Inspirational Mother – Heidi Loughlin Profile Page

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VOTING IS NOW CLOSED

 

Plea:

‘A ridiculous plot in a bad soap opera.’

‘The worst luck.’

‘Pure and utter unfairness.’

‘Heartbreaking.’

‘Unbelievable.’

These are just some of the most common phrases people have used to describe my life over the last two years.
I initially describe it for others as the tripod of doom….a very rare and extremely aggressive strain of breast cancer, cancer during pregnancy and baby loss. I live with cancer every day or it lives with me but honestly, incurable cancer is easy compared to the pain of losing my baby girl at 8 days old.

Like any other shit story, it all started in the most loveliest of moments….

Once upon a time, I was rocking back and forth in a dark room…..I was sitting in the feeding chair in the nursery with my second son Tait latched onto my ever sagging left breast when I felt an itch on the other boob. Tait was five months old at this point and had always fed really well so mastitis seemed an unusual explanation but there was a rash too so likely it was the dreaded M. I’d remembered all the midwives informing us to feed through it and that it would clear on its own. So that’s what I did.

However a few weeks later the rash had spread and I trekked to the Dr to be told that it was mastitis and nothing more. I was confused as it didn’t seem to be anything like what friends had told me…toe curdling agony like latching Dracula to your nipple and easy to clear if you feed through it. After returning to the Dr again I left with a repeated mastitis diagnosis and some antibiotics. As they weren’t concerned, neither was I. After all, what else could it be?

So I delayed taking the medicine as I was off drinking with the girls for a weekend, then we moved house and then I went to Spain. Whilst in Spain I started to feel sick. My rash had increased and my boob seemed to be growing in size.
My mum joked I was pregnant which I dismissed….it would have been borderline ‘immaculate conception’ with two kids that didn’t sleep through the night and one of them still breastfeeding.

Anyway, due to the rapidly expanding boob I thought best to book another Dr appointment and knew that the first thing they’d ask was ‘could I be pregnant’. So I bought a test to tick that off the list and low and behold two blue lines.
Well I was shocked as this wasn’t something we’d planned but it rapidly become mega exciting when my two year old told my husband to inform him that ‘mummy has a baby in her tummy’. He was over-the-moon.

And so we cracked on with planning and in between rescheduling my masters degree, sorting out Keith’s work and juggling two kids under 3 I went to the Drs for the third time. Long story short she referred me to the breast clinic and then the day after Tait’s first birthday I discovered I had a very rare and extremely aggressive death sentence raging through my body. At 13 weeks pregnant I was informed I had Inflammatory Breast Cancer with a prognosis of 2-5 years.

That’s when the ass end fell out of my world. Everything was going so well wasn’t it? That’ll teach me to be happy and not keeping looking over my shoulder. Fuck a doodle doo.

I was also informed I had a hormone called HER2 which accelerates the growth of cancer cells.
My first thought…’what would happen to my baby?’ ‘Would it catch Cancer? I had no idea.
I was informed that I couldn’t be treated adequately while pregnant and that women in my position may strongly consider an abortion. I knew what that looked like at 13 weeks as I’ve had friends who had miscarriages and it’s not something I could mentally recover from. I just couldn’t. I loved this baby as much as the ones that I already tucked to bed at night. This was my third child. I just couldn’t imagine not keeping what turned out to be a ‘her’.
That being said, it is an extremely brave lady that makes the decision the other way.

I was almost in a position where I needed to choose between my children. If I didn’t have the treatment there was a very good chance I’d die sooner and not be able to be a Mum to Noah and Tait. But I couldn’t say goodbye to my baby either. It was an easy decision in the end…I would put my baby’s life before my own. I never really cared about me…I cared about my role as the boys Mum. And yes, I have been criticised for being selfish for taking the risk that the boys will grow up without a mum.

I like that ‘they’ are thinking about my boys but equally they have not walked in my shoes, thank goodness, so they can basically stick their high and mighty opinions up their asses.

I did the only thing I could do.

My little girl would have to be born prematurely because I would most likely die before 40 weeks without the drugs I needed. My little girl Ally would be born at 30 weeks gestation. I got my head around this. My dear friends little boy had been born at 30 weeks and was currently crapping under tables whilst learning to go on the big boy toilet…he was cracking on with life. There were ups and downs but a baby’s chance of survival at that point is 97%.

