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A woman who had always dreamed of being a mum was overjoyed when she finally gave birth.
Mark and Roxanne Hollamby had sadly suffered four losses before “miracle” baby Lara was born.
However, the dream was thrown into turmoil when doctors told Roxanne she had choriocarcinoma, a fast-growing form of cancer.
Roxanne, from West Sussex, told The Mirror: “Being away from the best thing that ever happened to me is the worst thing ever.
“I had this perfect baby next to me and I just look at her face and she’s a complete miracle.”
Her form of cancer occurs in the uterus and is linked to an abnormal pregnancy.
Mark said: “It’s possible that some tissue left behind from baby Lara or a previous pregnancy has become cancerous.”
The 40-year-old had suffered four baby losses before Lara and has been living with an autoimmune disease for the past 20 years.
She says her chronic pain masked early signs of cancer so it was not until she had severe heart palpitations that she sought medical attention.
Childhood best friend Laura Oxley, 40, has now set up a GoFundMe to support the family during this time as they need childcare for baby Lara while Roxanne goes through her treatment as well as money for the travel expenses and other costs connected to her cancer.
Laura said: “Roxanne gives so much love out to the world and she’s got this really horrible situation where she’s got cancer among everything else.
“If someone feels like they resonates with her and they want to give some love and cheerfulness to this really difficult situation and that would be amazing.”
On November 21, 2022, just a week after her birthday, Roxanne was in hospital for her heart palpitations and told she had raised HCG – a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) – and assumed she was pregnant.
HCG is an instruction for the uterine lining to stay in place to maintain the pregnancy, instead of being shed as would normally happen with a monthly period.
But an ultrasound revealed there was no baby and instead her ovaries were “stuffed full” of cancerous tumours.
Doctors quickly discovered that the new mum had cancer in not just in her ovaries but also her abdomen and lungs with her largest tumour now at 18 centimetres.
“When you have a variable chronic illness, you can get anything under the sun and I can get abdominal pain with it regularly,” Roxanne explained.
“So I just thought ‘oh, abdominal pain’, but I can see now – I can feel the lump.”
Days after initial testing, doctors warned Roxanne that her cancer was terminal, which devastated Mark and her loved ones.
However, Roxanne did not think of herself in this moment, she said: “I felt so guilty that I’m going to be leaving my husband and daughter and my family.”
The couple describe each other as “soulmates” and describing their first date, Mark says: “This magical moment happened when we went to say goodbye and we hugged and we felt like we married in that hug.”
For Roxanne, she says she didn’t understand the appeal of marriage until meeting Mark – and then it became obvious.
Mark is caring for Lara with the help of family members while Roxanne is in hospital but they are struggling to stay on top of it all.
The dad said it is like being in a “parallel reality”, adding: “I don’t feel like I’m really in life at the moment, I’m just trying to juggle looking after Lara and supporting Roxanne.”
Thankfully doctors at Charing Cross Hospital have said that Roxanne has a high chance of survival, although she must have chemo infusions twice a week for six months.
Treatment time is based solely on her body’s response to the chemotherapy but worries have arisen about the treatment itself.
Roxanne has developed neutropenia, a common but concerning side effect of the chemotherapy where the white blood cell count is low so increases your risk of infections.
When patients have neutropenia, treatment must be paused, which extends the mum’s time away from Lara.
The family from West Sussex, have “been through hell for the last three or so years” according to Mark who told how Roxanne’s dad was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in February 2018.
He died three years later, on January 9, 2021 – the one year anniversary of the couple’s first baby loss.
During 2020 and into early 2021, the couple suffered through four baby losses, with the fourth happening on the day of Roxanne’s dad’s funeral.
Through their own research and “hard work”, Roxanne and Mark found a possible cause for the miscarriages and a treatment.
Mark said: “Roxanne’s always wanted to be a mother. Her whole life that’s been her absolute dream.
“For Lara to survive and for Roxanne to have Lara has been like a dream come true.
“So then to go from Lara being born to being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. It’s just been another nightmare.”
Laura is concerned for her friend as being away from Lara takes a toll on the new mum’s mental health and said: “At first she was really angry about everything, the injustice of it all. She’s now in this real sadness.”
Roxanne added: “Being away from Lara is the hardest thing to deal with for me. It’s hard to keep the will to live if I’m not seeing her every day.
“As soon as I see her smile, I think I can do this I’ll find a way through it.
“But then when I’m away from her for probably more than a day I can lose hope. It’s a massive struggle.”
“I thought I would be very hands on attachment style mother and I knew as soon as she was born I never wanted anything for my life apart from that, I’m very much a family girl,” she added.
“I can’t be a hands-on mum because I can’t do a lot even when I’m at home now so that’s been painful.”
Although Roxanne’s cancer was detected, she is aware that many people with chronic illnesses would not go to the doctor until it is maybe too late.
Now she urges others to seek advice if anything unusual pops up, as she advises: “If it seems really unusual then don’t assume it’s part of your chronic illness. It could be something that would be more deadly.”.
The new mum is likely to miss her daughter’s first Christmas due to her inability to leave hospital and while the new parents aren’t particularly festive, Roxanne said having a baby had made “Christmas begin again”.
For Roxanne the perfect gift would be to spend time with her loved ones, she said: “Being with Mark, Lara and my close family and friends and to appreciate the love and the presence of the people that mean everything to me.
“They’re the reason that I’m able to keep going through this nightmare, if I didn’t have them then I wouldn’t want to carry on because it’s just so, so brutal.”
To donate to the GoFundMe, click here.
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