Aspiring doctor has healthy baby and scores first in uni exams while fighting cervical cancer after shock diagnosis at 19
An aspiring doctor diagnosed with cervical cancer at 19 who shunned chemotherapy to save her unborn baby is celebrating giving birth to a healthy boy, fighting cancer and achieving a first in her university exams.
Second-year student Abbie Colvin, now 20, spent a year being treated with antibiotics for cystitis as she was experiencing bleeding during intercourse.
But when she went to the doctors for sexual health screening in September 2016 after meeting her partner Oakley Buchanan, 21, tests revealed a problem with her cervix.
The biomedical science student received the devastating news that she had cervical cancer in January 2017 and was ‘heartbroken’ when doctors told her she would eventually need a hysterectomy.
After accepting she would never have a baby, Abbie from Poulton, Lancashire, went in for laser treatment to target cancer cells on her cervix in April 2017 – but a precautionary urine test revealed she was already pregnant.
Despite being offered chemotherapy during her pregnancy, Abbie wasn’t willing to take any risks as she knew this may be her only chance to carry her own baby.
‘Miracle’ baby Oscar Buchanan, seven months, was born healthy on December 12 and Abbie started three gruelling rounds of chemotherapy two weeks later – which she fought through while completing her exams.
And the inspirational young mum, who is now in her final round of chemo, is deservedly rejoicing in raising a happy little boy, getting a first and battling cancer all at the same time.
Abbie, who studies at Manchester Metropolitan University, said: “When they told me I couldn’t have children due to needing a hysterectomy, I was just heartbroken.
“It didn’t seem real because I was so young. I was only 19 at the time.
“It was just so unexpected. I know I’d had these symptoms but at first the doctors just thought it was cystitis and they kept giving me antibiotics.
“I found out because when I went for a sexual health screening, they saw something was wrong with my cervix and they sent me for a colposcopy straight away.
“My relationship with Oakley was quite new at the time. We’d only been together for a couple of months so the diagnosis was quite heavy information to be given. It was quite a numb feeling.
“I found out I was pregnant when I went for laser treatment on my cervix. Luckily they did a urine test before the treatment started.
“When they said I was pregnant I was absolutely ecstatic. I can’t even tell you how happy I was because I’d only just recently been told that I’d never be able to have my own children.
“There were options to freeze my eggs and stuff like that but I never would have been able to carry my own child so when I found out that I was pregnant I absolutely had to keep him.
“I spoke to the doctors and I explained that unless it was going to kill me, if I had the opportunity, then I was going to have this baby.
“They said if I chose to keep the baby that they would support me and they would do all of my treatment after.
“The hospital actually wanted to start my chemotherapy treatment at 35 weeks and I said ‘no’ because it’s poison. I wasn’t going to put poison in my body when there is a little baby in there.
“When Oscar was born it was literally magical – like a miracle.
“And in the seven months since I’ve raised a seriously happy and healthy baby, had three rounds of chemo and still got a first. Not to blow my own trumpet but I am proud.”
When she started to experience heavy bleeding, a sore stomach and lower back pain after intercourse, Abbie knew it couldn’t be her period as she took the contraceptive pill every day.
The student went to the doctor and was given antibiotics for cystitis – a common type of urinary tract infection that causes inflammation of the bladder.
But a trip to her local sexual health clinic in September 2016 revealed abnormalities on Abbie’s cervix and the student was sent for a diagnostic procedure called a colposcopy.
The NHS only perform smear tests for women between 25-64 as cervical cancer mainly affects sexually active women between 30-45.
Despite their relationship being so new, Abbie and delivery driver Oakley have taken the devastating diagnosis and a surprise pregnancy in their stride.
When Abbie decided not to have chemotherapy during her pregnancy, Oakley worried for his girlfriend’s safety but came around when he realised it could be their only chance to have a baby.
The brave mum was induced at 37 weeks so she could start cancer treatment as soon as possible.
