Rachel Bailey, from Southwark in south London, began bleeding unexpectedly at 21 weeks of gestation. She immediately rushed down to St Thomas’ Hospital for an emergency checkup.
Luckily, the baby was fine and healthy. However, during the scan, doctors discovered that the entrepreneur had a 6-centimeter mass in her kidney and thus had to undergo further tests.
An MRI and biopsy scan further revealed that the mom, who runs a dog-walking business, had a rare grape-sized tumor that was malignant in nature and needed to be removed in order to save her life.
After discovering the tumor, doctors wanted to operate on the expectant mother in the second trimester, but there was a risk that it would trigger early labor.
“I wasn’t willing to risk my unborn baby’s life so we decided to wait until I passed 30 weeks,” Rachel told Caters News Agency.
The 28-year-old then started labor at 38 weeks naturally and welcomed her daughter, Phoenix, on May 11, weighing 4 pounds 4 ounces (approx. 2 kg). “I’d always wanted children and Phoenix is such a blessing,” Rachel expressed. “There’s no doubt that Phoenix saved my life as the cancerous tumor would have been left undetected if I wasn’t pregnant.”
Owing to the CCP virus pandemic, after the birth of Phoenix, the mom had to self-isolate for a period of two weeks and then returned to undergo surgery on May 28.
The 25-hour robotic keyhole surgery was performed in collaboration with surgeons at Guys and St Thomas’ Hospital and HCA’s London Bridge Hospital. They were able to remove a part of the kidney and the tumor, which had already grown to about 9 centimeters, according to the Evening Standard.
“Rachel’s situation is rare. I have done over 1,000 robot kidney operations and only had one other similar case,” Ben Challacombe, the consultant urological surgeon at Guys’ and St Thomas’ who operated on Rachel, said. “If Rachel hadn’t been pregnant, her tumor may not have been spotted until later when the outcome could have been different.”
Challacombe spoke in detail about the surgery and said that it was a complicated operation as the tumor had grown quite big.
“It was one of the biggest partial removals I have done without removing the whole kidney,” Challacombe added. Rachel, who was very fearful to have cancer while she was pregnant, was grateful to surgeons for saving her life, as they didn’t have to remove an organ.
“I then had to wait to see if I’d need further treatment such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy but thankfully it was localized and hadn’t spread,” she told Caters News Agency.
Additionally, Rachel was supported in her journey by Mummy’s Star—a charity dedicated to women and their families affected by cancer during pregnancy.
“I felt a sense of relief when I was able to speak to women who had been in the exact same position as myself,” the mom of one said. “It’s impossible to not feel alone after being diagnosed with cancer while pregnant but Mummy’s Star is an amazing charity and I cannot thank them enough for the support.”
Now, Rachel is raising awareness for cancer during pregnancy by sharing her story.
As for Phoenix, who is 5 months old, Rachel says she is the “best thing that has ever happened to me.”
“I can’t wait to show her my scars on my stomach one day so she knows how she saved my life,” the cancer-free mom concluded.
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