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3 April 2012, 05:00
A woman from Stowmarket in Suffolk whose unborn 'baby' turned out to be a rare form of cancer, is urging the region's women to join her in Bury St Edmunds Race for Life.
Now a mum of two healthy boys, 35-year-old Tracey Meads is encouraging women to sign up one of two Race for Life events at Nowton Park on 24th of June.
She will take to the stage at Bury St Edmunds Race for Life to sound the starting horn before joining around 3600 women on the 5k course on Sunday 24th June to raise vital funds for research into cancer.
Tracey believed she was expecting a longed-for baby when she started suffering morning sickness in January 2005. The news was particularly welcome as she had suffered a miscarriage only months earlier. However, when Tracey attended her first antenatal scan in February 2005 she was told that the shape on the scanner was not a baby, but something that looked like a bunch of grapes. It was actually a cluster of fluid-filled sacs - a rare condition called a 'molar pregancy'.
A biopsy then revealed that in Tracey's case the sacs had become cancerous. She had a rare form of cancer called molar pregnancy choriocarcinoma and needed immediate surgery, followed by six months of chemotherapy.
Tracey said: "It was even worse than the miscarriage. I had had three positive pregnancy tests and had all the signs and symptoms of pregnancy. It seemed so harsh because I was expecting to have a baby, not cancer."
Tracey was treated at Charing Cross Hospital in London, one of only three centres in the UK which deals with this type of cancer. After numerous scans she was told she should have high risk chemotherapy because her HCG levels were so high.
She said: I asked about whether the chemotherapy would affect my fertility levels but they didn't answer. I thought I would never be able to have children and that it would be the end of my marriage. I had only been married for six months. I had complete bed rest for a month due to the risk of haemorrhage. I came home Easter weekend, with shared care between Charing Cross and Ipswich Hospitals until June. Another six weeks later and I was given the all-clear, although my urine samples were still being monitored by the hospital."
In January 2006 Tracey and her husband Jason began trying for a baby again, and in April Tracey received a letter from Charing Cross saying her HCG levels were high and she should have a pregnancy test.
"I was actually terrified as I thought the cancer had come back - but I was pregnant. When I went for the scan I refused to look I was so terrified. The sonographer insisted I should look. All I could see was a massive heartbeat."
In February 2007 Tracey's son Jake was born. He is now five years old and startedschool in September last year. Tracey planned to take part in Race for Life in Bury St Edmunds in 2010 while heavily pregnant, but high blood pressure put paid to her ambitions. Her second son, Noah, was born the day after the event. She now devotes her time to her two children and to supporting other women with molar pregnancies.
Tracey said: "There was a point in my life when I thought I would never have children. I survived cancer thanks to advances in research and treatment. Success stories like mine would not be possible without the work of Cancer Research UK, which in turn relies on everyone who raises money through Race for Life."
Race for Life is non-competitive. Women can choose whether to walk, jog or run the 5k or 10k route. Most are able to walk 5k in an hour and all women are welcome, regardless of whether they are taking part on their own or as part of a group. In 2011, 3538 women took part in Race for Life in Bury St Edmunds and helped raise a fantastic £209,321. This year, organisers want 3600 women and girls to put their best foot forward at Nowton Park and help raise around £226,000 for vital research.
Tracey added: "Women from all backgrounds enter Race for Life, each with their own special reason for taking part. They might be doing it in memory or celebration of a loved one, or to mark their own cancer journey. They might be joining together for a great, fun day out with the girls. Whatever the motivation, I'd like to urge them to enter as soon as possible. Together they will be doing something extraordinary - raising money to fund research which saves lives, like mine."
Hear Tracey's story: Suffolk Mum Backs Race for Life
To join East Anglia versus cancer, enter Race for Life at www.raceforlife.org or call 0871 641 1111.
Race for Life events in East Anglia:
Bury St Edmunds - Nowton Park - Sunday 24 June 11am & 2.30pm
Ipswich - Chantry Park - Sunday 17 June 11am
Norwich - Norfolk Showground - Saturday 19 May 10am (10k) and 2pm, Sunday 20 May 11am