It was meant to be a time of joy and excitement but when Roisin Pelan was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was pregnant with her first child the excitement was taken away. After months of turmoil Roisin and partner Michael are now looking to the future, LAURA WILD reports.
When Roisin Pelan was given the devastating news that she was suffering from breast cancer when she was pregnant, her mind went into overdrive.
For the 32-year-old, from Ashton, Preston, works as a medical secretary at the oncology unit at the Royal Preston Hospital, and knows only too well just how heartbreaking the disease can be.
Roisin and partner of six years Michael Brown, 29, were overjoyed when they found out they were expecting, but that excitement soon turned to worry.
Bubbly Roisin was diagnosed in May this year, at 35 weeks pregnant and, just a couple of weeks later, her pregnancy was induced and baby Ivy was born, weighing 6lb 7oz.
Just six days later, Roisin underwent a mastectomy and lymph node dissection to see if the cancer had spread.
Thankfully, on June 19, the couple found out that the cancer hadn’t spread.
Roisin recalls the moment she first thought something was wrong: “I was moisturising as you do to avoid stretch marks and I found a lump in my left breast.
“I Googled it and found it’s quite common in pregnancy but, after four weeks, it was still there so I went to get it checked out – I was diagnosed within a week.
“I went to my GP and by the Wednesday I was at the ‘One Stop Shop’ at Chorley Hospital. I just went on my own. I got the shuttle bus from work.
“They told me it was 50, 60 per cent malignant, on the Friday they got me back in to say it was – it was breast cancer.
“They were really good at reassuring me but the more time went the more I was thinking, ‘what if it has spread?’”
Roisin needed to have her breast removed and so the pregnancy had to be induced to allow for the surgery to take place sooner rather than later.
“All the way through the pregnancy I had been so excited and everything was built up to giving birth but when it came to it I just wanted them to induce me.
“As awful as it sounds I just wanted the birth out of the way.
“In a way it took all the excitement away.
“There was so much waiting, I couldn’t sleep or eat.
“I just wanted it off – I wanted this cancer out.
“I’m 32, I didn’t want to lose my breast or be ill when having a new baby.
“I feel lucky now that I know it’s not spread.”
Although she is positive now, Roisin admits there have been low points along the way.
“It has been absolute turmoil.
“I am really positive now I know it’s not spread, but I wasn’t in between, I was thinking I’m not going to be around – that was the worst thing, But now I know I just feel so lucky.
“I had a meltdown after the mastectomy, I thought I might not be around. I keep reminding myself how lucky I was.
“I had more knowledge of cancer and that’s not necessarily a good thing. My mind was in overdrive. I hear so many positive stories at work but when I was in that position I was just thinking about all the negative ones.
“The devastating ones were the ones that stuck in my mind. Going in for my chemo was really odd, seeing everyone that works there.
“I work upstairs but I am always walking through the waiting room.
“I walk through and think it’s terrible for these people waiting for their chemo and now I am one of them, it’s really odd.”
Roisin, who is studying history and wants to be a primary school teacher, continues: “I had been planning on breast feeding all the way along, we had got the breast pump and everything.
“With the chemo I couldn’t breast feed – and I’ve only got one breast.
“They gave me a tablet to stop me producing any milk, if I had been producing milk the operation would have been a lot more bloody.
“Having the breast removed wasn’t my choice, not breast feeding has not been my choice. The only thing I have been thinking is that ‘it’s not spread’.”
Last week, Roisin started her first of six chemotherapy courses, which she will have every three weeks.
She says: “This chemotherapy is just precautionary, it prevents it from coming back. I just have to get it out of the way now. It has gone through my mind ‘why’s it happened to me,’ my friends said ‘you’re a decent person, why’s it got you’ but it doesn’t choose anyone. You just get it.
“You have to think positive. I would go to hospital and see the breast cancer nurse and come out and feel amazing and then in a couple of days I didn’t. There was a lot of waiting.
“We have had lots of support from our mum and dads. They have all been absolutely brilliant
“Ivy’s six weeks old, she’s doing brilliantly, she’s quite chilled and quite relaxed.
“Michael has been amazing – I don’t know what I would have done without him. I didn’t want to tell my mum and dad how frightened I was, I didn’t want them worrying about it at night.
“It was Michael I was telling.
“We both ended up having a bit of a meltdown. Some people say it’s a good thing to have a meltdown but I don’t – I don’t want that to happen again.
“You just want someone to say it’s fine – no one can tell you what you want to hear.
“2014 hasn’t been the best, but we have got Ivy out of it.”
Now Roisin is fund-raising for Cancer Research UK. At the weekend she is having her head shaved and will be donating the hair to the Little Princess Trust.
She will have friends with her for the headshave and has already raised more than £1,800 for charity.
“If anything good can come out of it then it might as well,” she says.
“It makes me feel better seeing all these positive comments.”
It isn’t the first time Roisin’s family has been faced with cancer, her mum had ovarian cancer in her 40s and her brother Shaun had Hodgkins lymphoma at 19.
Michael, who works at BAE Systems in Warton, is incredibly proud of Roisin and her fight. He says: “It has been pretty mental, looking after Ivy and Roisin, we have had a lot of friends and family helping out.
“When we found out I spoke to a few people and it sounded like there had been a lot of cases where women were pregnant and beat it.
“She’s been very brave, she’s brilliant.”