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Woman diagnosed with cancer at five months pregnant after mistaking morning sickness symptoms

Woman diagnosed with cancer at five months pregnant after mistaking morning sickness symptoms

Caitlin McAlinden's symptoms were initially mistaken for morning sickness

A mum-to-be was diagnosed with cancer at five months pregnant - when her extreme morning sickness turned out to be a symptom of the disease.

Caitlin McAlinden, 24, had cancer symptoms such as a lump on her neck, nausea and fatigue, but put it down to morning sickness.

This diagnosis came after five months of nausea.

But after losing two stone in four months she was referred to a haematology team at Arrowe Park, the Wirral.

They gave her a neck biopsy and diagnosed her with stage one Hodgkin lymphoma in March 2024.

Fortunately, Caitlin is expected to make a full recovery but has to take a steroid injection and a blood-thinning pill every morning.

After her baby boy is born, on May 8, the primary school teacher will start a four-week course of chemotherapy.

Caitlin, from Wirral, Merseyside, said: "This isn’t the pregnancy I was hoping for - I haven’t felt well this entire time.

"Everything I want to do after my baby is born has to be put on pause due to the chemo.

"My odds are really good - but having my baby will be a good distraction for everything I’m going through."

Caitlin found out she was pregnant on September 16, 2023, after feeling nauseous at her birthday dinner the week before.

The first few months of pregnancy were tricky- she was vomiting at least once a day and would fall asleep intermittently throughout the day.

But it wasn’t until Christmas Day that she first noticed the pain in her neck and after weighing herself, noticed she’d lost two stone.

She said: "I remember Christmas Day, falling asleep on the sofa and waking up with a really sore neck.

"I thought I’d just slept funny, but I started massaging my neck.

"That’s when I found a lump, about the size of a pea."

Caitlin didn’t want to see a GP at first - believing the lump was just another 'weird' sign of pregnancy.

But in just a week, her tiredness became worse and the pea-size lump tripled in size.

"I was so, so tired," she said.

"Walking up the stairs alone would make me need to go for a lie down.

"I felt my neck again one day and the lump had become golf ball-sized.”

Caitlin McAlinden experienced symptoms of cancer for months, but mistook them for morning sickness.

She visited her GP on January 2 and was referred for an initial ultrasound on her neck.

They gave her a biopsy on January 16 and the clinician asked Caitlin if she had any family history of Hodgkin lymphoma.

She told them one of her second cousins had gone through it years before and they urgently sent her for more blood tests.

“My doctor’s whole demeanour changed when I said I had a family history of it,” Caitlin said.

“I went for a blood test on the same day.”

Caitlin was diagnosed with stage one Hodgkin lymphoma on March 12, 2024, and instantly started steroid treatment to shrink the mass on her neck.

She was told she won’t need surgery and doctors are confident she’ll be able to start chemotherapy after her due date on May 8.

Despite the cancer being treatable, chemotherapy will stop Caitlin from doing things she wanted to do after her baby boy is born.

She says she won't be able to hold a Christening or breastfeed - which isn’t advised while on chemotherapy due to the chemicals passing through the milk.

She said: “In Catholic culture, we’re expected to christen our baby within the first few days of birth.

“But that coincides with chemotherapy - so I can’t.

“I really wanted to breastfeed, but chemo is stopping me from doing that, too.”

A haematologist needs to be present at all of Caitlin’s obstetrics and gynaecology appointments - and doctors may try to induce her earlier than her due date.

She said: "They might try and induce me next week, as I’ve got my cervical sweep booked.

"The waiting times back home in Northern Ireland for treatment are a lot longer than here, so I’m really lucky with how fast everything has moved."

Caitlin says her fiance, Connor has been her 'rock' throughout the ordeal - and the pair have since found out they’re going to have a baby boy, but will be keeping his name a secret.

"Connor has been amazing," she said.

"My family have also been making lots of trips back-and-forth from Ireland to England."

Featured Image Credit: SWNS

Topics: Health, UK News