A mum-of-one credits her baby boy for saving her life while he was still in the womb.
Claire Hilton-Ellison says if it hadn’t been for her pregnancy with four-month-old son, Jude William, she might never have found out she had breast cancer early.
The first-time mum had been checking her breasts more often during her pregnancy due to hormonal changes and it was this that led to her discovering a lump.
“I was checking my breasts more regularly when I was pregnant because I was noticing so many changes to them and I just wanted to keep on top of everything,” said Claire, 30, from Liverpool.
“Being pregnant saved my life because if I wasn’t checking, I would never have known and it could have been too late for me.”
It was in November last year when Claire found a pea-sized lump in her right breast and then received her cancer diagnosis.
“It was just after my 30th birthday and I was also around 30 weeks pregnant.
“It was quite a hard lump and not really moving, so I went to the doctors to get it checked out and then I was referred to the breast clinic where they did an ultrasound scan and biopsies,” she recalled.
“The results came back inconclusive, so the doctors had to do more biopsies, but they had told me that they suspected it was going to be breast cancer.
“I am glad they were honest with me about this because it softened the blow when I received my actual diagnosis as I had prepared myself for the worst and accepted it.”
After further tests, Claire received confirmation of her diagnosis, stage 3 invasive breast cancer, at 31 weeks pregnant.
She says that she was terrified of her diagnosis but determined to beat her cancer for her unborn baby.
“It was such a roller coaster of emotions. One minute I was upset and sad, the next I felt in control and determined to beat this,” she added.
“And then I would feel angry about why this was happening to me as I was soon to have my first baby.
“After receiving my treatment plan I was so scared that it would be a risk to my baby.
“But my treatment was flipped so that I had the treatment that would’ve been harmful to Jude at the end after I had given birth to him.
“So, I started receiving chemotherapy through the third trimester until I had Jude, and then my chemotherapy started again three weeks after I had given birth.
“I am due to finish my chemo this week, and then I will need surgery and radiotherapy.”
While Claire hails her pregnancy for saving her life as it led her to find the lump in her breast, she also says that Jude, born on February 1 st , has given her a new level of determination to beat her breast cancer.
“Being pregnant and going through chemo was tough, but I was so determined to get through it because I need to be here for my baby that I’d not even met yet,” she said.
“And now having a newborn, the determination levels are even higher. I am one of the only people he relies on, so it gives me that get up and go element.
“Having Jude here has really helped me cope with it all and distracted me from all of the side effects from chemo. I haven’t wanted to let my cancer ruin my time as a new mum.
“I make sure I am there for him and celebrating all of his milestones. He really is my saving grace. He puts me in a positive mindset because I need to be okay for him.
“The treatment can cause infertility and bring on early menopause. I feel so lucky that I was able to fall pregnant when I did last May, because if I can’t have any more kids then at least I have Jude and have the experience of being a mum to him.
“Lots of young women have to go through this before even thinking about having children, so the fact I had a healthy baby boy and could continue with treatment just makes me very grateful.”
Claire also said she wanted to encourage other women to regularly check their breast as early detection of lumps could save lives.
“Time is so precious when it comes to cancer,” she added.