UK: Unborn twins helped kick out cancer

A mother who discovered a tumour while pregnant was saved by her unborn twins.

A mother who discovered a tumour while pregnant was saved by her unborn twins.

Michelle Stepney is now being recognised for her courageous decision to continue with the pregnancy despite being advised against it.

Mrs Stepney, 35, developed a tumour but it was only when she was taken to hospital with a suspected miscarriage that doctors diagnosed her with cervical cancer.

However, the constant kicking of her twin girls meant the tumour was dislodged.

Mrs Stepney, who also has a five-year-old son, Jack, was then struck by a further blow – she needed immediate chemotherapy and a hysterectomy to treat the cancer.

But the accountant from Cheam, south-west London, refused the treatment which would have meant a termination.

“I couldn’t believe it when the doctors told me that the babies had dislodged the tumour,” she said.

“I’d felt them kicking but I didn’t realise just how important their kicking would turn out to be.”

Mrs Stepney, who has been nominated for a Woman of Courage award by Cancer Research UK Race for Life and will be honoured at a ceremony in London on February 12, opted to delay her life-saving treatment until after the birth.

“I owe my life to my girls, and that’s why I could have never agreed with a termination,” she said.

“It was a very difficult decision to make. We wanted to make sure what we did was right by Jack but we did not want to do what was wrong by the girls.”

She and her husband Scott, 36, a civil servant, discovered they were expecting twins after a 14-week scan.

But the couple were devastated when Mrs Stepney returned to hospital with a suspected miscarriage, three weeks later.

The 35-year-old said: “I knew I could have an operation straight away and it would cure me of the cancer, but that would mean getting rid of my babies and I couldn’t do that.”

She added: “I had two lives inside me and I couldn’t give up on them - especially after they had saved me like this.”

In a move to stop the cancer spreading, doctors at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London gave Mrs Stepney reduced chemotherapy.

But they were unsure how the girls would be affected as they had never given the treatment to a woman pregnant with twins.

Doctors gave Mrs Stepney constant scans to monitor the girls’ development and she underwent chemotherapy every fortnight.

Alice and Harriet were successfully delivered by caesarian section, 33 weeks into the pregnancy on December 23, 2006.

Alice weighed 3lb 11oz and Harriet 3lb 5oz. Both girls were born healthy but without hair because of the chemotherapy.

Their mother had a hysterectomy four weeks later to remove the tumour. Tests showed the cancer had not spread and Mrs Stepney has now been given the all-clear.

Doctors said that without the lively twins, the cancer may not have been detected until too late. When asked how she got through the ordeal, Mrs Stepney said she had relied on the support of her husband.

“I couldn’t have got through it without him,” she said, adding: “The twins were also a huge support. They kept me strong throughout it all.”

Mrs Stepney, who was treated at several hospitals also expressed gratitude for the “exceptional” treatment she received.

“I also want to say a big thank you to the hospitals that treated me, one of them being the Royal Marsden. The care was exceptional throughout,” she said.

Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life is the UK’s biggest women-only fundraising event which sees women walk, jog or run 5km between May 3 to July 31.

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