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Couple has healthy baby despite mom and dad both going through chemo during pregnancy

They were told the baby was unlikely to survive the full pregnancy.

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James and Bethany Jefferson-Loveday with Heidi post-chemo. (Worcestershire NHS Trust via SWNS)

By Adam Dutton via SWNS

A couple is celebrating the birth of a healthy girl despite mom and dad both undergoing chemotherapy for cancer during pregnancy.

James and Bethany Jefferson-Loveday were left devastated after they were each diagnosed with lymphoma just a few months apart.

James, 33, was told he had Hodgkin lymphoma – a cancer that develops in vessels and glands throughout the body - in December last year.

The diagnosis led the couple to try for a baby before James’ treatment began, in the knowledge that conceiving may be more difficult after chemotherapy.

The pair were 'over the moon' when Bethany, 30, found out she was pregnant the following month.

James and Bethany Jefferson-Loveday during chemo. (Worcestershire NHS Trust via SWNS)

But their joy turned to further despair when Bethany was diagnosed with a high grade of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma at 21 weeks pregnant.

Doctors said the chances of having that type of cancer while pregnant was 'exceptionally rare' and Bethany underwent chemotherapy as without it she wouldn't have survived.

She was also given the shattering news her baby was unlikely to survive the full pregnancy - all while her husband was also undergoing treatment.

However, against all the odds their daughter Heidi was safely delivered by Caesarean section at Worcestershire Royal Hospital after Samantha finished her chemo.

Both James and Bethany, of Evesham, UK, are now in remission, no longer require treatment and are looking forward to their first Christmas together as a family.

Bethany said: "James and I both agree that Heidi's birthday was the best day of our lives. It is the happiest I have ever felt.

Consultant Haematologist, Dr Salim Shafeek holding Heidi with Bethany Jefferson-Loveday after chemo. (Worcestershire NHS Trust via SWNS)

"Dr Shafeek described Heidi as a miracle and reflecting back on the past year, he is absolutely right.”

Bethany’s symptoms began in her first trimester, whilst her husband was still undergoing chemotherapy treatment for his lymphoma.

After weeks of minor symptoms progressed, Bethany contacted her GP, but at this stage, it was believed her symptoms were pregnancy-related.

Bethany said: “I started to get a severe pressure build up in my head and had the worst headaches I’ve ever experienced.

"I became breathless, unable to do my usual activities, and a hard lump appeared on my collarbone.

"But despite all of this, I was in denial that anything was wrong. I assumed that my symptoms were pregnancy-related and that the lump must have been a cyst.

“Eventually my mother persuaded me to go to A&E and I was then referred for an MRI, CT and biopsy.

"I will never forget the moment I was given my diagnosis."

"I remember questioning how this was possible as my husband was undergoing treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma at the time.”

Bethany then had what she calls “the most difficult conversation of my life” with a Consultant Obstetrician at the hospital about the options for her pregnancy.

She added: “My Obstetrician had to explain all the possible options for the pregnancy to me including termination.

"I came out of the appointment feeling like 80 percent of my options were negative and that I had only the tiniest glimmer of hope that the pregnancy would reach a successful outcome."

With both husband and wife needing chemotherapy so close together, the couple said they shared a unique understanding of the experience of their treatment.

Bethany described: “I felt total despair at the thought of having chemotherapy and losing my hair but James was such a great support to me, he completely understood what I was going through.

"He shaved my head for me when my hair started to fall out, just as I had done for him earlier in the year.

“The nurses were so kind and we used to have a chat whilst they were giving me my chemo which took my mind off it.

"After every chemotherapy, I felt a sense of celebration that I had another one under my belt and was closer to having my baby.”

Despite what both parents had endured throughout the pregnancy, Heidi was born completely healthy with no adverse effects.

Bethany said: “Dr. Shafeek and his team are an outstanding group of doctors, nurses and staff. The standard of care they provide is incredible.

"The staff on Laurel 3 ward at Worcestershire Royal Hospital treated me like a member of their own family.

"They are so kind and nothing is too much trouble, I felt in extremely safe hands throughout my treatment under their care.

“I have to commend the collaboration across different departments at Worcestershire Royal Hospital.

"As each day went by, I had a new Consultant from a different department reassuring me about their aspect of my care plan.

"All manner of scenarios had been mapped out to ensure a plan was in place to manage any risks should they arise.

“I had weekly midwife visits at home from the local midwife team and midwives visited me to listen to the baby every time I had my chemotherapy which was so reassuring and invaluable to me at the time.

"Even after Heidi was born I was unable to breastfeed due to the chemotherapy, but my Obstetrician arranged for donor breastmilk at my request which was so greatly appreciated.

"It’s difficult to put into words how grateful we are as a family for everything they have done for us.”

Consultant Haematologist, Dr Salim Shafeek – who treated both James and Bethany this year – said: “The combination of being pregnant and having high-grade Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is exceptionally rare.

"Bethany is the first case of this I’ve treated in my 25 years as a Consultant Haematologist."

During her illness, Dr Shafeek formed a plan to treat Bethany with an intense course of six cycles of chemotherapy.

She was admitted to the Haematology ward at Worcestershire Royal Hospital each time to allow her time to recover and for staff to monitor her baby.

Dr Shafeek added: “With this type of lymphoma at this stage we would normally give a stronger form of chemotherapy, but this wasn’t possible due to her pregnancy.

"We couldn’t delay chemo until the baby was born as Bethany wouldn’t have survived, so we had to get all the chemo in before 35 weeks of pregnancy to give her a chance to recover before childbirth.

"But thanks to a great team working across different departments at the hospital, we were able to give her all the chemotherapy she needed without delay.”

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