A woman whose pregnancy saved her life as it led to detection of her ovarian cancer early enough to treat is backing this year’s Chariots of Fire race, which will raise money for the Rosie Hospital.
Matthew and Claire Billingwere thrilled when Claire became pregnant a year into their marriage and looked forward to this next phase of life. However, their initial euphoria diminished when Claire was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. On discovering that she had cancer, their focus remained entirely on her pregnancy with support provided by her consultant, a specialist in gynaecological cancers, Mr Shafi.
Claire says ‘I think the world of Mr Shafi now – and I still email him photos of Sophie and bring her to some of my appointments when I can’. After an emotional consultation, Sophie was delivered at 37 weeks by caesarean, and the ovary was removed at the same time. Sophie was born, a healthy 6lb 1oz. ‘We were overwhelmed – as new parents are’ says Claire. A fortnight later, after recovering well Claire got the call informing her that the ovary was cancerous and more advanced than previously anticipated, requiring a total hysterectomy and six cycles of chemotherapy.
Sophie pulled the couple through this difficult time. Claire says, ‘A newborn is brilliant at making you get on with things. She carried us forward.’ Indeed without Sophie the tumor may not have been detected in time. The disease has long been known as the silent killer, since it can be so hard to spot. ‘It’s likely that my pregnancy hormones fed and increased the rate in which the cancer was developing – and pregnancy is the only time you’re scanned in that area and surrounded by professionals,’ says Claire. But Claire doesn’t dwell on the negative, ‘There’s not a day when I don’t look at Sophie and think how lucky we’ve been. She is full of beans, an absolute joy,’ says Claire.
Today, life has settled down, with both Claire and Matthew juggling the many social commitments of their popular little girl and Sophie’s increasing excitement at the prospect of starting school in September. Claire is back in her job as Corporate Manager for ACT, the registered charity for Cambridge University Hospitals. Although four and a half years oldand so too young to run in the Chariots of Fire, Sophie is no stranger to fund raising for the Rosie having recently raised over a hundred pounds by doing 105 bunny hops in two minutes.
Claire hopes to follow her daughters’ example and join a team for Chariots and says ‘I would encourage people to come and join chariots or go online and make a donation online (www.justgiving.com/Act). I am just one of the many success stories of this amazing hospital. According to Charles Hewitson, partner and race director of organiser Hewitsons, ‘Claire and Matthews story highlights the tremendous work that the Rosie hospital provides. I’m delighted our Chariots of Fire race is supporting the Rosie this year and would urge everyone to get their trainers on for the race and start fundraising and getting sponsored’.