For many, pregnancy is a time of joy and wonder – but for some, it is cruelly interrupted.
Every year there are 700 women whose joy over becoming pregnant turns to unthinkable fear as they discover they have cancer.
As it is such a rare occurrence, there are not many readily available support networks for scared new mums.
Mummy’s Star is the only charity in the UK which helps women diagnosed with cancer in and around pregnancy.
It offers help via online forums, one-to-one support and small grants and has now launched a summer campaign #500Stars as part of its fifth anniversary.
Louise Harlow, of Preston, is the charity’s engagement and fund-raising co-ordinator. She joined three years ago after discovering her husband, Ben Ashworth, had terminal cancer when she was pregnant with her third child. He died last July, aged 38.
Louise says: “We support women who are diagnosed with cancer during pregnancy or within a year of birth. We help those who have lost babies and we continue that support years down the line.
“After my own experiences with Ben being diagnosed when I was pregnant, I feel a real affinity with the women we support and the families going through that. It is wonderful to help others in similar situations.
“It is a privilege to be able to be invited in to that part of their lives.”
Mummy’s Star is a national charity based in Glossop but Louise works remotely in Preston. It supports women all over Lancashire, including Blackpool, Wigan and Lancaster, as well as the rest of the country and Ireland.
It provides help via an online forum, as well as one-to-one tailored support.
Louise, 35, adds: “Because it is so rare, with a handful of people in similar geographical areas, bringing groups of women together is not possible so we provide support via online forums. Wigan seems to have the biggest cluster of women.
“We also have small grants for families to help with anything a family may need, such as child care, travel expenses, light weight prams and swivel car seats as women struggle after a hysterectomy. We have also paid for things like baby yoga and massage.
“We work with health care professionals who go out and speak to women and other health staff. Because it is so rare, some midwives have never come across it.
“Up until a few months ago there was no statistics, but now Public Health England has released a report, stating one out of 1,000 pregnancies see a diagnosis of cancer.
“We aim to build on this to raise more awareness amongst both members of the public and medical professionals.”
As part of Mummy’s Star’s fifth anniversary, the charity has launched a campaign #500Stars, in honour of the 500 families it has supported.
The campaign is inviting 500 people to donate and place a virtual star on the charity’s supporter’s wall.
Collecting #500Stars on the supporter’s wall will allow Mummy’s Star to continue its work supporting families in need of help at such a difficult time.
If you’d like to give a star, visit http://www.donr.com/mummys-star. You will then receive a virtual star proudly displaying your name on their wall.