When Brisbane woman Laura Corfield experienced "persistent pain" and discomfort in her tummy, she was reassured by doctors her symptoms were expected during pregnancy. But as weeks went on and the bowel trouble continued, she knew something "wasn't right".
The 35-year-old mum felt nauseous early in her pregnancy, which continued for four more months. But a heartbreaking diagnosis at 22 weeks' pregnant threw the "healthy" mum's life into a spin when she was diagnosed with Stage 3 Bowel cancer.
"[The doctor] just came out with it. It was just a standard day for us and I was in total disbelief," she recalled to Yahoo News Australia, three weeks after diagnosis.
"They said it was aggressive and really advanced," she said. "They used all those words you don't want to hear at that moment".
Baby's life at risk: 'Extremely difficult'
Ms Corfield's situation was made more difficult by the baby growing inside her. Subsequent testing and scans revealed cancer had spread beyond the bowel wall so they were forced to act quickly.
Radiation therapy was a "hands down no", but delivering her baby boy before 28 weeks had its own complications too. The Brisbane couple were told there was a 50 per cent chance their son would survive if removed from her womb, and it meant deciding whether or not to resuscitate him once they did.
"That conversation was extremely difficult, it was the worst day of my life," she said through tears. But together with her husband Braden, 34, and their medical team, they decided they'd wait until at least 30 weeks.
Couple's family dreams shattered
Now at 25 weeks, Ms Corfield — whose grandmother died from bowel cancer — says it's hard for her to process the idea of receiving chemotherapy treatment while pregnant but it was "the only way" to treat her and potentially save her life. The Brisbane mum will undergo four rounds and will start radiation when her son is born, something she admits will be a challenge.
The radiation means Ms Corfield will not be able to have more children. The mum-of-one said her diagnosis has "changed a lot for us" but that was by far the hardest. She's also struggled with not being present with her daughter, two-year-old Quinn.
Ms Corfield, who worked as a consultant for an architecture firm, is unable to work and her husband's surveying company has been put on hold so he can care for his wife and daughter.
Money raised to support family during months of treatment
A GoFundMe page has been set up by a friend of the couple to help raise costs for the "financial burden of treatment," plus the ongoing costs of daycare and their mortgage. They've so far raised almost $35,000 with a goal of $40,000.
"At a time when other expectant mothers are planning their nursery, counting down to maternity leave and soaking up those precious last weeks with their toddler, Laura and Braden have been attending appointments with their obstetrician, surgeon and oncologist – terrified of the impact on their unborn baby, while caring for their two-year-old, Quinn," the page reads.
"There will be months of chemotherapy, surgery and radiation treatment ahead; and the added complexity of caring for a premature baby, who will be born via caesarean at 30 weeks and require Neonatal Intensive Care."
Mum 'determined' to live
Ms Corfield who has always been extremely fit and healthy is now warning people of the importance of getting regular checks. Because of her age, she said she would have never thought she was at risk.
"After I was diagnosed I was totally relieved because I knew something was wrong," she said. "Everyone needs to get checked".
Admitting it's been a "really tough" few weeks, the soon to be mother-of-two is "determined to grow old with my husband and watch my babies grow up and make a million more memories".
"I am so overwhelmed by the love and support shown to Brades, Quinny and I through messages, calls, food deliveries, flowers and now through a GoFundMe page. From the bottom of my heart, thank you," she wrote online.
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