Pregnancy ‘saves life’ of woman after rare cancer is detected during routine scan

A pregnant woman whose rare cancer was detected during a scan underwent successful robotic surgery on her kidney during lockdown.

Rachel Bailey, 28, from Southwark, had a grapefruit-sized tumour and part of a kidney removed during a complex operation in May at the Guy’s Cancer Centre just two weeks after she gave birth.

She now credits her baby – and the Guy’s medical team and its pioneering machinery – for saving her life.

Rachel was able to have the procedure and be back home for cuddles with her little girl Phoenix just 25 hours after being admitted to hospital.

Medics had prepared for the birth to be induced, but in the end the tot arrived naturally.

She said: “I had been doing hypnobirthing and pregnancy yoga so I understood the importance of trying to keep relaxed.

“I was really trying to encourage my baby to come naturally, and I would talk to her all the time. When the time came for my induction, I had to go in by myself because of Covid (restrictions), but the midwives were all lovely.

“Suddenly everything was back on again and it was a rollercoaster of emotions, but I tried not to stress out my baby.”

It was as midwives were about to induce Rachel they realised she was already in labour and little Phoenix was born naturally, weighing 4lb 4oz.

Rachel said: “After the birth, the worry about the surgery set in. I had to leave Phoenix, and I had always wanted to breastfeed, but she wasn’t allowed to come into the hospital with me.

“I had just given birth and was trying to recover, and then I was desperately trying to breastfeed and express milk for her. As she was so tiny, she needed to be with me.

“I’m very lucky I was pregnant, otherwise I wouldn’t have known about the tumour. I have always wanted a family and I waited so long to get pregnant. Phoenix has been a blessing.

“Without Phoenix, the midwives, Ben (Challacombe, consultant urological surgeon) and the urology team, this experience would have been a lot more stressful. With them fighting my corner, I didn’t feel like I was doing this on my own.”

Mr Challacombe said: “Rachel’s situation is rare. I have done more than 1,000 robot kidney operations and only had one other similar case.

“If Rachel hadn’t been pregnant, her tumour may not have been spotted until later when the outcome could have been different. It may be that her baby saved her life.”

While doctors will keep a close eye on Rachel in the coming months and years, they are confident they removed all of the 9cm tumour and she doesn’t need radiotherapy or chemotherapy.

Pictured top: Consultant Ben Challacombe, Rachel Bailey and baby Phoenix

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