A mum warned she wouldn’t have any more children after developing leukaemia has not only beaten the cancer – but gone on to have a ‘miracle baby’.
Mother-of-two Ann Hope, 42, always dreamed of having the “complete family” with three children, before the blood cancer struck in March 2016.
Doctors told Ann she would need four rounds of gruelling chemotherapy, which would most likely leave her infertile.
The debilitating treatment caused a severe bout of pneumonia – which left her fighting for her life in ICU – but Ann recovered and was eventually given the all-clear.
Fertility tests the following year showed her eggs were damaged and doctors said her only option was IVF.
But when she missed a period, it turned out Ann had conceived naturally and “miracle” baby daughter Eden was born in June 2018.
Ann, from Billingham, County Durham, who is also mum to Amy, 24, and Ellis, 13, said: “When I got my diagnosis I was just in shock. It didn’t sink in.
“Before treatment, doctors told me it’s more than likely going to make me infertile, but there was no time to harvest my eggs.
“At the time, I was so ill I didn’t even think about it. It only sank in after my treatments when a fertility scan suggested my eggs were all damaged.
“It was devastating learning IVF was our only option, because we already knew we didn’t have the money for it.
“I was gobsmacked when I found out I was pregnant. At first, I was worried because I had been told my eggs were damaged.
“So when Eden was born the following June, I didn’t actually believe she was there. It was so surreal.
“It wasn’t an easy pregnancy, but now we tell people she’s our little miracle and it’s made our whole family stronger.”
Ann and husband Matty Hope, 45, sought medical help around Easter of 2016, when she lost her voice and noticed a lump had appeared on her neck.
Doctors at first suggested she was suffering laryngitis, but was then referred to the throat clinic.
Ann feared the worst as a biopsy was taken and, in the week it took to get results, her condition deteriorated.
Matty, a civil servant, had to carry her into hospital due to being in so much pain and unable to eat or drink.
On May 22, 2016, Ann was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia and she underwent her first round of chemotherapy the next day at James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough.
Ann said: “In a way the diagnosis was nice – because I finally had a name for the illness, so I knew I wasn’t making it up.
“By this point though, the doctors were telling me I would be dead in 24 hours if I didn’t start treatment right then.”
They also told her the chemotherapy would likely render her infertile – but she was so poorly that there wasn’t time to stop and harvest her eggs.
The situation got worse when, after just two days of chemo, Ann ended up in ICU for 11 days with pneumonia, brought on by her compromised immune system.
Chemotherapy treatment was paused for 11 days while medics fought the pneumonia, before restarting the chemo when she was strong enough.
Ann managed to get through two further rounds of chemo, but disaster struck again when she caught a superbug called C.Diff, and her chemo was paused for another week during the fourth round.
She said: “This was in October, and I was very ill with that. It was awful. I just got pumped full of antibiotics for about a week.
“Then after being recovered from that for a day, I got kidney stones. That was the most painful experience I’ve ever had. I couldn’t believe it.”
But after a bumpy chemo journey, Ann finally got the all-clear on November 17, following a bone marrow biopsy.
After being referred to a fertility specialist, in June 2017, Ann received the news that all her eggs appeared damaged.
She said: “Doctors suggested having IVF using a donor egg – which was devastating.
“We already had kids meaning we would have to pay, and we knew we didn’t have the money for it. At this point I was 37. Time wasn’t on my side either.”
The couple shelved the subject for a while and got married in August 2017, followed by a honeymoon to Fuerteventura.
While on holiday Ann took pills to stop her period so she could enjoy the break without worrying – but after she got back, her periods didn’t came back.
Ann said: “I went to the hospital and they gave me an ovulating test – despite what doctors thought, it came up that I was ovulating.
“I went straight to Tesco and I bought a pregnancy test and straight away, it was positive.
“Even after a second pregnancy test, Matty and I couldn’t believe it.
“I was shocked and very scared at first because I had been told my eggs were damaged.
“I wondered if it would even be possible for me to have a proper pregnancy.”
Against the odds – with Ann having been labelled ‘high risk’ – tiny Eden was born by elective C-section on June 20, 2018.
And despite earlier fears that the tot would be born underweight or very poorly, Eden was healthy and weighed 8lb 4oz.
Adoring parents Ann and Matty called Eden their “miracle baby” – and now aged four, that’s still how they see her.
Ann said: “It didn’t sink in at first, but it definitely has now. Her big brother Ellis loves telling everyone how she came to be.”
Ann is now six years in remission and doing well – and says the experience has actually made the family stronger.
She added: “A cancer diagnosis can cause a lot of families to break and I know some who have.
“But we all stayed strong and we have our miracle little girl despite everything.”