Aimee Hill had to make the difficult decision of whether to start treatment right away for her sake or wait three months until after she gave birth for the sake of her unborn son
Image: Aimee Hill)
A 33-year-old expectant mum was left devastated when she found out she had an extremely rare form of cancer six months into her first pregnancy.
Aimee Hill, from Port Talbort, Wales, had to decide to risk her unborn baby’s health by starting treatment right away or postpone it and risk her own life.
The cancer was caught when a ‘freckle’ was spotted in the back of her left eye during a routine check-up at her optician in November 2020, WalesOnline reports.
After being given additional tests she was immediately referred to hospital where further scans showed she had ocular melanoma – an eye cancer found in around 750 people in the UK each year.
“Obviously, being six months pregnant and being diagnosed with cancer was a traumatic and difficult time,” she said.
“My pregnancy wasn’t easy either. I was really sick and I already felt like I was going through it – and then to be diagnosed with cancer was devastating.
“But then I was like ‘right, you need to sort yourself out now because you need to ask questions about the baby and how this is all going to affect him’.
“There was a risk of miscarriage with treatment as I’d need to go under general anaesthetic, but there was also a risk of the cancer growing or spreading elsewhere.
“I didn’t want to have cancer anymore, but at the same time I didn’t want to do anything that was going to affect the baby. I was obviously advised to start treatment straight away so that’s what I did.”
Aimee had to attend her first appointment alone due to Covid restrictions. She recalled: “As soon as I went in to see the doctor and she showed me the scan of my eye, I knew straight away that something wasn’t right. She mentioned the word ‘tumour’ but cancer wasn’t mentioned at that stage.”
Aimee was then referred to the Royal Liverpool University Hospital for further examination.
She added: “My appointment was on December 18, 2020. I’ll never forget that day because that was the day we went into lockdown again and that was the day that I was diagnosed with cancer.”
In January 2021 Aimee started treatment at St Paul’s Eye Clinic in Liverpool.
She had plaque radiotherapy – a high dose of radiation to a small area. A small radioactive disk was placed over the cancer on the affected eye to continually give off radiation.
“I was seven months pregnant when I had my treatment. My time at the hospital was so hard. I couldn’t see my husband, Aaron, due to Covid restrictions, and I could only have paracetamol for pain relief,” she explained.
Aimee then recovered at home before giving birth to her son, Evan, in March 2021.
She continued: “He was born happy and healthy, and I felt so grateful he was okay.
“When he was born, I thought I can forget about everything that’s happened now and then move on, which was probably not the right thing to do, but at the time I needed to do that as I was looking after a newborn baby.”
Three months later, the whole experience caught up with Aimee and she started to struggle emotionally. She added: “That’s when I started going to Maggie’s cancer charity just for some support, and that has really helped.”
Being a mum to Evan has also been a light in Aimee’s life.
“He is such a happy baby. You could be having the worst day ever and then he will smile or giggle and then you’re fighting again,” she said.
Six months after her surgery, Aimee returned to the eye clinic in Liverpool for her follow-up – and it wasn’t the news she was anticipating. “I was expecting them to say I had the all-clear as they told me the treatment had a 95% success rate.
“But unfortunately the cancer is still there and the tumor is the same size but it isn’t any bigger which is a positive thing.
“And I think that was the moment I realized that actually, this is probably something that I’m going to have to live with for a while. In my mind, before I was diagnosed with cancer, I either thought that you survived cancer, or you didn’t.
“I didn’t realize that you can just live with it.”
However, Aimee is hoping the treatment she has already had will have an impact on the tumor.
She said: “I had an appointment in January and a scan showed scarring around the tumour.
“The scarring will hopefully mean the cancer can’t grow any further and it will slowly be suffocated.
“The cancer is still the same size and I will be having appointments every six months for the next five years to monitor the situation. I might have this for the rest of my life.
“As long as the cancer doesn’t get any bigger, it might just kind of be there, so I’m trying to change my mindset about it.”
Aimee said she is now looking forward to taking part in Swansea’s Race for Life, with money raised going towards helping scientists find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer.
Aimee’s final message is to encourage people to visit the opticians regularly.
She said: “There is so much more to an eye test than just checking your vision, and I don’t think a lot of people realize that.
“After sharing my story on social media, I’ve received so many messages from people saying ‘I’m in my 30s and I’ve never had an eye test before.
“Because of your story, I’ve booked it and I’ve gone for an eye test. And that’s really important to me.”