So, I began a lesser treatment and for 14 weeks I had chemo, my hair fell out, I raised two children full time, I grew a new one, I cooked, cleaned and basically starting writing about it to try and ‘give something back.’ There were no blogs out there about Inflammatory Breast Cancer and certainly not in pregnancy and any blog I did find around Cancer was really frigging depressing so I thought stuff it and started writing my own.

I guess mine is an unusual story and I was so angry that I didn’t know about IBC that I told my mates that I wanted to get on the telly and tell people what had happened to me. So I agreed to feature in a documentary called ‘Extraordinary Pregnancies’ which began filming me around 22 weeks. I did a lot of news and radio. It felt good to spread the word. The blog, Storm in a Tit Cup, had really taken off and suddenly I had 40k followers. I felt I was kicking ass and I would be this amazing person that just had Cancer but everything else was mint.

Then I was told treatment wasn’t working and we needed to act fast. Ally’s birth was brought forward to 28 weeks where we had several meetings about it and it boiled down to Ally having 95% chance of survival and me having a lot less. So the decision to bring her birth forward seemed like a no brainer. I thought because of everything we had already gone through that it would all work out. We’d complete our family, I’d be cured and we’d all live happily ever after. Initially this looked to be the case.

On 11th December 2015 Ally Louise Smith was born at Southmead Hospital weighing a good 2.5lb. She was crying at birth and was a textbook NICU baby. She was breezing it.

And wow did the love flow. I think everyone could then see why I’d taken the risks. She was amazing. So tiny but the force around her was like the gravity of a million solar systems. What a girl. My little Alligator.

For 5 days I spent my time visiting her incubator from my room down the hall. I’d stare at her and imagine all the things we’d do together. Noah came in and sung to her. (I have that on video, and I can’t watch it. I don’t have the strength.) Ally would spend 12 weeks in NICU and I needed 12 weeks of the new chemo. We would do it together. I would flit between the two hospitals. Hospital 1: drugs in my arm…hospital 2: drugs in my heart.

It would be easy. We were tough girls. In 18 years we would drink wine together on girls weekends and reminisce about Ally’s start to life and how we couldn’t even imagine it now.

I got my head around NICU and on day 5 I went home for a night.

The next morning I had a call to rush into NICU. Ally had had two catastrophic bleeds to her brain and was unlikely to survive. Once they determined the cause of the bleed, a rare infection, it was stated that she categorically would not survive and so we had to say goodbye to her at 8 days old.

I remember dry heaving when they wheeled in her crib to our room. The room in which she’d take her last breath. A plain old insignificant room down the end of a corridor in NICU. A stones throw from all the other families cradling their babies…possibly aware of what was happening to us, possibly not. All hugging their babies tightly while we let go of ours.

We did it how we wanted but that’s the only bit of control we had. I couldn’t protect her. I couldn’t save her. I wanted to kill someone, myself, everybody. I was falling off a cliff and I couldn’t grab onto anything and honestly in those moments I didn’t want to. She left and everything went dark.

Over the coming days I slept walked through time. I can’t remember much but I do know we discovered my cancer had spread at that time. I spent my days wishing to fall asleep, having restless sleep and then waking with a split second of oblivion before the reality would hit and I’d remember our daughter had died. This pattern just continued. I know I drank a lot too and basically ate nothing. I had no need for food but alcohol dulled the senses. Everything tasted like shit from the chemo so It didn’t matter anyway. Nothing mattered. Christmas came and went. Her funeral came and went. Chemo came and went. And true to themselves my boys didn’t give up. They needed stories read…clothes put on….games played, food cooked, fun to be had. This is what dragged me up. I realised that I had no control over what had happened to Ally. I had no control over what would happen to me but I sure as HELL had control over my boys’ childhoods and I wasn’t going to let what had happened to our family swallow up their lives! No fucking way! I was going to take back control and I wasn’t giving up. I would do this for all three of my children!!!

As the weeks went by I grew strength and sheer determination. I got back up, now carrying a heavy weight but I got back up. And I started again.

I went back on camera and talked openly about the loss of our baby Ally, about the pain that I will always feel because she is not here.

I started writing again and I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of messages I have received from across the globe from people who wanted to talk about their babies and their experiences. I have been supported by several mothers and fathers who have lost babies and these people were my rocks, they will have no idea how much they’ve helped me, and continue to.

The thing I’m most proud of is that people tell me that I have given them strength to carry on their battle, whatever it may be. They feel like they have permission to be positive because they see someone else doing it.

