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A young Queensland mum battling an incurable cancer is creating “happy memories” and a travel bucket list with her miracle baby, visiting every Australian state and territory before her daughter turns one.
Jimboomba’s Sarah Shaddick, 28, was six months pregnant with baby Halle when she received the shocking news an aggressive and incurable cancer had spread throughout her body.
The cancer, Leiomyosarcoma, is a rare type of cancer that begins in smooth muscle tissue, which is found in many areas of the body, including the digestive system, urinary system, uterus and blood vessels.
“I’m trying to go to every state and territory with Halle before her first birthday. We’ve just got NSW, Victoria and the ACT left,” Ms Shaddick said.
“The cancerous growths have spread everywhere including my back, neck and legs.
“I had a 1.4kg mass, measuring 15cm by 20 cm growing on my stomach between my ribs.
“The mass was growing so quickly - I had my left kidney removed because of the cancer spreading and now have a scar from the left side of my body to the right side.”
Determined to fulfil her dream of becoming a mum with partner Luke Hill, Ms Shaddick was first diagnosed with the cancer at the age of 25, but beat the disease and was determined to become a mum.
She “never gave up hope” of having a baby and was guided by a large team of specialist medical professionals at Mater Mothers’ Hospital Brisbane and Mater’s Maternal Fetal Medicine Unit throughout her pregnancy with Halle, who is now eight months old.
It was in November last year at six months into her pregnancy, that Ms Shaddick became unwell and was told by doctors her cancer had returned and was no longer treatable.
After undergoing multiple rounds of intense chemotherapy while pregnant, Ms Shaddick gave birth to her “happy and healthy” first child Halle at Mater Mothers’ Hospital on March 9, at 37.5 weeks gestation and weighing 2.4kg.
Mater Cancer Care Centre Senior Medical Oncologist Dr Catherine Shannon said Ms Shaddick’s cancer was “incredibly rare” to treat and had “no reports of similar cases during pregnancy”.
“It is safe to use certain types of chemotherapy in the second or third trimester of pregnancy without any adverse effects on the mother or baby,” Dr Shannon said.
“We had to use drugs we knew might work for her rare sarcoma and knew they were safe during pregnancy.
“The drugs worked for a while but then the sarcoma became resistant.”
Dr Shannon has cared for six pregnant women with cancer at Mater this year and said having the Maternal Fetal Medicine Unit nearby made circumstances easier for patients.
Ms Shaddick, who is looking forward to celebrating her first Christmas with Halle in a few weeks’ time, has thanked the specialist medical teams at Mater who helped her navigate one of the toughest times of her life.
“It was important to me that Halle arrived safely and that I understood the risks associated with having chemotherapy while pregnant.
“For me, undergoing chemotherapy was to be able to spend more time with Halle.
“Being told chemotherapy was an option and safe while pregnant was comforting.
“It’s not something that’s widely known, I did a lot of research and asked lots of questions. I had about six rounds of chemotherapy while pregnant and tolerated it well, and then gave birth to Halle, which was such a joy.”
Mater Cancer Care Centre Coordinator and Clinical Nurse Consultant Esther White said five specialist medical teams from oncology, obstetrics, Maternal Fetal Medicine, nursing and midwifery had spent months planning Ms Shaddick’s treatment and the safe delivery of her baby girl.
“Sarah was straddling the pendulum of being a mum and having an incurable diagnosis,” Ms White said.
“She was given hope and trust and felt she was able to move forward. I am so proud of Sarah, she has fought for her future. Two weeks after having her baby she went back to having chemotherapy treatment – no mum should have to do that.”
Ms White said she knew how important it was for Ms Shaddick to make memories with baby Halle and share her story.
“This mum was fighting for her life and her unborn baby.”
Ms Shaddick, who takes each day in her stride, described Halle as her “everything”.
“She is my purpose and having her feels so right,” Ms Shaddick said.
“I feel like we have been trying to live as normally as possible and enjoy the simple day-to-day things too,” she said.
Ms Shaddick said being told by doctors her cancer was incurable was one of the hardest days of her life.
“It was a really hard day. I had been processing battling cancer while pregnant, but this was something else.
“I know this cancer is incurable and no one can tell me what’s going to happen, so I am enjoying the now.
“I have never felt like giving up, and I won’t.”
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