When Elle Halliwell found out she was
pregnant earlier this year – two days after being told she had CML – a
Leukaemia Foundation newsletter dating back to 2008 gave her hope.
It featured a
story about Shelley Bell who was 10 weeks pregnant when the blood test that
confirmed her pregnancy also showed she had CML. That was in 2007 and today her
daughter, Amelie is a thriving eight year-old.
husband, Nick Biasotto, found
Shelley’s story on the Foundation’s website during a weekend of intense
internet research prior to Elle’s first appointment with a haematologist on
Monday May 2.
Their GP had
already broken the news of Elle’s diagnosis on Thursday April 28.
discovery that she had blood cancer, like Shelley’s, was a twist of fate.
start a family later this year, Elle, 30 of Sydney, who is the fashion editor
of a Sydney newspaper, had a blood test to check her folate and vitamin D
levels. These were fine, but she had an abnormally high platelet count.
had a negative result from a pregnancy test two weeks earlier, she “had this
weird feeling” that she needed to do another test.
looked at the result and saw two little blue lines, I was just in shock. I was
carrying my first child and thought – well, that’s not going to happen. How can
someone with cancer carry a baby to full term?
showed me some videos he’d found about pregnancy and CML, where doctors were
open to the idea of continuing with a pregnancy in that situation although it
was rare, and I read the story about Shelley.
gave us hope that there was light at the end of the tunnel.”
The advice of
the haematologist, who Elle met with two days later, was to terminate the
pregnancy, have fertility treatment and freeze some eggs, go on TKI treatment
for at least five years, then go off the treatment and try to conceive.
Halliwells sought a second opinion, from internationally renowned CML
specialist, Professor Tim Hughes in Adelaide.
“He gave us a
vote of confidence that, although there were risks, I could see the pregnancy
through, without the CML going to the accelerated or blast phase,” said Elle.
“My CML had
been caught early. My Sokal(a prognostic evaluation of
CML) level was right at the bottom, I felt great, my
spleen was fine, my white blood cell count was okay and I had no other sign of
CML other than high platelets.
“It was still
so early and I didn’t know if I’d make it through the first trimester.
“We made the
decision to go through with having the baby, and then we reached out to the
Leukaemia Foundation to get in touch with Shelley.
to have a chat and we had a really nice phone conversation about her experience
and how she managed her eight-month pregnancy,” said Elle, who at that stage
hadn’t begun treatment.
This gave her
added hope and confidence, as did knowing that Shelly’s child was prospering,
and that CML was not hereditary.
for the moment to continue as we were and felt that we had made the right
choice and were not doing anything reckless,” Elle explained.
made me feel a lot better about the decision, and that if I exercised and had a
good diet, and had treatment, then my son had a good chance of being born and
having a healthy start to life.”
In July, Elle
started treatment on slow release pegylated interferon which she had
intravenously once a week.
responded very well, have hardly any side-effects apart from a bit of fatigue
which could be from being pregnant, and I feel good.”
Elle said her
BCR-ABL level was sitting stable at 15% (down from 18%) and her baby is
thriving and at 23 weeks, was at the top end of the weight scale.
He is due on
January 6 but is likely to be induced a month early, and Elle hopes to
breastfeed for at couple of days, before she goes on to TKI treatment.
Elle wrote a story for her newspaper about how she was coming to terms with
having leukaemia and being pregnant with her first child. She continues to work
full-time as a journalist, a couple of days from home, and is considering
taking an additional six months on top of standard maternity leave.
things day-by-day and step-by-step,” said Elle.
“It’s hard to
make plans when you don’t know what’s happening.
been a great support, and from day dot I’ve been really grateful to the
Leukaemia Foundation which has been so helpful. It’s made a difference and it’s
meant I haven’t felt alone.”
More Inspiring Stories