While her university offered Abbie 52 weeks off, she refused to let the pressures of being a first-time mum fighting cancer get in her way.
Abbie continued attending lectures and completed all her assignments and exams to achieve a first.
Determined to pursue her dreams of becoming a doctor, Abbie has now transferred onto a seven-year course which includes a PHD in medicine.
Abbie’s treatment so far has involved chemotherapy but if her next scans aren’t clear, the mum will undergo a hysterectomy on July 16.
Abbie said: “Oakley was focused on getting me better but when he understood more about the situation he realised that this would probably be the only chance we would ever get to have a family.
“It was scary because we hadn’t been together for long and all of a sudden we were pregnant.
“It was like a miracle because I was on the contraceptive pill and I took my pill every single day and never missed it.
“It was like I was meant to have Oscar. He came at just the right time – exactly when I needed him.
“The hospital have been really good and kept on top of scans and doing blood tests.
“After the first two rounds of chemotherapy I started bleeding again really heavily every day and they sent me for a scan straight away.
“I got told that the cancer had come back vigorously so I didn’t have much time to wait for the treatment – it was spreading.
“I’m undergoing really intensive chemotherapy now. It’s for three weeks and it’s three days a week. It started two weeks ago.
“I didn’t lose my hair the first time around but this time I have – I’ve got no hair.
“I’m booked in to have a hysterectomy provisionally. If my next scan doesn’t come back clear I will have the surgery.
“If I’m not able to have any more children I don’t mind because I have Oscar – I’ve got my baby.
“I have just carried on with my life. I carried on going to university. I just wanted everything to stay as normal as possible.
“I’m sick all the time, no matter what I eat. Most of the time I’m sick but I just get on with my day.
“Battling cancer at such a young age has made me open to anything. There is no point in sitting there worrying about things that are so insignificant and silly things like washing up or little arguments.
“I have changed as a person 100 per cent. I’m so much more open to doing things, I’m happy to go out and do stuff and enjoy life.
“I appreciate every day that I wake up. A positive mental attitude helps me through my treatment and to stay so strong for Oscar.”
After being blessed with such an amazing baby boy through this difficult time, Abbie says she is more motivated than ever.
She wants other young women who are battling cervical cancer to never give up and to always keep a positive mental attitude.
Even though smear tests for under 25 year olds aren’t available, Abbie said that if you think something is wrong with your body to ‘stick at it’ and keep pushing for a diagnosis.
Abbie said: “For other women battling cervical cancer, you can never give up. You know your own body and you need to keep pushing for a diagnosis.
“If you know something isn’t right, you need to stick at it because they actually refuse to give women under 25 a smear test.
“It’s really nice to be able to share my story and get it out there for other women, especially people who are too young for a smear.
“It’s scary. If I hadn’t kept going to the doctors and gone for sexual health screening, I still wouldn’t know I had cancer. That one test saved my life.
“Women need to know that even if they’re not eligible for a smear test, there are other ways of getting a diagnosis.”
FACT BOX: WHAT IS CERVICAL CANCER?
· Cervical cancer is when abnormal cells in the lining of the cervix grow in an uncontrolled way.
· The main symptom is unusual bleeding from the vagina.
· Around 3,200 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in the UK each year. That’s around 9 cases diagnosed every day.
· Finding changes in the cells through screening can help to prevent cancer developing.
· Cervical cancer is more common in younger women. More than half of the cervical cancer cases in the UK each year are diagnosed in women under the age of 45.
· Treatment depends on where in the cervix the cancer is, how big it is, whether it has spread anywhere else in the body and general health. Usually surgery is needed or a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy (chemoradiotherapy).
· A colposcopy is a simple procedure used to look at the cervix, the lower part of the womb at the top of the vagina. It’s often done if cervical screening finds abnormal cells in your cervix.
(Information from the NHS and Cancer Research UK)