UK charity Mummy’s Star is running a cancer and pregnancy awareness week to highlight the devastation caused by the illness.
Set up in 2013, Mummy’s Star supports families affected by cancer during pregnancy and those who receive a cancer diagnosis within a year of a birth. Pete Wallroth created the charity after tragedy hit his own family and his wife, Mair, died of breast cancer just two months after giving birth to their second child.
They have already raised £50,000 and, during Mummy’s Star cancer and pregnancy awareness week on social media, the public is being encouraged to get involved.
“We want to raise awareness of cancer in pregnancy and in the 12 months postpartum, among both members of the public and those in the medical profession,” says Pete. “I’m meeting people all the time who have worked in or around cancer for years and have never come across this happening to a family, so there is a clear need.”
Throughout cancer and pregnancy awareness week, Mummy’s Star has been sharing stories of women who have experienced cancer during pregnancy and is calling on people to think about the challenges these families face both logistically and mentally. On Monday, the charity organized a live tweet session with a doctor who answered questions on cancer in pregnancy.
Pete says that much work still needs to be done and that there is a huge lack of information on the subject.
“The limited information that does exist on the big websites of cancer charities is very generic,” he says. “The feedback both from Mair and from the women we now support is that these snippets of information don’t resonate with them.”
What needs to change?
Mummy’s Star has clear objectives on what needs to change.
“We’d like to see fewer women being advised that termination should be considered if diagnosis takes place on the cusp of the first or second trimester, or that they should delay treatment until after birth,” Pete says.
“There are myths surrounding chemotherapy in pregnancy. We were on 5live with Professor Frédéric Amant recently, highlighting the fact that too many oncologists, simply because they are not coming across this situation often, are erring on the termination side due to lack of knowledge. Professor Amant stated that research shows chemo during pregnancy is less harmful that drinking alcohol because the placenta acts as a natural barrier.”
The charity is also calling for greater support for families from the Family Support Services and for increased awareness around the impact cancer has on the partner of a sufferer.
“If, like my wife, you have just had a baby and straight away start to undergo chemo you are not going to be able to look after that child,” Pete says. “This understandably falls to the partner but, with only two weeks paternity leave, that partner is soon taking unpaid leave, potentially bringing financial hardship on the family. Legislative change is needed.”
With its first-year fundraising success, Mummy’s Star hopes to continue spreading information and supporting families. The charity’s positive reception highlights just how desperately this work is needed.
“We knew when we started that we were going to fill a gap in the cancer sector but we never expected it to be taken in by people so much,” Pete says. “It feels like people have adopted Mummy’s Star as their own.”