A couple going for a 12-week baby scan were devastated to be told the “pregnancy” was actually cancer.
Grace Baker-Padden and Joe Cowling had discussed names and shared the news with their parents after five other tests showed she was expecting.
But their anticipation turned to despair when the scan revealed a mass in her belly rather than a foetus.
Grace, 23, said: “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 become pregnant – because she was on the pill.
But after four tests they saw a GP, who confirmed it.
Grace said: “We decided to proceed with the pregnancy, we were so happy and excited. Our parents couldn’t wait to be first-time grandparents.”
Grace, of Willington, Co Durham, began vomiting every day – which she put down to morning sickness.
And she put the “very mild” swelling in her belly down to pregnancy.
After noticing spots of blood she saw her GP at eight and 10 weeks, fearing she was having a miscarriage.
The couple were nervous on the morning of the scan in February last year at the University Hospital of North Durham.
Grace recalled: “We just wanted things to be okay.”
But they knew instantly the scan “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.”
It was confirmed to be a molar pregnancy – gestational trophoblastic disease – which is caused when a non-fertilised egg implants in the uterus.
It 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 one per cent 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 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.
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.
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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 per cent 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 today tackle the Great North Run to raise £2,000 to thank Teenage Cancer Trust for the “incredible” care they gave them.
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 .