Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The pregnant mother with cancer who refused chemotherapy to save her twins... and survived

Against all odds: Rachel Crossland with her four-month-old twins Saffron, left, and Poppy

Just hours before surgery to remove an aggressive tumour, Rachel Crossland was given the bittersweet news that she was pregnant with twins.

'I was devastated,' said Mrs Crossland. 'Before, I was only really worried about my life. We really wanted to keep them, but didn't know we would be able to.'

Doctors told her the tumour on her bladder was the size of a golf ball, and after surgery she would need chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

She said: 'The doctors told me lots of horror stories of what would happen to the babies if I had the treatment while pregnant and I was mortified.

'By then I was 13 weeks into my pregnancy and there was no way I could deal with getting rid of my babies and having to then fight cancer. That was the turning point and I decided I would take a chance.'

So the 29-year-old refused chemotherapy and radiotherapy in case it harmed her unborn children.

Her greatest concern was that her husband Adam might have to raise her older children - Jake, 12, twins Abigail and Bethany, 11, and four-year-old Fleur - on his own.

'There was always a chance at the back of my mind that we might not all make it and I had made the wrong choice,' she said.

'At one point I thought that if I died and the twins survived, I would be leaving Adam in an impossible position trying to bring up all our children.'

In the end, surgeons at the Whiston Hospital in Liverpool operated on her with just a spinal anaesthetic. After the operation, Mrs Crossland, from Wigan, suffered sickness and fatigue, not knowing whether the symptoms were due to the cancer or being pregnant.

At 32 weeks, she became so ill that she was admitted to hospital. A fortnight later, she needed an emergency caesarean because the twins had moved into a dangerous position.

Mrs Crossland's lung collapsed while she was in labour and she had to give birth under general anaesthetic. She came round in intensive care and was unable to see her babies Poppy and Saffron, who weighed just 5lb each, until the following day.

Mrs Crossland said: 'I was heartbroken when I couldn't see them.

'But eventually I realised that we were all alive and had made it against the odds. They were my little miracles.' She was released from hospital five days after the birth last November and later began chemotherapy.

She is now recovering at home with her 24-year-old husband, her four children from a previous relationship, and the new additions to their family.

She said: 'I'm so glad that we all made it and now all I want is to get on with my life with Adam and be able to look after my children.'

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