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My unborn baby saved my life

So beautiful

Rebecca was forced to fight the hardest battle of her life while pregnant.

Here, Rebecca Matthews, 35, from Sydney, shares the story in her own words.

I’m pregnant!’ I told my husband, Aidan.

‘That’s fantastic!’ he cried, hugging me.

It was January 2015, and we felt so blessed.

Both 29, we’d recently got married and had always wanted children.

Then, at 16 weeks along, I got the flu.

Rather than risk taking medication while pregnant, I smoothed menthol rub on my chest. But as I  did, I felt a hard, pea-sized lump on my left breast.

‘It’s probably a blocked milk duct,’ I said to Aidan.

I went to my GP who ordered an ultrasound and then a biopsy. Aidan came with me for the results, but nothing could have prepared us for what the doctor said.

‘You have breast cancer,’ she told me.

Aidan gripped my hand as I went into shock.

Would our baby and I survive?

Afterwards, we called our families with the news. They were worried sick.

My aunt Lorraine, 60, had beaten breast cancer twice, but lost both her breasts to the disease. She had the breast cancer gene, the BRCA1 mutation, meaning I may have inherited it.

Rebecca Matthews with her shaved head
Me with my shaved head and baby Issac

A few days later, Aidan and I saw an oncologist.

‘We need to start you on chemotherapy,’ she said.

‘Will the baby be all right?’ I asked.

‘Yes, it won’t affect your pregnancy,’ she said. ‘But first, you need the lump removed.’

The second I woke from the lumpectomy, I asked a nurse to check the baby’s heartbeat.

‘It’s still beating strongly,’ she assured me. But the battle wasn’t over.

At 23 weeks along, I started chemo. The four-hour sessions made me nauseous and my long blonde hair fell out. In the end, I got my hairdresser to shave it off.

‘Now we’re twins!’ I joked to Aidan, who also had a shaved head.

Both our families helped to keep me positive. But it was my unborn baby who gave me the most strength.

Instead of focusing on the cancer, I’d focus on my bub, kicking inside me.

Then, on September 16, 2015, at 37 weeks, I had a C-section.

‘It’s a boy,’ the obstetrician smiled, but I held my breath until I heard him cry.

Then I cried too!

‘He’s perfect,’ Aidan grinned, as he cut the umbilical cord.

Looking into my son’s beautiful eyes, relief washed over me.

‘You got us through this,’ I told him tearfully.

When a nurse took a photo of us, I had to laugh – all three of us were bald!

We took baby Isaac home and I resumed chemo.

Rebecca's children
My gorgeous children

The treatment finally finished that December.

‘This will be the best Christmas ever,’ I told Aidan, as we watched Isaac sleeping in his cradle.

However, it was time to make a huge decision.

‘We can start you on radiotherapy,’ my oncologist said. ‘But there are no guarantees the cancer won’t return. To be safe, you need a double mastectomy.’

It wasn’t an easy choice, but I so wanted to stick around for Aidan and Isaac.

In January 2016, I had both breasts removed and reconstructed.

Genetic testing confirmed that, like Aunty Lorraine, I had a mutation of the BRCA1 gene, meaning I’d had a 70 per cent chance of developing breast cancer.

It meant I also had a 40 per cent risk of developing ovarian cancer. But if I had my ovaries and fallopian tubes removed, I’d risk going into menopause and we really wanted to give little Isaac a sibling.

Happily, we welcomed our beautiful daughter, Taya, into the world in October 2017, followed by our surprise baby, Nate, in March 2019.

After five years, I was declared in remission and Aidan gave me a card.

One day I’ll tell the kids that cancer tried to get Mummy but cancer lost, he’d written inside.

Our family complete, I’m having my ovaries and fallopian tubes removed so I can be around for them.

Rebecca and Nate
When Nate came, our family was complete

I’m so grateful to all the medical staff who saved me.

That’s why I’m supporting the Breast Cancer Trials.

Currently, the risk management for carriers of the BRCA1 mutation are regular check-ups and a mastectomy. But with funding, the new study will investigate if medication could prevent breast cancer to spare others, including my daughter, Taya, going through the surgery.

Far too many lives are lost to this terrible disease.

Today, I cherish Aidan and our beautiful children, Isaac, now five, Taya, almost three, and Nate, 18 months. And I’m so grateful that I fell pregnant with Isaac when I did. I’d never have discovered the lump in my breast otherwise.

My little boy not only gave me something positive to focus on, he saved my life. ●

October is breast cancer awareness month.

Cancer Trials

About 23,000 people in Australia and New Zealand will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year – around 63 people a day. The Breast Cancer Trials, led by world-leading breast cancer doctors and researchers in Australia and NZ, are committed to finding treatments and preventions for everyone affected by breast cancer to save lives.
For more information, or to donate, visit here.  

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