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Eye Cancer Mum's Baby Joy

Aimee diagnosed with rare tumour while six months pregnant and helped by Maggie's to face the future
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Maggie's in Swansea helped Aimee after she was diagnosed with a rare eye tumour
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BESOTTED mum Aimee Hill lights up when she talks about her beloved toddler son.

Little Evan turned three in March. And Aimee glows with pride at another treasured milestone, as she declares, "He's awesome."

But she knows everything could have been so different after being given an impossible choice during her pregnancy: get urgent treatment for a rare eye tumour and risk a miscarriage or delay surgery and face the terrifying prospect of the cancer spreading in mum and baby.

In the end, there was no real choice.

Aimee, 35, of Port Talbot, South Wales, said, "The doctors said I could wait for surgery until after the baby was born or have it while pregnant.

"The biggest risk of all was that I could have miscarried. But if I had waited it could have grown and spread, not just to me but to Evan too."

She added, "They had to give us options, but strongly advised us not to wait."

Urgent Treatment

Pregnant Aimee's world was turned upside down in November 2020 after a routine eye examination.

The optician spotted an abnormality at the back of the former hotel manager's left eye and she quickly found herself at the centre of a maelstrom.

She said, "I went for the eye test when I was six months pregnant and that's when they found what they called a 'freckle' at the back of my left eye. Everything was very fast after that.

"They contacted the hospital straight away and booked an appointment for me. I was seen at the Singleton Hospital in Swansea. I had similar eye tests and they took pictures of the back of my eye.

"I remember seeing the scan and, even before they said anything, I knew it wasn't good.

"The doctor mentioned the word 'tumour' at the time. They probably knew it was cancer but weren't in a position to diagnose me and referred me to a specialist.

She added, "It was a worry more for the baby than for myself."

Aimee and graphic designer husband Aaron, 32, had to wait up to three nerve-racking weeks for an appointment at St Paul's Eye Unit in Liverpool.

During that time, she was sent a pack which had information about ocular melanoma - and Aimee researched it.

She said, "I read the booklet from front to back. I knew before I went in that, if it was a tumour, what options I'd have for treatment.

"As there were still restrictions I had to go on my own. It was really tough. I remember seeing the professor and they asked if I had someone with me. I said my husband wasn't at the hospital, but he was nearby.

"I had to ring him to come to the hospital. I already knew that if it wasn't anything I would have gone in on my own. I knew it was bad news.

"My husband turned up and they did the ultra-sound on my eye. I remember it being silent in the room while they did it.

"Afterwards the professor started a recording of the conversation and said that, unfortunately, it was cancer.

"When the words came out of the doctor's mouth, I was a little bit shocked, even though I was expecting it. I did get upset for about a minute, then I thought, 'Right, I need to ask as many questions as I can'."

She added, "I don't think they had experienced someone having this cancer and being pregnant at the same time. I think it was a learning curve for them, too."

Aimee went ahead with the treatment - called Plaque Radiotherapy.

She said, "There were two surgeries. The first was to insert a small radioactive disc the size of a 20p coin onto the tumour. It sat on the tumour for a couple of days.

"They have to measure the size of the tumour to figure out how many days you have to put it on for. Too little and it wouldn't kill the tumour, too much and it can affect other parts of the body. The second surgery was to remove the plaque.

"The complication was that I was pregnant. They involved the maternity hospital across the road. Before I went in for the first surgery, they had midwives come in and listen to the baby and make sure everything was okay.

"As soon as I came round from the anaesthetic, they were listening to the baby's heartbeat. There were lots of tears."

Both surgeries took place in January 2021 - and Evan was born in the March, by C-section.

She said, "I had surgery in January and, in the July, had the six-month check-up in Liverpool. I was told when I had the cancer diagnosis that the surgery had a 95-per-cent success rate.

"I assumed that, after July, I would be cancer-free and could move on with my life. But I was told the cancer was still there and that it takes some to kill it with the treatment I had.

"Coming out of that appointment was quite a shock. Even more than being told you had cancer in the first place, which is crazy."

Help From Maggie's

Aimee admits she struggled with her mental health after giving birth and was told about Maggie's by her health visitor.

At first, Aimee felt she 'didn't deserve' the charity's help - but now concedes she would not have found it as easy to face the future without them.

And she has praised players of People's Postcode Lottery for helping to support the Maggie's network across Britain.

She said, "I wouldn't be able to sit here and talk about this now if it wasn't for Maggie's.

"It's so important. A lot of people don't know as much as they should about Maggie's. There are so many different things they offer help with, and you don't have to ring or make an appointment.

"Cancer affects every one of us. One in two of us get it. The conversation shouldn't be about if it happens, it should be about when. Maggie's is there for people when it does happen to them.

"Being able to go somewhere like Maggie's for help, you can't put a price on that. It took me a while to feel like I deserved to come here. I felt like other people probably needed it more than I did.

"Sometimes when you go through something like cancer you want to talk, but you don't want to hurt the people you love. That's how Maggie's helped me.

"You can let cancer consume everything about life. But it is important to fill life with as much positivity... stuff that brings joy.

"I had really dark days, especially during the time between having surgery and before Evan was born. You have to find things that bring you joy and comfort."

She added, "The support that people, like players of People's Postcode Lottery, give Maggie's is incredible."

Cancer Celebrity

Aimee says husband Aaron has nicknamed her the 'cancer celebrity' after she started talking about her experience on Instagram (@riseabovecanceruk) and has now launched a podcast on Spotify and YouTube.

She said, "I find talking about my journey helps me and, because I do, it helps other people. It helps me process it as well, and everything I've been through."

Aimee still lives with cancer - but stays optimistic.

She said, "The thickness of the tumour has shrunk. But the doctors are happy with the progress. I'm still living with cancer, but it is under control.

"I have eye scans and liver scans because that's where the risk of spread is: the eyes and liver are connected."

She added, "Aaron has been brilliant. I don't know how I would have got through cancer without him. He really did take care of me and Evan and still does."

Making A Difference

People's Postcode Lottery players are helping deserving causes like Maggie's make a difference every single day. Read more about the range of Charities that our players support.

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Published: 08/04/2024

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