Diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma at the age of 29 and just six weeks after she got married, Kate Beynon defied medical odds by having three children following her cancer treatment.
“For about four years, I had been experiencing regular bouts of nausea and night sweats. Although these symptoms are typical of lymphoma I was not diagnosed immediately because the two never occurred simultaneously and I rarely saw the same GP due to travelling a lot with work.
“I was first diagnosed with arthritis of the sternum and had to quit my job. With my nausea and night sweats persisting I returned to my normal GP and was sent for a number of tests. I was eventually diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in May 1993.
“When the specialist told me I had cancer it seemed like they were talking a different language. I was told the disease was normally only found in men over 70 and that rarely did people survive it. I had to drive home from the doctors alone when I just needed to talk to someone.
“I started chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment immediately, which lasted 18 months. I had all the usual side-effects of hair loss and nausea which was hard at first but I just got used to it. The support of my family and local community kept me going and talking with them helped me to offload. I also joined a mastectomy group which allowed me another opportunity to talk about my cancer with people who could relate with my story.
“In having the treatments I needed to survive I had to sacrifice my fertility and found later that my ovaries had been damaged, leaving me unable to have children. I was devastated but had to stay positive to stop my family from falling to pieces. At the time, the opportunity to freeze eggs was rare and I was put on hormone replacement treatment because of the early menopause caused by the treatments. Having children was out of the question.
“Then came a big shock! Around the time that I was finishing my treatment I discovered that I was pregnant. I was terrified but refused to have an abortion, even though my doctors advised me that trying to have a child whilst on chemotherapy could affect the unborn baby.
“My 10 week scan showed a healthy baby so doctors allowed me longer to make my decision. Weeks 21 to 22 were hell and I was just praying the baby would still be OK. Tom was born healthy in December 1995.
“The next, even bigger shock came five years later when I discovered I was expecting twins. It was surreal and the first few months were a blur. We are fortunate to have Tom, but to have Jack and Harry as well is amazing, even though they have grown to be two very mischievous little boys!
“People are aware of leukaemia in children but blood cancer can happen to anyone, at any age. When I was diagnosed three out of ten patients survived for a maximum of five years. Now the survival rate is so much higher, especially if the disease is caught early. It’s so important to stay positive, share what’s going through your mind and know that you’re not alone.
“Despite struggling with breathing difficulties as a result of the radiotherapy treatment, I took part in Beefy’s Great British Walk with my twin boys in April 2012 to support Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research and raise awareness of blood cancer.”
You can support Kate’s walk at her JustGiving page.