By Jess Grieveson-Smith
A mum-of-two has finally been given the ‘all clear’ from doctors after battling cancer while 24 weeks pregnant.
Kelly Ladbrooke, from Kent, was initially told her nose bleeds and chest infections were due to her pregnancy – but was unaware that she and her unborn baby were actually fighting a rare form of leukaemia.
Pregnant with Lenny, now aged four, a course of full body radiation, and a stem cell transplant a month after giving birth to him, Kelly was finally in remission and was given the news that she’s ‘all clear’ after the second round.
Kelly, 39, a mortgage administrator, said, “When I fell pregnant with Lenny I began feeling generally unwell, I would have ignored my symptoms if it wasn’t for him.
“I’m not usually one to moan, but now when I look back, I should have as I was really unwell.
“I was having symptoms that I had no explanation for but the GP kept putting it down to my pregnancy.
“They kept telling me, ‘you’re pregnant and you’ve got a little boy to look after’ meaning my older son Bobby, now seven, and that was why I was poorly.
“Yet as the symptoms of extreme tiredness and nose bleeds didn’t alleviate and my condition worsened, the doctors were able to identify something much worse.
“The day after Mother’s Day in 2015, I asked my husband, Chris, 34, electrician, to take me to the hospital as it felt like I was having a heart attack.
“I couldn’t breathe and was diagnosed with severe anaemia and pneumonia.
“A few blood tests later, and I was told the devastating news that I had leukaemia.
“The doctor said he had only ever seen three cases as the cancer is one-in-75,000.
“I was then told that I was the priority, not the baby.”
Despite being asked to choose between chemotherapy – which can be fatal to an unborn child – and her baby at 24 weeks pregnant, Kelly refused to give up.
Kelly was determined to keep her longed for second child, and to see her pregnancy through.
Yet the blood cancer – which is usually seen in children – had to be treated aggressively and couldn’t be postponed till after she gave birth.
Kelly added: “I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) – a type of blood cancer that starts from young white blood cells called lymphocytes in the bone marrow – and transferred to King’s College Hospital in London.
“Although King’s is a specialist centre for blood conditions and they treat patients from across south-east England, my doctor had only seen three cases of patients diagnosed with leukaemia in pregnancy in the last six years.
“I tried to hold off chemo, even though I knew I could be risking everything, but I was told by doctors, the cancer was past that stage.
“They held off using a drug that would kill him, and planned an emergency caesarean when he was 32 weeks instead.
“It was the toughest moments of my life – I spent four months in Kings, having my first round of chemotherapy with Lenny still in the womb.
“I had no idea if it was damaging him, or if it was helping me.
“When I was pregnant, I knew I had to stay positive so my emotions didn’t affect Lenny.
“But the hardest times were when all of my family would leave for the day and I’d be on my own.
“I might have had a little cry but the next day I’d pick myself up again.
“Lenny was delivered two months premature, but still came out weighing 3lb 12oz.
“He was a fighter from day one.”
Kelly had to remain in hospital a month longer than Lenny – despite him spending a month on the neonatal ward where they monitored his heart and brain to see if the chemotherapy had affected him.
Kelly underwent an additional stem cell transplant – which miraculously her younger brother Steven 34, an electrician, was a perfect match for.
Kelly added: “It’s mad to think I have his DNA now after the transplant, I better not commit any crimes or he’ll get the blame.
“It’s now been four years since I was diagnosed and I’ve been cancer free since the transplant was a success.
“We got to see Lenny start school, and you wouldn’t know now to look at him, that he had such a difficult start.”
Dr Deborah Yallop, the consultant haematologist who treated Kelly, said: “The chance of developing ALL while pregnant is extremely rare.
“Although King’s is a specialist centre for blood conditions and we treat patients from across south-east England, I have only seen three cases of patients diagnosed with leukaemia in pregnancy in the last six years.
“It was a really difficult decision for Kelly and her family. We discussed the different options available but she was determined to continue with the pregnancy so we carefully began chemotherapy.”
To donate to the charity that helped Kelly, the link can be found here; www.supportkings.org.uk