“We met after surviving teenage cancer and are now the proud parents of a miracle baby”


Chris Berns and Laura Hunter met in 2010 at a sailing event for teenage cancer survivors. They started dating three years later and moved in together in 2018. They are now parents to one year old Willow

Laura and Chris with little Willow
Laura and Chris with little Willow

Fate dealt the cruellest blows to Chris Berns and Laura Hunter…but then handed the sweetest gifts.

Teenage cancer had pushed the couple to the brink of despair.

But it would also bring them together and against all odds they are now parents to Willow – a one-year-old who fills her with joy.

Chris, 31, and Laura, 29, met at a sailing event for teenage cancer survivors in 2010.

They started dating three years later and moved in together in 2018.

Both feared having remained infertile after chemotherapy.

And then fate played a much kinder hand.

Chris Berns while undergoing cancer treatment


© Press People Image collect Chris Berns while undergoing cancer treatment)

Laura Hunter and miracle baby Willow


© Press People Image collect Laura Hunter and miracle baby Willow)

Laura says, “Willow is just starting to walk and sometimes I have to pinch myself how lucky we are. We are thankful every day for what we have with her.

“Normally, before cancer treatment, you will be asked if you would like to freeze your eggs and sperm, but neither of us could do that because we had to start treatment so quickly. So we both thought we couldn’t have children.

“They told me it was unlikely I would be fertile after the treatment because it was so intense.”

Chris adds, “Cancer has taken us to the darkest of places, but it’s also led us to find love, extraordinary friendships with other survivors, and also have our miracle baby, Willow.

“She’s a little bundle of joy. Her smile melts our hearts.

“A lot of people ask if you could go back and change something, would you? I don’t think I would do that as it made us the people we are now. I met Laura, we have Willow – and great friends.

“Even though it’s this horrible thing you wouldn’t ask anyone to do, it’s almost worth it now for everything we have.”

Chris and Laura from Walsall, West Mids are medical secretaries.

Laura during her cancer treatment


© Press People Collect image of Laura Hunter while undergoing cancer treatment)

His cancer career began at the age of 17 – as a Midlands high jump champion and hoping to compete in the London 2012 Olympics.

The rare Ewing’s sarcoma cancer, which affects the tissues around the bones, dropped its weight from 10th to 7th place. He was temporarily paralyzed.

He was able to walk again after 14 rounds of chemo and was a late addition to the sailing weekend that would change his life.

Meanwhile, Laura, 29, had been on chemotherapy for 30 months for acute lymphoblastic leukemia – a type of blood cancer. She was diagnosed in 2008 at the age of 16 and was also a latecomer for the sailing event.

Chris says, “If it weren’t for the cancer and the stage of our recovery we’re both in, our paths would never have crossed.”

On becoming a parent, he adds: “We both assumed that we would not be fertile because of the chemo. We hadn’t used birth control in two years when I decided to get checked out. To my amazement, the doctors said everything was fine.

“Then we were in lockdown and had to shield ourselves. We didn’t have the stress of work and we think that in some way helped get us pregnant.”

Laura says: “We were at the point where we wanted to seek help. And then it just happened. I had a feeling of total shock that we had made it without any help and this little life was growing inside me. It was another silver lining.”

Lucy and Adam Anderson Woods


© Pressmen Lucy and Adam Anderson-Woods)

Chris recounts the day he found out a long-standing back problem was actually cancer.

He says: “One night I fell asleep on the floor and when I woke up my legs didn’t work. I had a burning sensation inside them – the tumor was pressing on my spinal cord.”

Chris underwent surgery that night, with a second operation days later to remove a blood clot pressing on his spine.

He continues: “I was paralyzed from the waist down. I just remember thinking, “This is the end of my sporting career.”

“My surgeon came in and said, ‘I’m sorry, it’s cancer.’ I asked ‘Will I die’? When they transferred me to another hospital for chemotherapy, one of the first things they said was “if you want, we can freeze some sperm”.

“But I was 17, I couldn’t move or get out of bed, and I didn’t know if I was going to survive the chemo. So I said, ‘No, I’ll take care of that later’.

“In the months that followed, I transitioned from using a wheelchair to walking on crutches. Then my parents took me on vacation and my dad found a walking stick in a shop and said, “Try this.” I’ve never looked back.”

Before her cancer, Laura did gymnastics and represented her country in dancing.

Recalling her diagnosis, she says, “The doctors did a routine blood test and thought I had anemia. They called the next day and said to my mother: “We think Laura has leukaemia, can you come to RVI Hospital in Newcastle as soon as possible?”. The next morning I started two and a half years of chemotherapy. I would have admissions with constant infections. There was constant pain, fatigue, so exhausting.

“The RVI were amazing. I walked from the 9th to the 5th and was in a wheelchair as I had osteonecrosis. I have holes in my bones and will eventually need a hip replacement.”

While Chris still has annual scans, Laura has received the all-clear.

Their roller coaster ride has brought them a group of cherished friends they met at other cancer survivor events. That includes Lucy and Adam Anderson-Woods — among a group of friends dubbed the “Cancer Crew.” Lucy, 30, from Telford, Shrops, was diagnosed with leukemia when she was 14, while NHS administrator and adviser Adam, also 30, was diagnosed with testicular cancer aged 21.

They married in 2019 and, like Chris and Laura, also credit the Youth Cancer Trust for helping them.

Laura adds: “Our Cancer Crew is our extended family and that is why we have made them Honorary Godparents. We call them Willow’s aunts and uncles – and they all absolutely love them.”

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