By Liam Geraghty
A brave single mum who made the heartbreaking decision to abort her baby at 17 weeks after doctors told her she had terminal cancer is now planning her own funeral.
Mum-of-four Emma Howard chose to ‘sacrifice’ her unborn fifth child so she could continue with chemotherapy treatment to spend more time with her other youngsters.
The 34-year-old, from St Helens, Merseyside, was initially diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2009 and underwent a mastectomy of the right breast before being given the all clear three years later.
And in 2014 Emma was delighted to learn she was expecting a fifth child – but when she developed a cough doctors told her the cancer had returned and spread to her lungs, and this time was terminal.
The news forced the former hairdresser to make the agonising decision of w
hether to abort her baby boy at 17 weeks old or attempt to go ahead with the pregnancy while having chemotherapy.
Emma took the brave choice to abort the boy, who she named Gabriel, in December 2014 but now has just months to live.
Emma said: “It was an awful decision but I had to make it because otherwise I would not have been here.
“I was told that I had months to live – at best a year – and I wanted to stay around for the kids that I already have, that was what was important at the time.
“The baby never really had a chance from the start – my heart wanted to have Gabriel but I had to use my head and listen to the doctors.
“But it was horrible. I had to go into labour and then give birth to a lifeless child that wasn’t crying and never would be.
“We buried him on February 6 and I didn’t tell the other kids about it, it was only some of my family and close friends.
“I had to have that time to grieve but I feel guilty for having to give up on Gabriel – it torments you.
“But I had to sacrifice Gabriel for the other four children and that treatment has given me another two-and-a-half years with them so far.”
Emma had earned herself an X Factor judges audition spot after being given the bombshell that she had breast cancer in 2009.
The 34-year-old, who is mum to Joshua Perry, four, Faye Howard, six, Madison Howard, nine, and Ellie Howard, 14, was forced to give up on her dream to be a singer.
Following a mastectomy on her right breast as well as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, the devoted mother thought she had finally beaten the disease when she was given the all-clear in 2012.
But it was to return in December 2014 and this time the stakes would be even higher – taking the life of Emma’s unborn baby boy and leaving her fighting for her own.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer once again and this time was also told she had secondary lung cancer, which was terminal.
As Emma had to progress with chemotherapy treatment immediately, she was forced to make the devastating decision to abort Gabriel at 17 weeks – ahead of the UK’s 24-week abortion limit.
The harrowing choice meant that she was forced to go in to labour to give birth to Gabriel before she laid him to rest at a funeral on February 6, 2015.
And after her terminal diagnosis left her with months to live, Emma is now planning her own funeral as well as leaving mementos for her children to remember her by as she undergoes more chemotherapy in a desperate bid to extend her life.
Emma said: “After Gabriel’s funeral, I went into a hospice and I thought that I was going to die but I managed to get out of there before doing six months of chemotherapy.
“I was in and out of hospital with various infections and then I started doing really well but last year they told me that I had deteriorated and by December, they told me that I should start planning.
“I’m putting money boxes and buying pearls for my girls’ wedding days because realistically I am not going to see it, I’m not going to see their 18ths, I am not going to see any of those milestones.
“It’s hard and it doesn’t feel real sometimes – it feels like a dream.
“But I just have to get on with it for my kids – I don’t know any other way.”
Emma is now raising funds to try alternative therapies to extend her life. Donations can be made here.
PREGNANCY AND CANCER FACTS (INFORMATION FROM CANCER RESEARCH UK)
– Breast cancer is reported in one in every 3,000 pregnancies, with most women between the ages of 32 and 38 years old at diagnosis.
– Patients can’t have chemotherapy if you are in your first trimester of pregnancy. The chemotherapy can harm the baby or cause a miscarriage.
– If chemotherapy is required to start quickly to control the cancer then doctors may advise that the pregnancy is ended either by a termination or an early delivery if later in the pregnancy.
– If the pregnancy is not terminated then chemotherapy should stop three weeks before delivery because it may increase bleeding and the risk of infection during delivery.