An inspirational mum who went through treatment for a rare ovarian cancer while pregnant has been chosen as the face of a campaign across Scotland which aims to help save lives.
Shannon Lamb lost part of her right lung as well as her left ovary and fallopian tube to the disease.
The 28-year-old bride-to-be from Broughty Ferry also endured two stem cell transplants and chemotherapy.
Shannon was first diagnosed with a mixed germ cell tumour during the height of the Covid pandemic in October 2020.
She had gone to the doctor after feeling run down and noticing a lump protruding from her stomach.
No visitors were allowed into the hospital when just before Christmas, Shannon had surgery to remove the tumour which was the size of a grapefruit.
After Shannon was told no further treatment was needed, she hoped to have put cancer behind her and started dating Mark Taylor, 37.
Tragically the couple suffered a miscarriage on October 27, 2021 – Shannon’s birthday.
In March 2022, Shannon turned to her doctor for help after feeling constantly out of breath and exhausted.
It was a hammerblow when tests showed cancer had spread to her right lung. It was as Shannon struggled to come to terms with the news, that the oncologist from Ninewells hospital in Dundee called her with the results of a blood test which stopped her in her tracks.
Shannon said: “I was three weeks pregnant.
“It felt like everything collapsed around me. I was happy because I was pregnant but I was also devastated. It was a time of so many mixed emotions. I desperately wanted to have this baby but felt instantly protective of it. I didn’t want to do anything that would put the health of the baby at risk.”
Doctors advised Shannon to have chemotherapy and surgery to remove the tumours from her lung. She was 16 weeks pregnant when the operation went ahead at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh.
Shannon said: “I was terrified of harming my baby and nearly turned my back on surgery altogether due to my worries that it could put the baby at risk.
“Would my baby survive the surgery, get through a general anaesthetic with me? I burst into tears and I wanted to go home. I came so close to walking away from that ward but luckily the anaesthetist reassured me that it was going to be okay and I went ahead.
“Surgeons removed around a third of my lung. I woke up after the operation in excruciating pain but refused any painkiller but paracetamol. My first question was about my baby. It was a relief when the medical team did an ultrasound and I could hear my baby’s heart beating.”
But further tests showed the cancer had spread to her spine, pelvic bone and lymph node, with a 5cm mass also found next to her right kidney.
Doctors explained the cancer was now stage four.
By the time Shannon was 32 weeks pregnant, scans showed that her baby was not growing as well as before and a caesarean section was booked.
On November 17 last year at Ninewells hospital, her son Hunter John Taylor was born, weighing 3lb 10oz.
Being born prematurely meant he started off life in the neonatal unit but he was healthy.
Just four days after Hunter was born, Shannon had a second round of chemotherapy and had just 30 minutes a day disconnected from the treatment to visit her son.
In April 2023, Shannon travelled to Hammersmith Hospital in London to have a stem cell transplant, to help her body make new healthy blood cells after her own had been damaged by the disease.
It meant four weeks in hospital while doctors collected healthy stem cells from Shannon then she started high doses of chemotherapy followed by the stem cells being administered back into her body through a drip.
Later that summer she returned for her second transplant but was finally able to come home to Scotland in August. Later this year Shannon will return to hospital in London as she is due surgery on her spine.
Now Shannon is planning her wedding to partner Mark in October next year, with the couple’s 11-month-old son Hunter, right at the heart of the big day.
She said: “I have everything to live for.
“I’m getting married next year to the love of my life who has been there every step of the way. On our wedding day, I’ll walk down the aisle with our son Hunter in my arms. I discovered I was pregnant with Hunter during the darkest of times when I was struggling to come to terms with the news that the cancer I thought had gone for good was back.
“It was frightening when I was informed that if I didn’t start chemotherapy straight away then I wouldn’t be alive to see my baby grow up.”
With around 34,600 people in Scotland diagnosed with cancer every year, Shannon hopes her story will inspire Scots to unite against the disease by raising money to help make the next cancer breakthrough happen.
“Cancer took many things, at times cancer took my dignity, my confidence, my happiness, my hair. Some days I’d look in the mirror, break down and think, ‘why me?’ But knowing I was going to be a mum motivated me, it made me determined to keep going.
“It’s amazing being a mum and I wake up every morning feeling so unbelievably lucky that I have my beautiful, miracle son. I want to Stand Up To Cancer to give people with cancer strength and help them know they’re not alone,” she added.
Shannon said: “I’m lucky to have so many special people in my life.
“There have been moments throughout this journey where I’ve almost completely lost myself to the point of no return. However ugly these moments felt, the people I love around me helped make me stronger. They’ve helped me to see that cancer never wins. I want to thank Professor Michael Seckl of Charing Cross Hospital for saving my life and my son’s life. I will be eternally indebted to him and he will continue to lead my care.
“And in Scotland, I’d like to thank my GP Dr Colin Levin for saving my life back in 2020, sending me to hospital where they first discovered my cancer. I want to thank my maternity doctor Dr Binita Pande of Ninewells Hospital who saved my son’s life in the most challenging of times. I’d also like to thank my gynaecologist Dr Vimala Nellore of Ninewells hospital who treated me when I was first diagnosed and to thank my oncologist Dr Michelle Ferguson for helping me get to where I am today.”
Since its launch in 2012, Stand Up To Cancer has raised more than £93m, funding 64 clinical trials and research projects involving more than 13,000 cancer patients.
Cancer Research UK spokeswoman for Scotland, Lisa Adams, said: “Thanks to our supporters, our researchers are working tirelessly to help more people with cancer survive – from developing a molecule to super-charge the immune system to attack tumours, to re-programming viruses to seek and destroy cancer cells.
“But we must go further and faster. One in two of us will get cancer in our lifetime. All of us can help beat it. That’s why we’re asking everyone to Stand Up To Cancer with us. Whether it’s choosing to donate, fundraise, or tackle the ups and downs of our squats challenge, if thousands of us take a stand we’ll speed up the progress of vital research – meaning more people live longer, better lives, free from the fear of cancer.”
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