'I discovered I was pregnant while undergoing stage four cancer treatment'

Blood tests at Ninewells Hospital showed Shannon was pregnant after she was told cancer had spread to her right lung.

Dundee mum discovered she was pregnant while undergoing chemotherapy and surgery for stage four cancer Cancer Research UK

A mum from Dundee discovered she was pregnant while undergoing treatment for stage four cancer.

Shannon Lamb from Broughty Ferry had her left ovary and fallopian tube removed after being diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer in October 2020.

The 29-year-old underwent surgery to remove a tumour, which doctors told her was the size of a grapefruit, but further tests in March 2022 showed the cancer had spread to her right lung.

But Shannon said it felt “like everything collapsed” when tests revealed she was three weeks pregnant – right as she was due to have surgery to remove a portion of her lung.

She said: “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.

“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.

The 29-year-old had surgery to remove a tumour which doctors told her was the size of a grapefruit.Cancer Research UK

“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.”

Shannon was 16 weeks pregnant when she underwent surgery at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh to remove a portion of her lung.

“Surgeons removed around a third of my lung. I woke up after the operation in excruciating pain but refused any painkiller but paracetamol,” she said.

“My first question was about my baby. It was a relief when the medical team did an ultra sound and I could hear my baby’s heart beating.”

However following the surgery, doctors advised her to undergo chemotherapy after the cancer was found to have spread to her spine, pelvic bone and lymph node, with a 5cm mass also found next to her right kidney.

She had her first chemotherapy session at 31 weeks pregnant with doctors explaining that her cancer was at stage four.

She added: “I had to start chemotherapy while pregnant urgently or my baby and I might have both passed away.

Shannon's son Hunter was born at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee in November, 2022.Cancer Research UK

“I asked my doctors if I could have a C-section after my round of chemotherapy. I didn’t want my baby going through anything more.”

Her son Hunter was born prematurely at Ninewells on November 17, 2022.

Four days later, she had a second round of chemotherapy and had around half an hour a day outside of treatment to visit her infant son.

In April 2023, the new mum travelled to Hammersmith Hospital in London to have a stem cell transplant, spending four weeks in hospital.

She returned for a second transplant later that summer before returning home on August 4.

Shannon is now due to travel to Charing Cross Hospital in London for a procedure which it is hoped will reveal whether she is in remission.

Now recovering from chemotherapy and two stem cell transplants, the mum has helped to launch Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life for 2024.

She was invited to meet pop star Pixie Lott, one of her heroes, at a pop-up gig in London on Thursday.

The mum, an aspiring singer, was invited to meet one of her pop heroes Pixie Lott.Cancer Research UK

Shannon said: “Music was a lifeline for me during my cancer journey.

“It helped me find strength during the darkest of times. It’s been brilliant to meet Pixie Lott and ask her what music means to her. She’s inspired me to follow my dream to have a career as a singer.

“If I had to choose one favourite song to add to the Race for Life ‘Plays For Life’ playlist it would be Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond.

“From the moment I was diagnosed, to where I am today – the song signifies a much deeper connection for me. My gran and grandad absolutely loved it.

“They would always play it when I was a kid growing up. I started to notice at any fearful times throughout my cancer journey, that Sweet Caroline would just pop up randomly on the radio in the car or even at the hospital.

“The song began to follow me around, especially at distressing times or those moments that were of significant importance – like my lung surgery for instance.

“I remember being in the car, whilst 16 weeks pregnant and I just didn’t want to face going in for the surgery. We were five minutes away from the hospital and all of a sudden the song came on the radio.

“I just smiled and felt instantly protected and safe as I knew it was a sign from my grandparents, telling me everything was going to be ok.

“When I was discharged from the ward after my lung surgery, lo and behold, Sweet Caroline was playing in the waiting room.

During a second round of chemotherapy she had around half an hour a day outside of treatment to visit her son.Cancer Research UK

“I found solace through listening to this song and it really helped me through tough times both mentally and physically.

“At every MRI scan I would go to, I’d ask for Neil Diamond to be played. Even when I had my hickman line inserted and my lung biopsy awake – I asked for his famous hit.

“This helped me keep strength and gave me great courage and comfort. It was a constant reminder that my grandparents were guiding me through the storm.”

Race for Life events will kick off in Stirling and South Queensferry on Sunday May 5, with races planned in multiple areas including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, Falkirk, Fife, Inverness and Irvine.

Lisa Adams, Cancer Research UK’s spokeswoman in Scotland, said: “We are incredibly grateful to Shannon for her support.

“No matter how cancer affects us, life is worth racing for. Sadly nearly one in two of us will get cancer in our lifetime.

“Race for Life has the power not only to transform lives, but to save them. We’re proud that Race for Life has already helped double survival rates in the UK.   

“We’d love for as many people as possible across Scotland to join us at Race for Life. There is an event for everyone and we mean everyone.

“Walk, jog, run or take on the course however it suits best. It’s a chance to feel the power of moving together with fellow Race for Lifers and to treasure that moment of crossing the finish line.  

“Whether people are living with cancer, are taking part in honour of or in memory of a loved one with the disease, or are in it for the medals or just for the fun of fundraising, all are welcome.”

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