I made a deal with myself that I would never turn down an opportunity to raise awareness about the tripod of doom.
This has given me the chance to talk at conferences about my experience. The most important one was for midwives at a conference run by Mummy’s Star, a charity for cancer in pregnancy. This will help with early detection of IBC as it highlights the similarities between Inflammatory Breast Cancer and mastitis. Women need to know the risks of misdiagnosis and that IBC actually exists.

I have been part of Channel 5’s ‘The Wright Stuff’ talking live about my experiences. I knew the importance of this opportunity to raise awareness but maintaining composure was extremely challenging. I have given many radio interviews, written and appeared in articles and continue to write my blog all to inspire others and raise awareness. To show that no matter what happens you CAN remain positive. You CAN do it!!!

And you can still laugh.

It’s an honour to be recommended for this award because it shows someone thinks I’ve done something right.
I hope I have. I want to be positive in all the things I do and mostly I want to make Ally proud and show all three of my children that mummy never gave up.

People may think that I’m in pieces and honestly there are times when I am but if you peeled the roof off of our home you’d see a ‘normal’ family. There are a lot of butterflies in our house and there is an empty bedroom and some toys without physical owners but our lives are full to the brim with love…and a shit load of Lego.

What Others Have Said:

“Pregnancy can be a scary time in the best of circumstances. Pregnancy mixed with unexpected diagnosis of rare and aggressive breast cancer must be one of the most devastating and complex double-whammys of a hand that anyone can be dealt. How do you square the circle of the challenge of needing aggressive chemotherapy but being informed that this type of chemotherapy means your pregnancy cannot continue?

So Ally was born fit and well at 28 weeks in December 2015 and Heidi was able to commence her aggressive herceptin treatment. Tragically Ally contracted an infection and died at 8 days old. In a further sucker punch, Heidi was then told that her condition was terminal.

Heidi educates professionals and the public alike about inflammatory breast cancer and her perspective on baby loss with a wit and intelligence that would be beyond most people even in conventional circumstances. But more than that, she channels the reality of her situation into making a difference, into helping professionals learn how they can handle situations better to provide higher quality care for patients. And having heard her speak, that strength of character and steadfast resolve unquestionably makes her one of the most Inspirational Mothers I’ve ever met, one that does Noah, Tait and Ally proud every single day.”

16 thoughts on “Inspirational Mother – Heidi Loughlin Profile Page

  • By Liz winder - Reply

    Heidi you have given so much to other and I personally have taken strength from you. I could not think of anyone that deserves this more. Hope always xx 💗 xx

  • By Sam walter - Reply

    Wow 💕

  • By Rachel - Reply

    No one deserves this more than you Heidi
    Keep going what an inspiration and wonderful mum you are.

  • By Nicola Jane Halsall BBB - Reply

    Heidi you are amazing. I’m so proud of you and I’m sure Ally flutters away with you constantly, in awe of her brave, hilarious mummy

  • By AUDREY Smith - Reply

    Heidi I have such admiration for you. You are an inspirational person, especially for your kids! The amazing things you do for them, while not only going through cancer but loosing your little one too. It makes my heart ache for you. Everything you do, is to fill their lives with new memories of exciting experiences and family times together. Love and hope xxx

  • By Karen - Reply

    Heidi, I think you are flipping marvellous! You have given me inspiration during my own battle with breast cancer. I can think of nobody else, but you who deserves to win this award. Xxx

  • By Mark - Reply

    Heidi, you are a total inspiration. xx

  • By denise gigson - Reply

    This women is a legend

  • By denise gigson - Reply

    This women is a legend xx

  • By Martin Halstvedt - Reply

    Heidi is a true star who always replies with a kind word. You put the P in parenting and the L in life 👍

  • By Carole - Reply

    I’m so inspired by your raw and open sharing. Thank you for choosing to do that in your darkest hours.

  • By Val - Reply

    Sending u lots of love Heidi, you are one brave lady. Xxx

  • By Val - Reply

    Sending you lots of love. You are an amazing lady. Ally is so lucky to have you as her mummy. Xxx

  • By Saranne - Reply

    When cock womble makes it into the LED I’m going to raise a glass to you wherever you are 💕💕💕

  • By joanna white - Reply

    Because I wish I had just a bit of your super powers x it says voting closed but I would of so voted for you

  • By Jessica Lempp - Reply

    Beautiful woman – sending you a lot of love. I have had breast cancer and lost a daughter but not at the same time. Many many wishes of love xxx

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