A British mom of five credits her new lease on life to her 7-week-old son after her pregnancy uncovered a cancerous tumor.
Sharlene Gillies, from Smethwick, West Midlands, had been trying for a baby for two years with partner Chris Staples, 49, and was ecstatic when she discovered she was pregnant.
But her pregnancy was far from smooth sailing: Sharlene has fought COVID-19, cervical cancer, and sepsis.
At just three months in, Sharlene collapsed at home with a soaring temperature of 38.4 Celsius (101 Fahrenheit).
Sharlene, a health care worker, said, “I was initially told I had coronavirus at 12 weeks.
“My temperature went up to over 38c, and as I'd had symptoms of the virus, my partner had moved out with the rest of the family, to keep them safe,” Sharlene said.
“But once my temperature was back down, they discharged me and I thought nothing more of it,” she said.
However, after Sharlene noticed bleeding at seven months pregnant, she was admitted to hospital on Aug. 21 and was seen by doctors, who feared something was wrong with her baby.
During the medical checkups, the doctors detected the tumor, which was just under 2 centimeters, missed on a smear test.
“The doctor told me there was something on my cervix,” Sharlene said. “I underwent a laparoscopy and a biopsy and was told the tumor was coming away very easily and there was no way I could give birth naturally.”
“I had to be booked in for a C-section, a radical hysterectomy, and the removal of my lymph nodes.”
“I was devastated,” Sharlene said, “as I had wanted to give birth naturally and I hated the thought of losing my womb.”
“But I didn’t have much time to think—it was a matter of life or death, and the only option of being able to see my baby grow up.”
Sharlene endured five hours on the operating table, giving birth at 37 weeks pregnant on Sept. 24.
Surgeons had to perform all the procedures together, but during her recovery, Sharlene also developed sepsis.
“The pain was like someone had put a knife in me and happened just 48 hours later,” Sharlene said. “I had to have antibiotics for the sepsis but my veins collapsed ... I had to have four pints of blood and plasma.”
All thanks to baby Phoenix, who was born a healthy 8 pounds 6 ounces (approx. 4 kg), doctors had managed to catch Sharlene’s cancer early.
This meant Sharlene no longer requires further cancer treatment. She believes her tough pregnancy has helped her bond with her son.
“Phoenix saved my life, and these past few months have been a blessing because it’s just been me and him,” Sharlene said.
“Due to COVID-19, we haven’t been able to see people as much as we liked, but Phoenix has helped me through everything.”
“He is a complete blessing, and I am so grateful to have the opportunity to be a mom again—doctors wouldn’t have noticed the tumor until much later had I not been pregnant with him,” she said.
“I only bled once—and usually that would have been overlooked or needed more tests. Yet thanks to Phoenix, it was investigated straight away.”
Sharlene now only has to visit the hospital in three months’ time for a general checkup.