By ROSALIND GRIFFITHS
THE CLAN complex in Aberdeen has been a lifeline for a Dunrossness resident and her family.
Ann Dewberry has had several stays there, including a spell of five weeks earlier this year while having cancer treatment, and will continue to make use of the centre during her follow-up appointments.
Exactly a year ago Mrs Dewberry, 39, found herself in the nightmare situation of having cancer while pregnant. She had no option but start chemotherapy, even though she was terrified it could affect her unborn baby. However, on 5th November last year baby Isaac James, 5lb 4oz, was born fit and well by caesarean section.
Thanks to the pregnancy she was diagnosed and treated quickly, and she said: “Isaac saved me mentally and physically and got me through the worst treatment.”
Last August Mrs Dewberry, a ward sister at the Gilbert Bain hospital, discovered a breast lump and went to her GP, who diagnosed an abscess and prescribed antibiotics.
But on a routine obstetric visit to hospital in Aberdeen when 30 weeks pregnant, prior to a planned caesarean, doctors realised the lump, which was growing at “massive speed”, was malignant.
Mrs Dewberry was taken for ultrasound and events unfolded rapidly. In six weeks the lump had grown from being just palpable to being nearly 14cm long and had spread to the lymph nodes. It turned out to be inflammatory breast cancer, a rare and aggressive form of the disease which makes up only two per cent of all cases.
“Doctors told me the cancer was more aggressive because I was pregnant,” she said. “I was worried the baby would be riddled with cancer but they said it doesn’t work like that. But they said I had to start chemo urgently, it couldn’t wait until the baby was born.”
Mrs Dewberry was told that because of the advanced stage of her pregnancy there was less risk to the baby from chemotherapy, and had two bouts of it before the birth. During that time her husband Steve, 36, was able to stay at CLAN to be at hand to support his wife while family members came up from south to look after the couple’s older children Joe, 12, and Neve, aged nine.
Fortunately, Mrs Dewberry said, the fact that she was 30 weeks pregnant meant she was beyond the stage when doctors would have suggested a termination.
“It could have been a lot worse. I was scanned every week to make sure the baby was growing, but it was such a relief when he was born at 37 weeks. I just wanted him out of harm’s way.”
As a precaution Isaac spent a night in intensive care, before being moved to the special care baby unit. He is now a bouncing 10-month-old.
Just 10 days after the birth Mrs Dewberry, who with her family moved to Shetland from the north-west of England last year, started another session of chemotherapy. This was all done in Aberdeen because the drugs used would have expired by the time they reached Shetland.
She then had a mastectomy in April and radio therapy, and now takes the anti-cancer drug herceptin, which has been the subject of several “post-code lottery” cases, but which it is the policy of Shetland Health Board to issue, if appropriate.
Mrs Dewberry, who went back to work this week, now has check-ups in Aberdeen every 12 weeks.
She said: “I have my 3am moments but I have to get through those and get on with being a mother.”
Throughout all this (she has made more than 30 trips to Aberdeen), CLAN has been a tremendous support to the family.
“I go down with Isaac and the people at CLAN are so good. I will be eternally grateful to the housekeepers for mothering me.
“When I was having chemo after the birth my husband Steve had only just started his job at Train Shetland. They have been fantastic but he had to stay in Shetland to look after the older children.
“I don’t know what we would have done without CLAN. I don’t know how I would have managed without the emotional as well as practical support. And the financial implications would have been massive.
“CLAN caters for the whole family and it does not have a hospital atmosphere. We are all going down as a family when I have appointments in October. It is really important that the new build will have family suites so that everyone can be together.”