Sunday 11 December 2016

Irish father sets up charity for women who develop cancer during pregnancy after losing his wife to the illness

Sasha Brady

Published 02/03/2016 | 10:59

Pete's wife Mair with their newborn son Merlin. Photo: Mummy's Star Facebook.
Pete's wife Mair with their newborn son Merlin. Photo: Mummy's Star Facebook.
Mair feeding her newborn son Merlin. Photo: Mummy's Star Facebook.
Pete and Mair on their wedding day. Photo: Mummy's Star Facebook.

An Irish father has set up a charity called Mummy's Star to help women and families deal with cancer in pregnancy after he lost his own wife to the illness.

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Pete Wallroth from Limerick lost his wife Mair to cancer in December 2013, shortly after she gave birth to the couple's second child.

"Early 2012 as the pregnancy was progressing she started to get an ache in her left breast when she was lying down. After a while she went to get a routine check and she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was 22 weeks pregnant, " said Pete when speaking to the Anton Savage Show on Today FM.

The family were given reassurances that they had caught the cancer in its early stages and Mair would recover after her treatment. There was a strong likelihood that everything would be fine and it would just be an extremely difficult pregnancy.

Their son Merlin was born safe and well and Mair continued with her treatment six days after he was born. Pete worked to create as normal a home as possible for the couple's son and three-year-old daughter Martha.

However, the family soon received devastating news.

"Mair started to develop headaches and shortly afterwards she was diagnosed with secondary cancer on her brain," said Pete.

"She passed away in December of that year."

Pete and Mair on their wedding day. Photo: Mummy's Star Facebook.
Pete and Mair on their wedding day. Photo: Mummy's Star Facebook.

His wife's death came so suddenly that the couple never got the chance to take stock of the situation.

"It was incredibly difficult because the downturn in her health came about so suddenly. She was aware that she wasn't going to survive... She always said 'If it was my purpose in life to give birth to two wonderful children then I'll die happy' and she did.

"We didn't get a chance to discuss her passing - we had no time to plan ahead. Suddenly it was just laid out there in front of us. In the blink of an eye she was gone and Christmas was upon us," said Pete.

Cancer brings about its own unique trauma and heartache but throw it into the mix of a pregnancy and the combination is incredibly difficult. Nappies have to be changed and babies have to be fed. All the milestones of newborn life are seen through the lens of cancer.

"You're trying to maintain a normality but at the same time it's there and it won't go away. You just wish you could go to the park or library or just be a normal parent or in Mair's case a new mum."

Pete's experience inspired him to set up the Mummy's Star - a charity dedicated to women and their families who have been affected by cancer during pregnancy.

Mair feeding her newborn son Merlin. Photo: Mummy's Star Facebook.
Mair feeding her newborn son Merlin. Photo: Mummy's Star Facebook.

The father-of-two gave up his own job in the public sector in the UK to concentrate solely on the charity and his children. He's working to be in a financial position to offer support workers for the women and families who are in touch with the charity, so that every woman in this situation has Mummy's Star "to lean on".

The charity, which receives support from the Irish Cancer Society and the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, also offers a forum where women and families are able to get in contact with each other and share stories and tips on how to make it through some of the tough times.

"It’s just good to know that there is someone out there who has gone through it and been in a similar situation," said Pete.

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