'Baby' turned out to be cancer - how Belfast woman's joy turned to despair
A young woman who thought she was expecting her first child was devastated to discover that her longed-for 'baby' was actually cancer.
Megan and Jake Murray's joy at the prospect of being parents turned to despair when doctors found no trace of a child - instead discovering a tumour in her womb.
Belfast-born hairdresser Megan (23), who endured eight weeks of chemotherapy to shrink the growth, said: "To go from thinking we were having a baby to finding out it was cancer requiring immediate treatment was devastating."
Megan was told she had experienced a molar pregnancy after heavy bleeding at 10-and-a-half-weeks.
The rare condition, where the fertilisation of the egg by the sperm goes wrong and leads to the growth of abnormal cells which can be cancerous meant she had to have the tumour removed. But, to her horror, it grew back and Megan needed gruelling treatment to remove it, before being given the all-clear earlier this month.
"Losing our baby was devastating, but now we are looking forward to trying again and starting a family," she said.
Megan moved to Orihuela Costa, near Alicante in Spain, with Jake (23), who runs his in-laws' real estate business.
The pair met on a night out in Spain and married on March 26, 2017 outside Benidorm.
When Megan first saw the two blue lines on her pregnancy test just before Christmas last year she was overjoyed.
"My period was five days late when I was back in Belfast visiting family and I had a feeling I might be pregnant," she said.
"We'd been trying for three months, so when I did the test back in Spain with Jake it was the best feeling in the world.
"He cried his eyes out and I was in total shock. We were so happy to be having a baby."
Hampered with problems from the start, Megan was struck down with extreme nausea and her baby bump was so swollen that the midwife she saw at eight weeks commented on her being large for that stage of the pregnancy.
Then, at 10-and-a-half-weeks, she experienced bleeding so severe that Jake rushed her to their nearest hospital casualty department where she was given an ultrasound scan.
"The moment they turned the scan screen away from me I knew something was seriously wrong," Megan said.
"The nurse sent for the doctor and he came in and told me my baby wasn't there anymore. I was totally devastated and had no idea what had happened. All I knew was that we'd lost our baby."
Megan was told she in fact had a molar pregnancy and would need to return to the hospital the next day to have a procedure.
Given a dilation and curettage - where the cervix is dilated and the contents of the uterus removed - in a bid to get rid of the tumour, afterwards Megan was left feeling numb.
"Scared, I rang my mum afterwards, crying my eyes out, saying it could be cancer," she added. "I could not believe that what I had thought was a baby was actually a tumour, growing inside me."
Because of the risk of the molar pregnancy tissue continuing to grow, Megan's hormone levels were monitored post-surgery, to ensure they stayed low. "Doctors said that if the levels of pregnancy hormones started increasing or didn't drop to normal, then it could be a sign that I needed treatment, like chemotherapy," she said.
"At a check-up, they said my levels had risen, so I had an ultrasound scan at a private hospital in Alicante to be seen quicker, and a growth was spotted. Hearing the news, I just broke down. I was petrified about what was inside me. Doctors believed it was cancerous and wanted to start me on chemotherapy right away.
"Looking at the scan on the screen, I could see the tumour. It was like a cluster of grapes and doctors believed a small amount had continued to grow after the first tumour was removed."
Starting chemotherapy on February 20 this year, Megan had eight week cycles, involving eight days of the gruelling treatment, followed by six days off.
Last week she was told the chemotherapy had shrunk the tumour and she was cancer-free.
She said: "It was such amazing news. Now I need to go back for a check-up in three months and three months after that we can start to try again.
"I always knew I wanted to start a family and once we were married we had it all planned out.
"We own our own home and, with my husband running my parents' business, we were settled and ready to move to the next stage of becoming parents."