In the UK, a first-time mother died 10 weeks after giving birth due to terminal bowel cancer.
Laurel Cohen, 38, and husband Dave Cohen, 40, from Golder’s Green, London was looking forward to meeting their first baby daughter.
Laurel is an occupational therapist at the oncology ward of University College London Hospital, while her husband Dave worked as a team manager in an internet company.
According to Dave, Laurel experienced abdominal pain, shortness of breath, and constipation but she thought that these were just normal pregnancy symptoms. And on all her check-ups and prenatal scan, she was told that she and her baby were healthy.
But in her 35th week of pregnancy, the pain in Laurel’s abdomen got worst that she stayed off work and was eventually admitted to London’s Royal Free Hospital.
The couple went on for more scans and tests and discovered that there was a huge lump on Laurel’s liver.
Four days later, Laurel was taken in for cesarean and her five weeks premature daughter Ruby was taken into neo-natal care before the surgeon biopsied her mom’s tumor.
Sadly, the biopsy results confirmed that Laurel was not experiencing pregnancy symptoms rather she was suffering from a terminal bowel cancer that had spread to her liver. She passed away 10 weeks later.
“Laurel was an amazing woman,” Dave said. “We met when we were just kids at summer camp and by the time we were teenagers I fancied her.”
“She was always one to say she wasn’t going to get married and she didn’t want kids, but I won her over in the end,” he said. “I had to ask her out about a hundred times before she said ‘yes’ but then before I knew it we were getting married and couldn’t wait to start a family together.”
“There are no words to describe how difficult losing her has been and it all happened so fast,” Dave said. “Nothing could have prepared us for it. After her death I so wanted someone to blame but the doctors did everything they could. Every symptom she had was so easily explained by her pregnancy.”
“Looking back now those last weeks are all just a blur of running between neo-natal to be with Ruby and the cancer ward to be with Laurel,” he continued. “In the last couple of days before she passed, I was allowed stay in her room with her and I could hear her in the night crying out in pain.”
“I still miss her every single day. It’s been a year of firsts – the first time I am having to do so many things on my own. But Ruby gives me strength.
Weeks before Laurel died, she underwent four rounds of chemotherapy but her body stopped responding to the treatment and she was then transferred to the Marie Curie Hospice in Hampstead.
Laurel and Dave spent their time together making sure that she would have an influence on little Ruby’s life.
The new mom recorded special voice messages for her precious daughter tried her best to write birthday cards up until Ruby’s 10th birthday but sadly she got too sick before she could finish them all.
“Whenever the bad news was delivered we would have a big cry and talk about how terrible it all was but then Laurel would redirect and we’d be back onto Ruby’s future,” Dave said.
“Laurel was so strong and so calm.She was always the more level-headed one. I was just trying to take one day at a time and cherish every last moment. ”
“And I was also trying not to be overwhelmed by the fact I had a new baby and absolutely no idea what I was doing – but the nurses and our families have been unbelievably supportive,” he continued. “I worry a bit about how I’m going to deal with helping her do her hair or talking about puberty and boys but we’ll manage.”
Dave has spent the last five months running a series of 10k races with Ruby in her pushchair to raise money for several charities.
“I wanted to do something in Laurel’s memory but also to fundraise for the amazing charities that are trying to raise awareness of cancer in pregnancy,” he said.