A mum who was diagnosed with cervical cancer during pregnancy believes her child saved her life.
Sharlene Gillies, from Smethwick, was ecstatic when she discovered she was carrying her fifth child after two years of trying with her partner Chris.
But it wasn’t an easy ride for the 40-year-old – she contracted coronavirus at 12 weeks and was later told she had a tumour higher up in her cervical canal, which wasn’t picked up during her last smear test.
The health care worker, who now lives in Bristol, was just three months into her pregnancy when her temperature soared to 38.4c.
As it was a symptom of Covid-19, her partner temporarily moved out so he could continue to provide for the family while she self-isolated.
A few days later, Sharlene collapsed and was forced to call an ambulance and was taken to a hospital 10 miles away from her home.
“Once my temperature was under control they discharged me,” she continued.
“I had to catch the bus in my dressing gown because it would have cost between £25-£40 to get a taxi home.”
Sharlene was sent to Bristol Airport three days later for a Covid-19 test. She received a positive result within 48 hours and isolated for a further seven days, which was the recommended amount of days at the time.
After the national lockdown eased, the Sharlene and Chris reunited but their joy was short-lived.
Sharlene began to experience bleeding after sex – a tell-tale symptom of cervical cancer .
The mum, who had previously been diagnosed with the HPV virus and treated in 2013, went into hospital on August 21.
“I only called the hospital because I was pregnant. I thought something could be wrong with the baby”, she said.
“They told me to come in and the doctor had a look and said there was something on my cervix.
“After having a laparoscopy and a biopsy I was told the tumour was coming away very easily and there was no way I could give birth naturally, so I was booked in for a C-section, a rational hysterectomy and the removal of my lymph nodes.
“I knew deep down something was wrong and I was a little bit scared.
“I was disappointed because I wanted to give birth and it was the thought of losing my womb. I didn’t have much time to think about it and it was a matter of life or death. It was my only option of being able to see my baby grow up.
“It wasn’t picked up on my last smear because it was so high up and the doctors said my baby had saved my life.”
Sharlene spent five hours on the operating table when she gave birth at 37 weeks pregnant on September 24. Surgeons performed the procedures together, but during her recovery she also developed sepsis.
Sharlene claims she is lucky she caught Covid-19 before her operation, because she doesn’t believe she would have coped while recovering from such a major procedure.
After welcoming baby Phoenix on September 24 – who was born healthy and weighed 8lb 6oz – Sharlene is finally on the mend. She claims she doesn’t require any further cancer treatment and believes having gone through such a tough pregnancy has helped her to bond with her son.
“I feel it’s a blessing because it’s just me and him. I might moan about not seeing anyone but when you have a baby it can be overwhelming having lots of visitors, but because of lockdown we haven’t had any.
“Phoenix has helped me through everything.”