Aimee Hill had to make the difficult decision of starting treatment right away for her sake or waiting three months after birth for her unborn son
(Image: Aimee Hill)
A 33-year-old mother-to-be was devastated to find out she had an extremely rare form of cancer six months into her first pregnancy.
Aimee Hill, from Port Talbort, Wales, had to choose between risking her unborn child’s health by starting treatment immediately, or postponing it and risking her own life.
The cancer was discovered when a routine checkup with her optometrist in November 2020 revealed a “freckle” in the back of her left eye, she reports Wales Online.
After undergoing additional tests, she was immediately admitted to hospital, where further scans showed she had ocular melanoma – an eye cancer that affects around 750 people in the UK each year.
“Obviously being six months pregnant and being diagnosed with cancer was a traumatic and difficult time,” she said.
“My pregnancy wasn’t easy either. I was really sick and I felt like I was going through it – and then to be diagnosed with cancer was devastating.
“But then I thought, ‘Right, you have to sort yourself out now because you have to ask questions about the baby and how this is all going to affect him.’
“With the treatment there was a risk of miscarriage as I had to go under general anaesthetic, but there was also a risk of the cancer growing or spreading elsewhere.
“I obviously didn’t want to have cancer anymore, but at the same time I didn’t want to do anything that might affect the baby. I was advised to start treatment immediately, so I did.”
Aimee had to go to her first appointment alone due to Covid restrictions. She recalls: “As soon as I went to the doctor and she showed me the scan of my eye, I knew immediately something was wrong. She mentioned the word ‘tumour,’ but cancer was not mentioned on stage.”
Aimee was then referred to the Royal Liverpool University Hospital for further evaluation.
She added: “My appointment was December 18, 2020. I will never forget that day because that day we went back into lockdown and that day I was diagnosed with cancer.”
In January 2021, Aimee began treatment at St Paul’s Eye Clinic in Liverpool.
She had plaque radiotherapy – a high dose of radiation to a small area. A small radioactive disc was placed over the cancer of the affected eye to continuously emit radiation.
“I was seven months pregnant when I had my treatment. My time in the hospital was so hard. I haven’t been able to see my husband Aaron due to Covid restrictions and I’ve only been able to get acetaminophen for pain relief,” she explained.
Aimee then recovered at home before giving birth to their son Evan in March 2021.
She continued, “He was born happy and healthy and I was so grateful he was doing well.
“When he was born I thought I can forget everything that’s happened now and then move on, which probably wasn’t the right thing to do, but at the time I had to as I was caring for a newborn.”
Three months later, the whole experience caught up with Aimee, and she began struggling emotionally. She added, “That’s when I started going to Maggie’s cancer charity just to get some support and that really helped.”
Being a mother to Evan was also a light in Aimee’s life.
“He’s such a happy baby. You could have the worst day ever and then he’ll smile or giggle and then you’ll fight again,” she said.
Six months after her surgery, Aimee returned to the Liverpool Eye Hospital for follow-up care – and it wasn’t the news she expected. “I expected them to give me the all clear as they told me the treatment had a 95% success rate.
“But unfortunately the cancer is still there and the tumor is the same size but it’s not bigger, which is positive.
“And I think that was the moment I realized that I’ll probably have to live with that for a while. Before I was diagnosed with cancer, I either thought you survived the cancer or you didn’t.
“I didn’t realize that you could live with that.”
However, Aimee is hoping that the treatment she’s already had will have an impact on the tumor.
She said: “I had an appointment in January and a scan showed scarring around the tumour.
“Hopefully the scarring means the cancer can’t grow any further and slowly dies down.
“The cancer is still the same size and I will have appointments every six months for the next five years to monitor the situation. Maybe I’ll have that for the rest of my life.
“As long as the cancer doesn’t get bigger, it might just be there, so I’m trying to change my attitude about it.”
Aimee said she now looks forward to taking part in Swansea’s Race for Life, which will use the money raised to help scientists find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer.
Aimee’s final message is to encourage people to see optometrists regularly.
She said: “There’s so much more to an eye test than just checking your eyesight and I don’t think many people realize that.
“After sharing my story on social media, I’ve received so many messages from people saying, ‘I’m in my 30s and I’ve never had an eye test.
“Because of your story I booked it and went for an eye test. And that’s really important to me.”
https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/devastated-mum-finds-out-rare-26738353 The devastated mother-to-be discovers she has a deadly rare disease at six months pregnant