For those of you who don’t know who Laura is or haven’t heard her story… Laura was a young a mum of two little babes, just going about her life as normal. In early 2016 Laura had herself tested for the cdh1 gene and found out that she did in fact have this gene. The cdh1 gene mutation is an indicator for stomach cancer and having this gene meant that Laura had some pretty serious decisions to make about her life, her future and how this would affect her little family.
Fast forward a few months and Laura and her partner Cam (after a little bit of trying) had the most amazing news!!! They were pregnant with baby number 3. Such beautiful news was then followed by some pretty heartbreaking news only 19 weeks into Laura’s pregnancy. She found out that she no longer had just the cdh1 gene… she was diagnosed with Gastric Cancer. Her choices about what to do had gone from ‘how do I protect myself and my family from a possible cancer diagnosis down the track’ to …… ‘what do I do with a cancer diagnosis … while 19 weeks pregnant’.
The answer was that Laura would need to have a full Gastrectomy (removal of the stomach). Originally Laura thought she would be able to carry the baby to 37 weeks and then have the operation on her stomach the week later. A lot to deal with right!!! Well after a second check of her stomach the doctors found that the situation was a little worse and suggested that the Gastrectomy needed to happen sooner rather than later!
Laura was forced to weigh up her own health & being there for her two other children and Cam vs. that of her unborn baby. Laura and Cam ultimately made the decision to hold off her surgery for as long as possible to give their unborn baby the best shot at not only surviving but thriving in the years to come.
While pregnant with stomach cancer, Laura decided to document her journey and use her time, situation and experiences to raise awareness for the cdh1 gene and Gastric Cancer. The one thing that I have always seen from Laura is a massive amount of strength and positivity. So after chatting to her over a couple of months I have been keen to find out how she has found the courage to get through all of this with so much purpose and positivity! In her own words …..
How did you get through those first couple of days after your diagnosis? The first few days were just silence, like I was out of my body! It was the week before Christmas, so I was busy (which was probably a god send) and I just felt distant. It all became a lot more real about 5 days later when the specialist gave me the ultimatum “me or Alfie”. My family were understanding of my decision to go as long as I could with the pregnancy but urged me to have him at 28 weeks gestation! I just didn’t feel comfortable with his odds that soon! Cam was always super understanding and he pushed me to make the choice that I felt comfortable with. He just said that he would support me no matter what! Everyone kept saying to me, “we need you to be safe” but all that mattered to me in that moment was my unborn baby, who I could feel kicking every day!
How did your little ones handle the news? We never really explained to the kids exactly what was going on. Ivy is too young but Jasper picked up that Mum was always going to the doctors because she had a sore tummy.
What went through your mind when you made the choice to hold off Alfie being born as long as possible? Nothing was harder then weighing up my options at that point. Did I hold off to give Alfie the best chance and risk not being here for cam and the kids? Who was more important me or my unborn baby? Will my family support my decision whatever it ends up being? At the end of the day I decided on somewhere in the middle and I stuck with it. There was no other way to move forward but to cross our fingers and toes and hope for the best possible outcome!
How did you cope knowing Alfie was being born a little too early and also knowing you’d being going for your own surgery a week later? I felt so extremely sad that this innocent little baby would be ripped into the world way too soon and for no good reason! I worried he wouldn’t be ready for the big wide world just yet. My biggest fear about having my operation so soon after Alfie was born, was being away from him. I’ve never really spoken about my struggle after having Alfie. But even before the operation, I really questioned if I was having a mild form of post natal depression. I hadn’t spent a night away from the other two kids until they were over 6 months old. When I had to spend every night away from Alfie, I didn’t really feel like I cared all that much. Maybe it was because I didn’t want to get too close just incase things went belly up…. I mean, I knew I loved him unconditionally but I wasn’t bursting at the seems to be with him every second. It was something I’d never felt before and for me, a person who is always very open about what is going on in my life, I felt like I didn’t want to speak of it incase it was true. Once we got home to Geelong it all seemed to fall into place as the tubes and wires started to disappear. I could feel my heart opening wider and wider and my fear of the unknown disappearing.
What is having no stomach like? Having no stomach is strange haha. That feeling if hunger is just gone. I NEVER feel hungry, so I forget to eat all the time. I do feel some what empty when I bend over. It’s like I might fold right on over like a deck chair, it’s hard to describe. At first I was getting on with life as normal eating most of the things I had always eaten. It wasn’t until about 4 weeks post op that the scar tissue from my join started closing in. Now I have trouble getting things down but as long as I chew chew chew chew chew I’m ok. It starts to get a little depressing when others are eating big meals at a normal pace and I’m having a quarter of what I used to and taking twice as long!
One thing I have always found amazing is that in the middle of all of this you have put yourself out there to help raise awareness and hopefully save some lives along the way!!! How have you dealt with your journey being so public? I started my blog when I found out I was positive for the cdh1 gene. I wanted to try and get the word out from the beginning! Obviously I had no idea how my journey would turn out. My diagnosis was not what I expected but I am glad that, although my situation was shitty, it gave me a much bigger platform to raise awareness. Because I was diagnosed during my pregnancy it sparked a lot of interest really quickly. What people don’t know is I turned down more than half the opportunities that came to me and just accepted the few that I thought would help me spread the word on the largest scale. I am happy for my story to be public because I know that one day it’s going to save some person or persons.
Where is the best place for people to go if they want more information on the cdh1 gene? There is a site dedicated to ‘No Stomach for Cancer’ and it explains not just cdh1 but also other Hereditary Diffuse Gastric Cancers -> www.nostomachforcancer.org
Do you have any words of wisdom for mums & dads out there? I don’t like to give too many words of wisdom but I think that it’s important for every mother and father to take their journey, whatever it may be, one step at a time. Also never put too much pressure on yourself, just live each and every day for what it is, a miracle!!!!
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us Laura! You are truly a brave lady and an inspiring soul!
For more information on Laura’s journey you can visit her via any of the links below!
Instagram -> https://www.instagram.com/the.gutsy.mummy/
Facebook -> https://www.facebook.com/the.gutsy.mummy/