She had lymphoma, he had testicular cancer...now they both have a miracle child
Against all odds...couple reveal their inspirational story
A Bangor couple worried they might not be able to have children after both surviving cancer have shared their inspirational tale of parenthood in the hope of helping others.
Paul (38) and Paula Klein (42) are today the proud parents of a fun-loving three-year-old son called Fraser. The beautiful little boy is their miracle after both feared their chances of becoming parents after cancer treatment were gone.
Now they are set to speak at a Cancer Focus Northern Ireland (the new name for the Ulster Cancer Foundation) conference being held in Belfast next month with the aim of helping other patients with their happy ending.
Paula was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma 16 years ago while musician Paul, First Horn with the Ulster Orchestra, had testicular cancer which spread to his lymph nodes ten years ago.
Paula, an administrator with the Ulster Orchestra who plays the clarinet in her spare time, said she wants to encourage younger women facing an uncertain future.
“I am delighted to have been asked to speak at the conference,” she said.
“I want to share my story in the hope that it will give encouragement and support to anyone who has cancer, especially younger women.
“As well as having to cope with our diagnoses and the unpleasant side effects of cancer treatment, Paul and I were both unsure if we would be able to have children.”
The couple met seven years ago “and I think the common understanding of what we’d been through helped to cement the relationship,” Paula added.
“We knew our odds of conceiving weren’t great, especially as I was pushing 40, but we’ve been incredibly fortunate.
“I was only 26 when I was diagnosed after 18 months of being tested for everything under the sun.
“I had vague symptoms of tiredness and pains in my lymph glands, but it was only when a lump on my neck appeared that there was something visual to confirm I wasn’t a hypochondriac and finally something to biopsy.”
She went on to have three months of chemotherapy and a month of radiotherapy.
“There had been talk of storing my eggs but there wasn’t enough time — the doctors were keen to get my treatment started. The consultant decided on a drug regime he had not used in ten years that he knew would be kinder to my reproductive system — but still with no guarantees.”
Paul was also facing uncertainty regarding his fertility.
“He was subjected to a harsh regime of chemotherapy and always said that music was one of the main things that pulled him through emotionally,” Paula said.
“He is hoping to perform as a soloist later in the year with a local amateur orchestra and has promised to donate his fee to Cancer Focus.
“Given everything that had happened, and taking my age into consideration, we count our blessings and realise what a miracle child Fraser is. We’re even thinking about having another one.”
Paula said the Cancer Focus lymphoma support group was a great help to her recovery “as it gave me great comfort to meet other people who were in a similar situation”.
Deirdre Conlon, care services manager at Cancer Focus, said lymphoma has one of the fastest rising incidence rates of any cancer and “researchers are working hard to discover its exact cause”.
“There are more than 35 known types of lymphoma so we want to make sure that people are aware of the most common symptoms. These include painless swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, armpits or groin, night sweats, high temperatures or feve r, tiredness and persistent fatigue, coughs and breathlessness or an itch over the body with no rash.”
Cancer Focus encourages anyone worried about any of the symptoms for lymphoma, those who want to find out more about the disease or join its lymphoma support group to contact its information and support helpline on 0800 783 3339, which operates Monday to Friday 9am–1pm.
The Kleins will be speaking at the Cancer Focus NI conference in Belfast on Saturday September 15 — World Lymphoma Awareness Day. The event, in association with the Irish Cancer Society, runs from 10am to 3pm and lunch will be provided. The event is free of charge for patients and carers. Anyone wishing to attend can contact Toby Wheeler on 028 9068 0751 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.