow abnormally and can form growths (tumors) anywhere in the body.
Both Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma are lymphomas — a type of cancer that starts in a subset of white blood cells called lymphocytes.
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, or groin
- abdominal pain or swelling
- Chest pain, coughing or difficulty breathing
- Persistent fatigue
- night sweats
- Unexplained weight loss
Source: Mayo Clinic
“After each chemotherapy session, I felt a sense of joy that I had had another one and was closer to having my baby.”
The consulting hematologist Dr. Salim Shafeek, who treated both James and Bethany this year, said: “The combination of pregnancy and high-grade non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is exceptionally rare.
“Bethany is the first case of this nature that I have treated in my 25 years as a consulting hematologist.”
Despite everything both parents had to endure during pregnancy, Heidi was born completely healthy and without any side effects.
Bethany said, “Dr. Shafeek and his team are an excellent group of doctors, nurses and staff. The standard of care they provide is amazing.
“The staff at Worcestershire Royal Hospital’s Laurel 3 Ward treated me like a member of their own family.
‘You are so kind and nothing is too much trouble, I felt in extremely safe hands during my treatment under your care.
“I have to commend the collaboration between the different departments at Worcestershire Royal Hospital.
“During the day I had a new consultant from another department who reassured me about their aspect of my treatment plan.
“All kinds of scenarios were worked out to ensure there was a plan in place to manage any risks should they arise.
“I had weekly midwifery visits at home by the local midwifery team and every time I had my chemotherapy midwives would visit me to listen to the baby which was so comforting and invaluable to me at the time.
“Even after giving birth to Heidi, I was unable to breastfeed due to chemotherapy, but my midwife provided donor milk at my request, which was greatly appreciated.
“It’s hard to put into words how grateful we are as a family for everything they’ve done for us.”
During her illness, Dr. Shafeek devised a plan to treat Bethany with an intensive course of six cycles of chemotherapy.
She was admitted to the hematology department at Worcestershire Royal Hospital each time to allow her to recover and allow staff to monitor her baby.
dr Shafeek added: “For this type of lymphoma, we would normally give a stronger form of chemotherapy at this stage, but this was not possible due to her pregnancy.
“We couldn’t delay the chemotherapy until the baby was born as Bethany would not have survived, so we had to have all the chemotherapy done before the 35th week of pregnancy to give her a chance to recover before the birth.
“But thanks to the great team working together in different departments of the hospital, we were able to give her all the chemotherapy she needed without delay.”
Bethany added, “Dr. Shafeek described Heidi as a miracle and looking back over the past year he is absolutely right.”
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