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Pregnant, then cancer

Angela and Leo Hayes. PHOTOS/EMMA BROWN

Family home together after rollercoaster year

Life returning to ‘the normal with a new baby’

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It’s been an emotional rollercoaster of a year for Masterton’s Hayes family, with mum Angela finding out she was pregnant and then being diagnosed with stage four cancer.

Last month, she finally returned home cancer-free, with the newest member of the family, Leo.

Angela and husband Greg found out about the pregnancy in November before going on a trip to Perth.

But almost immediately after returning home, Angela started feeling very ill, lost her appetite, had nausea, and lost 20kg.

Thinking it could just be very bad morning sickness they went to Wairarapa Hospital.

Angela and Leo Hayes.

“I was so unwell I couldn’t get out of bed all day,” she said.

A fortnight later, with Angela still ill, they went back to the hospital, and had a x-ray, something generally avoided during pregnancy.

“We both knew it was something else,” she said.

Only eight weeks after having her pregnancy bloods come back normal, the results came back showing a completely different story. A mass was found on one of her lungs.

“It came on really quick.”

Angela said she had always had cancer at the back of her mind, after her mother developed it.

On a visit to a specialist, four days after the x-ray showed non-hodgkin lymphoma, Angela passed out and her husband Greg called an ambulance.

The following day involved a “massive” array of tests and scans.

“The bone marrow biopsy was the worst thing ever,” she said.

From then on, Angela did not leave Wellington, starting her first round of chemotherapy four days later.

“After starting treatment, within a week I started to feel better.”

For a month Angela stayed in Wellington Hospital before spending the next four months across the road in the Ronald McDonald house.

“I was very lucky to be in my own self-contained apartment.”

She said Ronald McDonald house was amazing and provided everything.

Most weekends were special as her two-year-old son, Eli, and Greg would come and visit.

“The hardest thing was being away from Eli as well.”

The staff helped celebrate Easter, Mother’s Day, and gave Eli birthday presents.

“They threw me a baby shower one day, which was nice,” she said.

Back at home, people helped with Eli and gave Greg a hand where they could.

“We had a lot of support from friends and family.”

Angela said she was also lucky that her parents worked in Wellington could spend time with her during that time.

Over her five months in Wellington she went through six rounds of chemo.

She said chemo had been going really well, with the only side-effects tiredness and losing her hair.

“That’s been probably the surprising part.

“I don’t know if the pregnancy hormones helped with everything.”

After five rounds of chemo the family got the news they were hoping for – Angela was officially in remission.

She said the news came as a surprise, with the doctor mentioning it in an offhand way, thinking they had been told the week before.

“We had to go, ‘Wait, what?’, because he kept on talking.”

Things were also better than expected with the pregnancy, after doctors originally planned to have Angela give birth at 24 weeks. Little Leo was born only four weeks early, at 36 weeks.

Weighing 2.4 kilograms, Leo had no side effects and did not need to spend any time in the neo natal intensive care unit.

“He is a happy little content dude. He sleeps and eats well and is pretty chill.”

Since arriving home, Angela has gone through her seventh round of chemo, a higher dose to target cells in her spinal fluid and brain.

With only one more round of chemo and then a month of radiation to go, things are starting to get back to normal – “the normal with a new baby.”

She said Eli has done very well after having so many different people look after him.

“He was super excited when I came home with the baby.”

Angela is glad the family had trauma insurance which allowed them to take the time off work, cover the bills, and took one thing off the list of things to worry about.

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