I never expected my Christmas baby to be born facing the fight of his life…
By Stacey Allen, 33, from Paisley, Scotland
As soon as I saw my son Jack on the scan monitor I knew he was special.
I’d been trying for a baby with my partner, Neil for years. We’d sadly suffered a miscarriage early on in our relationship, back in 2010.
I doted on my two older children from a previous relationship, Rachele and Declyn, but Neil and I sorely wanted to have a child together too.
We never gave up hope. Then, early last year I discovered I was pregnant.
Neil was over the moon too but we were both cautious. After the heartbreak of losing a baby before, we knew it wouldn’t necessarily be plain sailing.
So, when we met our baby at the 12 week scan, we were anxious to find out whether our little one was healthy.
‘He’s perfect,’ said the sonographer, turning the screen so we could see. ‘Everything looks right on track.’
By the 20 week scan our baby boy was still thriving. I couldn’t wait for my due date, January this year.
As we got our home in Paisley ready for the festive celebrations, stashing presents underneath the tree and hanging up the decorations, I knew that by this Christmas everything would be different.
‘Next year our son will be here too,’ I said to Neil, smiling happily. I couldn’t wait to meet our boy.
But, little did I know then that we’d have our baby in our arms even sooner than we thought.
Doctors were concerned that he wasn’t as big as he should be. So, on December 22nd, I was taken into hospital to be induced, two weeks early.
Neil and I were assured that our boy was perfectly healthy and it was just a precaution.
And, sure enough, when he arrived weighing a tiny 5lb 6oz, he was perfect.
We fell in love, instantly. I felt like we’d been given an extra special Christmas gift, meeting our son in time to celebrate.
We named our boy Jack, after Neil’s dad. Rachele and Declyn loved him too.
Even spending Christmas Day in hospital couldn’t wipe the smiles from our faces, as Jack was diagnosed with jaundice. Instead, we spent the day on the ward as a family.
Then, just a couple of days later, Jack came home.
But, it wasn’t long before Neil and I both noticed our boy’s belly was getting bigger.
He loved guzzling down milk, and after being born so tiny it was good that he was putting on weight.
Yet, to us his stomach looked swollen. The health visitor told us not to worry, even when we mentioned that Jack also seemed really sweaty.
Then, when three little lumps popped up behind his ear, we rushed him straight to our GP.
‘It’s normal to be worried, but he’s fighting off a virus,’ the doctor assured us. ‘Keep an eye on him and he’ll be fine.’
However, one afternoon Neil was lying down on the living room floor with Jack, playing with him as he happily giggled away. Then he found another lump, this time on the back of his leg.
‘I think we need to go back to the doctors,’ Neil said, concerned.
But again, we were told that as long as he was drinking and smiling he was fine.
Unconvinced, Neil and I watched Jack like a hawk, looking for the smallest sign of a new symptom.
Then, one evening a few days later, he suddenly became really cold and clammy. We phoned the NHS helpline, who told us to take Jack straight to hospital.
As soon as we saw a doctor, I knew that this time we wouldn’t be turned away.
‘How did you let him get like this?’ the doctor snapped at us. ‘He needs to be in hospital.’
I felt sick with worry. I felt like we’d failed our son, even though we’d tried so hard to get someone to listen to us.
Within hours Jack was transferred to the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow by ambulance, lights flashing and sirens blaring.
There he was rushed through for scans and tests before a doctor came to break the news to us.
‘I’m sorry but your son has cancer,’ he said, gravely.
They diagnosed him neuroblastoma, a rare type of childhood cancer. And, chillingly the cancer was already so advanced that doctors said it would have started in the womb.
Our baby had been the best Christmas present ever. We’d had no idea he’d been hiding a deadly secret. He’d been born with cancer.
For the next four months Jack barely left hospital. He went through gruelling chemotherapy and the only thing that kept me going was the fact he never stopped smiling.
Finally, last month he was officially discharged. The chemo had worked and the cancer was gone.
We’ll have to take Jack back for regular check-ups but one blessing is that this type of cancer isn’t likely to return.
This year, we’re going to have a proper family Christmas. We’re pulling out all the stops to make it one to remember. After all he’s been through, Jack deserves it.