A woman who feared a brain tumour had left her infertile is expecting a ‘miracle baby’.
Sarah Gaffney-Lang had brain surgery while awake after she suffered a huge seizure in her sleep and was diagnosed with a brain tumour.
The 32-year-old, previously fit and healthy, was given the diagnosis in October 2016.
Two months later she had radical surgery whilst awake, followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy which doctors warned would likely leave her infertile.
To give her a shot at being a mum, she had time for one round of egg freezing before beginning treatment.
However, incredibly, she fell pregnant naturally just three months after finishing chemotherapy and is now expecting her first child with her commercial director husband Matt Lang, 34.
Due in March, Sarah, a freelance copywriter from Manchester, said: “Finding out I was pregnant was a huge surprise. I assumed kids would mean carefully deciding on the right time to use the eggs that had been frozen, so it’s amazing it happened naturally.
“Throughout my treatment, I lived life only thinking one step ahead, but now I need to train myself to think more long term.
“Though I was worried about how my body would cope with pregnancy, I’m as stable as I can be and now can’t wait to meet him or her.”
Sarah, who married Matt in Manchester with just two guests – their witnesses – during her treatment in 2017, told of how she’d had absolutely no symptoms in the lead up to her seizure.
After a day out at York races in August 2016 she was asleep in a hotel room when she had a huge seizure.
She recalled: “I had a big seizure in my sleep. I don’t remember the exact moment it happened, all I remember is coming to feeling really frightened.
“There were loads of people in the room including hotel staff and paramedics.
“Matt was also there, and while I was lucky it hadn’t happened when I was on my own, it must have been really distressing for him to see.”
Sarah was taken to a local hospital and examined, before she was referred to a neurologist at Salford Royal, closer to where she lived.
There, she underwent a number of tests, including an MRI scan, which revealed that she had a brain tumour.
Speaking of the October 2016 diagnosis, she continued: “I was really fit and active, and so the thought of cancer – let alone a brain tumour – never crossed my mind. It was a complete bombshell.
“Doctors couldn’t say much at first. All they knew was that I had a tumour. They needed to do more tests to determine exactly what kind, and exactly what we were dealing with.”
Further investigations confirmed that Sarah had a grade two glioma – one of the most common types of brain tumour.
It was located at the back of her right frontal lobe – the part of brain that controls cognitive skills – affecting the area responsible for movement in the left hand side of her body.
Sarah said: “My memory of the surgery is actually really clear. I was put to sleep whilst they made the incision, then woken back up. They needed me to be awake and alert so they could do tests and work out what would be affected if they removed certain areas.
“I was chatting away about really normal things – my holidays, what I was having for dinner – while a huge team operated on me.
“At the time, I felt like I was on a treadmill, just looking ahead to the next step in my treatment and what to do to get better. It’s only now I look back and realise how surreal it all was.”
Unfortunately, during the operation, doctors discovered the tumour was more diffuse – meaning it had threadlike tendrils making it more difficult to remove – than originally thought.
Its precarious position meant removing it completely could pose too great a risk of paralysis, and so the surgery was abandoned.
“I could hear them talking about the paralysis risk, which was really scary,” she said. “Because I knew all that was happening, though, I came back round already knowing and accepting that the surgery hadn’t been able to remove the tumour as we’d all hoped.”
After three weeks in hospital recovering, Sarah was allowed home, before launching into the next phase of her treatment in February 2017 – a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Just before beginning, she was allowed to freeze her eggs in an attempt to preserve her chances of having children, but, due to the urgent nature of her situation, there was only time for one shot.
“With everything going on, my fertility hadn’t even entered my mind, so I’m really glad the doctors bought it up with me,” she said. “I’d always wanted kids so it would have been tough if I’d lost my chance altogether.”
Throughout her journey, she has been supported by the charity Trekstock, which helps young adults in their 20s and 30s affected by cancer.
Praising them for all they’ve done for her in her hour of need, she said: “When you spend your life in hospital waiting rooms, you don’t see a huge amount of young people, so it was great to find Trekstock and a community of people just like me.
“I’ve been to several meet-ups, and they’re so fantastic and informal. It just feels like a group of friends on a day out – there’s nothing forced about it.
“Everyone I’ve met has been really excited for me and my baby too.”
Now preparing for her miracle arrival in March, Sarah is currently finished with treatment, and continues to undergo regular MRI scans to monitor her progress.
She said: “Now, I just want to put my all into being a mum.”
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