A woman who was told her nosebleeds and headaches were caused by pregnancy hormones found out that the spot on her nose was actually a rare type of cancer.
24-year-old Poppy Stewart-Brown suffered nosebleeds and headaches during her pregnancy and was told these were down to pregnancy hormones.
But two days before giving birth to Arabella, she found out that the painful ‘spot’ on the left side of her nose was a tumor that had been growing from her jawbone.
The expectant mother was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, a rare type of cancer that occurs in bones or tissue around the bones. While it usually starts in the pelvis or leg bones, it can occur in any bone. In some cases, it begins in the soft tissues around the bones, according to Mayo Clinic.
It was in October 2018 when Poppy found out that she was pregnant after a holiday in Turkey with her partner, Tommy Bolger.
But within a month, she started experiencing frequent nosebleeds and headaches, which doctors said were common during pregnancy.
It was in February 2019 when Poppy noticed a spot on the left side of her nose. Then before Easter, she went to a hospital struggling to breathe out of her left nostril.
Her mother, 49-year-old Louise Stewart, pleaded with doctors to help her daughter, knowing something was not right.
Two days before giving birth to Arabella, Poppy was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma. A scan showed a mass in her jaw that had grown towards the left side of her nose, causing the unusual spot.
“Cancer is not something I’d been exposed to much before this, so it never crossed my mind that I could have it,” Poppy shared.
“I honestly thought I was just reacting very badly to being pregnant. I felt like a failure, and couldn’t understand how women had more than one child.
“I missed out on so much in the first months of Arabella’s life. You picture taking your baby home from hospital and starting this new life together – but instead I was beginning cancer treatment.”
In October 2019, she started proton beam therapy, which uses a beam of positively charged particles to target tumors.
She had 31 sessions along with chemotherapy at Manchester’s Christie Hospital.
“Tommy, Arabella, my mum and I all relocated to Manchester for a couple of months while I had my treatment,” Poppy shared. “I had 31 sessions in total, five times a week for just under seven weeks.”
“The treatment left me weak, exhausted and scarcely able to eat. It was awful, but we tried to snatch some happy moments too, and take Arabella for days out around the city when we could,” she expressed. “For those brief moments, I could feel like a mum rather than a cancer patient.”
By the end of February 2020, doctors told the family they believed Poppy’s tumor had gone and there were no signs of the cancer being active again. They just need to wait a little longer before getting the official all clear.
Her biggest milestone so far was celebrating her daughter’s first birthday.
“I feel so lucky to be here today. Celebrating Arabella’s first birthday was incredible, especially because it was a day I thought I might never see,” she said.
“I have so many people I want to thank – Andrew Pelser, the ear, nose and throat doctor, and his team, who saved my life, the midwives on the maternity unit who delivered Bella, Julia Chisholm and the absolutely amazing staff at the Royal Marsden, Sam at Teenage Cancer Trust and each and every incredible NHS worker, from cleaners to consultants, at Princess Royal, Manchester Christie and Royal Marsden Hospitals,” she said.
“From day one, CLIC Sargent have been incredible. They even helped with little things like providing vouchers to pamper myself with, and with practicalities I didn’t have the headspace to think about, such as hospital parking.
“It was a horrible time, but they were there throughout – not just for me, but for my family.”
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