When Elle Halliwell discovered that she was pregnant with her first child earlier this year, she knew, like most women, that there could be a few struggles along the way.
Unlike most women, however, Halliwell wasn’t just considering the typical concerns that can hit during pregnancy. Because unlike most women, the Australian journalist had been diagnosed with aggressive bone cancer just 48 hours previously.
That was back in May, and now, after an incredible few months, Halliwell has just welcomed her healthy baby son Tor into the world, after refusing to follow advice from doctors who urged her to terminate her pregnancy to begin treatment.
“I’d love to say I jumped for joy, but my exclamation instead was of the four-letter kind,” the journalist says of the moment a home testing kit confirmed that she was indeed pregnant, just two days after her cancer diagnosis.
“My husband and I were still telling family and close friends of my health challenge when I discovered I was four weeks pregnant. Our first thought was, can we keep the baby?
“Our specialist strongly advised us not to because, without treatment, my slow-growing cancer could possibly turn aggressive and kill me before my pregnancy reached full term.”
Faced with an incredibly tough decision, and after extensive research, plus a trip to Adelaide to seek out a second opinion, Halliwell decided not to follow the advice of her cancer specialist.
“He recommended I abort, freeze some eggs and immediately begin a relatively new form of oral chemotherapy called tyrosine kinase inhibitors, or TKIs, which I would have to take for at least five years — until I was 35,” she writes.
“Only then could I consider stopping treatment and try to conceive.”
Given that Halliwell’s cancer, chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML), had been found very early on, and that her husband had stumbled upon case studies of other women diagnosed with the same disease, who had managed to carry their babies full term and survive, the pair decided to take the risk.
Instead of beginning a course of intensive chemotherapy to fight the cancer head-on, Halliwell instead opted for weekly injections of a far gentler drug called Interferon, found to be safe during pregnancy as it does not cross the placenta.
Luckily, both Halliwell and her baby responded well to the side-effects which can often include food aversion, fatigue, depression and flu-like symptoms.
In a bid to hasten her treatment, however, it was decided that the journalist would deliver her baby at 36 weeks, rather than the usual 37.
Taking to Instagram yesterday, Halliwell, who delivered her baby earlier this week following a relatively straightforward six hour labour, wrote:
“Tor Felix Biasotto, you've won my heart. All the sleepless nights, the health challenges and the anxiousness of being a new mum will be a privilege now I have you safe in my arms.”
In a video interview from her hospital bed, the writer revealed that she will now begin chemotherapy immediately.
“It will be in the next couple of days, sooner than we thought,” she explains. “We were going to have a bit of time before (I started) but my levels have gone up a bit so they are a bit more concerned than they were.
“That is why we had to have him at 36 weeks on the dot and not 37 so that I could start the treatment as soon as possible.
“If I am healthy, then I can keep him healthy. We are both very lucky. All is well that ends well. We are really over the moon.”