One mother is scared that undergoing chemotherapy will harm her unborn baby, but she’s willing to take the risk to stay alive for her older children.
28-year old Roberta Burton, who hails from Stannington, Northumberland, was already several months pregnant when diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a rare form of blood cancer, The Mirror reports. The mother was extremely worried about getting chemotherapy while still pregnant, but she says she made the decision to go ahead with it for the sake of her older two boys, 4-year old Noah and 18-month old Ezra.
Now, Roberta is being open about how she’s coping with chemotherapy side effects while pregnant. "It's very frightening. Before starting chemotherapy they went through lists of risks to the baby, but I felt like I had no choice,” she explained.
However, the mother said she’s still concerned about how the treatment may affect her unborn child. "I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place. The whole time I'm having chemotherapy I'm thinking about the baby,” Roberta revealed. “It's just putting toxins in your body. I try to be positive, but also realistic."
Roberta’s husband Jason was the first one to suggest something might be wrong with her health. The mother was only six weeks pregnant when Jason discovered a strange lump on her next, and after a series of tests, doctors were eventually able to diagnose her condition. As of now, Roberta’s cancer is at a stage two. It has spread to her chest, which now has four tumours.
The mother, who works as a nursing assistant, was initially told she’d need approximately eight rounds of chemotherapy followed by three-weeks of radiotherapy. The doctors ran a scan to see if Robert’s unborn baby was healthy enough to begin the treatment, and as luck would have it, they soon gave her the go-ahead.
"I had to have a scan to check the baby's heart was working as well as it could be before starting the chemotherapy," Roberta explained. "Chemotherapy targets fast-growing cells, and the placenta is a fast-growing cell." The expectant mother has already undergone two rounds of chemo at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle. She will continue to have one session every two weeks until her treatment is completed.
"Some days I'm upbeat, but on others I'm not," she said. "The summer holidays have been really, really hard. I have the guilt of not being able to do things with the kids because I'm too poorly. I can't take them to the park, and I can't run around.” Roberta added, "Noah knows that I'm poorly and that I go to the hospital all the time, but he doesn't really understand."
Roberta is currently 21 weeks along, but she’s starting to feel the effects of her chemotherapy, including hair loss. But she already has a solution. "After my first treatment my hair started falling out," she continued. "I hated seeing it come out in big clumps, I just wanted a bit of control, so my husband, my mam and eldest son Noah shaved it off for me.”
The mom-of-two added, “I felt better afterwards. It was a bit of a relief. It's not something I would ever have thought of doing, but it's not as bad as I thought it would be. I have had some lovely comments, and some people are saying I look like Sinead O'Connor."
With the chemo side effects aside, everything seems to be going smoothly with Roberta’s pregnancy. She’s already discovered she’ll be having a baby boy. Doctors hope she’ll deliver around 36 via a planned caesarean section, but they’re prepared for her to go into labour as early as 32 weeks.