My heart goes out to Gigi
T he news of the tragic death from cancer of Gigi Lee (44), the mother of Van Morrison's son, brought back "hellish" memories to one Irish mum who also was treated for cancer while pregnant.
Texan model Gigi Lee was diagnosed with inoperable throat cancer in 2009 while pregnant with the multi-millionaire singer's baby.
Friends revealed this week that she had undergone chemotherapy but radiotherapy was deferred during the pregnancy because of its potential to harm the baby.
Ms Lee, who had been living in Newtownards, Co Down, with her two-year-old son, George Ivan, sadly died from the disease in a Belfast hospice last October.
News of her death only became public a week ago.
Axa Insurance worker, Brigid O'Sullivan (51), who lives in Athlone with husband John and son Jack knows only too well what it is like to receive "the best and worst news of your life" at the same time.
"When I heard about that poor, brave woman leaving behind a little two-year-old boy, I just realised again how lucky I was. I look at Jack who is nine now and nearly as tall as me, and my two older sons Daniel and Ben, who are 23 and 26, and I think I am so blessed to be still here," she said.
Brigid was 41 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001 and underwent a lumpectomy.
She was about to begin chemotherapy when she discovered she was unexpectedly pregnant.
"It was very emotional. I had been told that the chemotherapy would probably make me sterile but I hadn't really thought about having any more children at that stage. I had two teenage sons and I was divorced and in a second relationship with John.
"Also I was 41, so having another child was not uppermost on my mind."
The pregnancy triggered a rollercoaster of emotions with initial shock giving way to joy and then fear.
"We were excited in a way but I was also terrified. Then I started to cry with happiness. I felt delighted for John but then the shock set in of how I was going to tell the doctor but he couldn't have been nicer.
"They totally reassured me that everything would be fine," she said.
Brigid's oncologist, Professor John Crown, immediately put her in contact with a Holles Street consultant, Dr John Murphy, and they worked together to devise a programme of treatment.
Her chemotherapy was revised to a milder version, which began after the first trimester and radiotherapy was delayed until after the birth.
"My prognosis was good and I felt quite happy. I put my total faith in them that they knew what they were doing. I felt this baby was meant to be and it was going to be okay. I felt that from the beginning.
"I think I got the strength from being pregnant. To me, I was invincible because I was pregnant.
"I just firmly believed nothing could happen to me," she said.
At her chemotherapy sessions in the oncology day care ward at St Vincent's Hospital, she found herself acutely conscious of her unborn child.
"When they put the needle into my vein to start the treatment, I could nearly feel that going into my blood stream, and I would sort of brace myself and put a hand on my stomach as if to say, 'you are going to be okay'," she recalled.
After each session of chemotherapy she underwent a scan, which reassured her that the cancer had gone.
Baby Jack was born 10 weeks premature but was well enough to go home after a month.
Following the birth, Brigid completed the chemotherapy treatment and underwent six weeks of radiotherapy treatment.
Unfortunately the cancer recurred in her hip in 2003, just as she and John were about to be married, but following a bout of treatment and a visit to a healer, it has remained in remission since.
"They were a hellish three years but I look back now and it is like another life. It has been an amazing journey, really.
"Even the whole cancer experience, which thankfully had a positive outcome for me, has taught me so much and given me a completely different perspective on life," she said.