An excited couple going for a 12-week baby scan were left devastated to be told the “pregnancy” was actually cancer.
Grace Baker-Padden and Joe Cowling were over the moon after five tests showed they were expecting their first child.
They had discussed names and even shared the news with the parents as they started planning for the tot’s arrival.
But their anticipation turned to heartbreak when the scan reveal a mass in Grace’s belly rather than a foetus.
Grace, 23, told the Mirror: “It was such a shock. From planning this exciting new future as a family to suddenly no baby and my health at risk was awful.
“I just wanted the horrible mass out of me immediately.”
The couple had been surprised when Grace appeared to have become pregnant – because she was on the pill. But after four tests they saw a GP, who also confirmed it.
Grace, of Willington, County Durhan, said: “We decided to proceed with the pregnancy, we were so happy and excited. Our parents couldn’t wait to be first-time grandparents.”
The “mum-to-be” soon started being sick every day – a typical symptom of becoming pregnant.
Then she began swelling “very mildly” in her belly area, a usual sign of the baby growing.
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But when she suddenly noticed spots of blood at eight and 10 weeks she quickly saw her GP, fearing she was having a miscarriage.
They were rushed in for a scan in February last year at the University Hospital of North Durham as the couple nervously awaited the results.
But Grace said knew instantly the scan, and it was being carried out, “didn’t look right”.
Joe, 28, said: “There was no baby shape – it looked like a bunch of grapes. The midwife said it looked like a ‘molar pregnancy’, and went to find a doctor.
“We googled and saw it sometimes meant cancer. We began to panic.”
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To the couple’s horror, the scan confirmed it to be a molar pregnancy – gestational trophoblastic disease – which is caused when a non-fertilised egg implants in the uterus. It had caused Grace’s hormone levels to soar, causing the sickness and making her body mimic a pregnancy.
The condition affects one in 600 pregnancies, and just 1% are cancerous.
Grace said: “We’d gone from expecting a baby to having the C-word thrown about. We were both really upset.”
The mass was removed two days later, and tests showed it was malignant. Grace then spent six months injecting a chemotherapy medication to bring her hormones under control.
In September she was admitted for tests at a unit in Sheffield run by Teenage Cancer Trust, which helps 13 to 24-year-olds.
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She said: “They were confident I could be treated but it was scary.
“I had to stay two nights. Thankfully Joe was able to stay over on the Teenage Cancer Trust unit with me – we had our own room with a TV and an en suite.”
Over the next eight weeks, Grace had a further four rounds of chemotherapy as an outpatient before being given a stronger medication in December.
She said: “It made me weak and exhausted. My hair thinned – although fortunately I never lost it.”
Two days after Christmas, trainee conveyancing solicitor Grace was finally given the all-clear – but continued with precautionary treatment until January.
She said: “The relief was incredible. We just wanted to be normal again and planned a holiday to celebrate.”
Joe admitted: “It’s all been very hard, but we’re so relieved Grace is okay.”
They still hope to have a baby “one day”, but must wait a year for Grace’s hormone levels to settle.
And doctors have warned of a 15% chance it will happen again.
Grace said: “We’re scared to try again after what happened. We’ll wait a while.”
Recruitment consultant Joe will tomorrow take on Great North Run to raise £2,000 for Teenage Cancer Trust.
Grace added: “I feel really emotional about him doing it because it’s such a good cause. We’ve seen them help so many people along the way.”
To support Joe’s Great North Run, click here.
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