‘I was told I’d cancer on the same day I learnt I was pregnant’ – Ciara Jones (34) on her diagnosis shock

The Co Clare woman’s biggest fear was that she would lose her baby

Ciara Jones at home in Newmarket-on-Fergus, Co Clare. Photo: Eamon Ward

Ciara Jones at home in Newmarket on Fergus, Co Clare. Photo: Eamon Ward

thumbnail: Ciara Jones at home in Newmarket-on-Fergus, Co Clare. Photo: Eamon Ward
thumbnail: Ciara Jones at home in Newmarket on Fergus, Co Clare. Photo: Eamon Ward
Allison Bray

Ciara Jones got some of the best news of her life on the same day she got the worst.

The 34-year-old office administrator from Newmarket-on-Fergus, Co Clare, learned she was four weeks’ pregnant with her third child on the exact same day last October that a biopsy revealed she had stage two breast cancer.

“Hearing the words ‘you have cancer’ on the same day as finding out I was pregnant was like falling into a dark hole,” she said.

“The cancer is one thing, the pregnancy is another – but the two together is a lot to take in. I felt completely alone, like I was the only one getting the bad news that day.

“You don’t hear about people being pregnant with cancer. It’s not even something I thought was possible.”

With no family history of breast cancer or other red flags, she assumed that the lump she felt in her right breast during a self-examination was the same benign cyst she discovered in the same spot 20 years earlier.

But to be on the safe side, she went to see her GP, who referred her to the breast clinic at the University Hospital Limerick.

There, she received a mammogram, an ultrasound scan and eventually a biopsy – which ultimately confirmed her cancer diagnosis.

“It was a bit of a shock. I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d find out I had cancer and be pregnant at the same time,” she told the Irish Independent.

The fact that her invasive ductal carcinoma could spread to her lymph nodes quickly was a worry – but, because of her pregnancy, she was advised to wait until she was 12 weeks’ pregnant before beginning treatment.

“There are no words for how I felt in those weeks. I had a lot of fear around losing the baby. That was really hard, especially as I was told I wouldn’t be able to have any more kids. I couldn’t just try for another. That was a scary thought,” she said.

But by the 10th week of her pregnancy, the malignancy had grown to the point where she had no option but to get a mastectomy.

Ten weeks later, she began a specialised form for chemotherapy which landed her in ICU for four days after she had a bad reaction to the drugs.

However, her body adapted after the second round, and her medical team were happy with the results.

She also had the impending arrival of the baby, whom she later learned is a boy, to keep her focused on the positive.

“If it wasn’t for the baby I don’t know where I’d be. That was what powered me on,” she says.

Her seemingly rare status of being both pregnant and battling cancer at the same time affected her emotionally – and the only people she broke the news to initially were her mother and her partner.

“I don’t think it sank in. I went into a state where I didn’t talk to anyone, I didn’t want to talk about it. I wanted to seem normal for as long as I could. I carried on going into work, I didn’t want people to look at me differently,” she said.

But now that she is more than halfway through both her pregnancy and her treatment, she is happy to discuss her experience, and to provide support to other women going through the same thing.

“After my mastectomy, I set up a new Instagram account. It was my way of telling people who didn’t know, so I spoke about the importance of early detection.”

She went from having around 20 followers on the account to 1,400 – and is now happy to share her story with the Irish Cancer Society, as part of its annual Daffodil Day fundraising campaign.

“Knowing there is support whenever I need it, that’s such a big thing,” she said of the cancer charity.

“I want anyone in my position to know they’re not alone. It’s not common – but it’s not unheard of. Yet it’s not something people want to talk about.”

She is now looking forward to the birth of her son through an induced labour at the end of May. The birth will be followed by four weeks of Taxol treatment.

“They don’t know what will happen after that, so we will see once the baby arrives – but my doctors are hopeful,” said Ciara.

“Now that I’m halfway through, I’m used to it. I don’t feel overwhelmed or worried anymore. It’s not as heavy as I thought it would be.”