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My sister, Julia, is 38 and she found out that she was pregnant with her first baby late August 2021. We were all delighted with the news, as it was a long-awaited baby and the first grandchild in the family.

A few days later, she started spotting and having cramps in her lower belly. Needless to say, she was very worried and upset that something wasn’t right and, after her first scan, she was advised to wait and see what happened, as it was too early to see a heartbeat.

Just a year before that, I lost a baby at 12 weeks, and it brought back all the painful memories and heartache of that time. It was a very anxious and unsettling wait and Julia was so relieved to see a heartbeat at her 6 weeks scan.

From then on, she developed severe morning sickness and was spotting and cramping on and off. She also lost weight, her energy levels dropped and she was feeling tired most of the time. All of these symptoms were attributed to early pregnancy and the fact that she had fibroids growing due to hormonal changes in her body.

My sister remained extremely brave and resilient during this time. She attended all of her antenatal appointments and the baby was developing well, until she ended up at the A&E with severe abdominal pains. She started bleeding after the examination and doctors were concerned with visible changes on her cervix.

She was referred for a biopsy and two weeks later, was diagnosed with cervical cancer. All our lives were turned upside down on that day. What was a time of excitement, joy and anticipation for the new arrival became a fight for saving my sister’s and her baby’s lives. Being diagnosed with cancer is a terrible experience for anyone but having to go through this while being pregnant is a double blow, as two lives depend on the outcome of the treatment.

Luckily, it was decided that Julia will be allowed to progress with the pregnancy, as she was already in her second trimester. She is going through rounds of chemotherapy to slow down the growth of the tumour and the baby is doing well. It is a very challenging and painful process, both physically and mentally, and I am amazed at how brave and strong my little sister remains during this rocky journey. She is always smiling and is experimenting with colourful wigs! She is a true inspiration to me and all our friends and family and I am extremely proud of her!

Depending on her and baby boy’s condition, and how well she responds to the treatment, she will have surgery to deliver her baby two months early and have a drastic hysterectomy at the same time. Her doctors said that her baby will be kept at NICU and she might need to have more chemo and radiotherapy after that.

I understand that my sister’s and her baby’s journey to full recovery will be challenging and I would strongly urge all women to get regular smear tests and check ups to prevent this terrible illness affecting them or someone they love.