Looking Forward

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A mum diagnosed with cancer at 11 weeks pregnant says she had to make a heartbreaking decision over treatment.

When doctors told Roberta Burton she had stage 2 Hodgkin’s lymphoma in June 2019, she was expecting her third child.

The 29-year-old nursing assistant was “terrified” that chemotherapy would harm her unborn baby, Chronicle Live reports.

But she made the “tough” decision to start treatment because without it she risked not being there for her other two children.

Now Roberta is preparing to celebrate her son’s first birthday.

The mum, from Stannington, near Morpeth, Northumberland, was six weeks pregnant when her husband noticed a lump on her neck.

After a series of tests she was diagnosed with blood cancer and told she would need to undergo intensive chemotherapy treatment.

She said: “When I was going for the tests I’d been doing a bit of research into the symptoms.

“It was confusing as some of them could have easily been hormonal and pregnancy related, but I knew it wasn’t good. So while it was still a massive shock to hear I had cancer, I partly expected it.

“It was such a difficult decision to make. I’d longed for a third child, but I was terrified the treatment would cause him harm, but then not doing anything risked me not being there for my two other children.

“Scans showed the cancer had spread to my chest, so I needed to act quickly to ensure I wasn’t going to leave it too late.”

After much discussion and planning Roberta decided to begin treatment after a scan of the baby showed he was developing well.

She said: “The scan showed his heart was strong and that we could begin treatment once we passed the 17 week point where the placenta would work to protect him from any of the toxic drugs.”

Roberta, who was already mum to Noah, 5 and Ezra, 3, began chemotherapy in August 2019 and completed her eight cycles at the Freeman Hospital.

“During this time my marriage broke down and I was managing to care for my middle son Ezra who was recently diagnosed with autism, whilst trying to get my body strong again after cancer. It has been very scary and difficult, but I’m determined to celebrate Elias and his first birthday.”

Now Roberta is appealing for people to support Cancer Research UK tackle a devastating loss of research funding caused by Covid-19.

Due to the fall-out of the pandemic Cancer Research UK is expecting a staggering £160 million drop in income this year, which is putting future breakthroughs at risk.

Roberta added: “It’s thanks to research and improved treatments that I’m here today.

“It’s very possible that even just ten years ago, the outcome might not have been the same for me or my baby – and that’s down to research.”