Expecting mum discovered she had stage 4 lung cancer but almost missed it because she was pregnant
A healthy mother who was expecting her second child dismissed her breathlessness as a symptom of pregnancy before learning she actually had stage 4 lung cancer.
Samantha Bladwell was 30 weeks pregnant when she started becoming short of breath walking up the hill to get to her Brisbane home.
The 36-year-old took herself to the doctor when she had to catch her breath during a marketing presentation at work.
After a CT Scan, a biopsy and a conversation with a series of specialist she was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer – in both lungs, her spine and her brain.
Right up until the detection, Ms Bladwell had convinced herself it was probably just the baby, or even a blood clot.
Samantha Bladwell, 38, (pictured) was 30 weeks pregnant with her second child when she started getting short of breath walking up the hill to get to her Brisbane home
The diagnosis blew her mind.
‘It was very surreal, and all a bit of a blur,’ Ms Bladwell told Kidspot.
Ms Bladwell had always assumed lung cancer patients were older people who had spent their lives smoking.
Her own father, Allan Murphy died at age 73 with the illness after smoking for 50 years.
Ms Bladwell has never smoke a cigarette in her life.
It is possible her exposure to second hand smoke could have contributed to the diagnosis but the explanation seems far-fetched.
She had grown up on acreage outside Bundaberg in Queensland.
Ms Bladwell said the perception she held about lung cancer patients still exists today.
Until her shock diagnosis, Ms Bladwell was convinced only smokers got lung cancer
‘People assume if you’ve got lung cancer, you smoke, so it’s your fault. I’ve never smoked a cigarette in my life,’ she said.
‘The truth is anyone with lungs can get lung cancer. No-one deserves to have lung cancer, it’s horrible.’
After her diagnosis, Ms Bladwell had to undergo a caesarean to give birth to her daughter Cecilia. Then she could begin treatment.
The surgery was incredibly risky for the young mother, with doctors forced to navigate how to deliver the baby.
‘They had to work out how to do it so that it was most likely not to leave me paralysed or dead,’ Ms Bladwell told The Courier-Mail.
Cecilia spent six weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit because of complications due to the premature birth.
Cecilia had ‘blown a hole’ in her lungs, and had to be weaned off oxygen. She was also rejecting milk formula.
Ms Bladwell’s treatment began the day after she gave birth. Surgery was not an option because the cancer has spread so quickly throughout her body.
The mother-of-two (pictured with husband Cam Bladwell) believes the stigma against lung cancer patients is impacting the fundraising efforts for research into lifesaving treatments
She has been undergoing targeted therapy, which works to specifically kill the cancer-causing cells.
Since starting treatment the mother-of-two saw major improvements to her health, including the clearing of tumours at the base of her lungs and the total eradication of active disease.
But it stopped working after nine months because her cells became resistant to the therapy.
She then joined the Oscillate trial as a second form of treatment which involves alternating two different drugs every month.
Now, she takes just one of the pills because she had an adverse reaction to one of the medications involved in the trial.
Her treatment has also involved radiation therapy to kill of cancer cells in her brain.
If this fails she will move on to chemotherapy.
Since being diagnosed and going through the process for the past two years the mother-of-two is eager to break down the stigma associated with the disease.
‘It was a real wake-up call for me to know that if you have lungs, you can get lung cancer,’ she said.
LUNG CANCER IN AUSTRALIA
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in Australia and represents the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer.
In 2020 13,258 people were diagnosed with lung cancer: 7,238 males + 6,020 females.
1 in 3 Australians consider those with lung cancer to be their ‘own worst enemy’
1 in 10 Australians say ‘they got what they deserved’
90% of Australians believe smoking is the only lung cancer risk factor
But 1 in 10 men diagnosed with lung cancer have no history of smoking, or 1 in 3 women.
Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and Lung Foundation Australia
The mother-of-two believes the stigma is impacting the fundraising efforts for vital research into lifesaving treatments.
‘The vision in their mind is that you’ve brought it on yourself so why should I fund any research into lung cancer. It’s really hard to change people’s minds and that’s why I want to share my story to go, ‘Look, it’s not the case and even if it was the case, no-one deserves to have lung cancer’, she said.
According to the Lung Foundation Australia the incidence of lung cancer in women is on the rise.
Of those diagnosed one in three women in Australia have never smoked.
90 per cent of Australians believe smoking is the only factor to contracting lung cancer, with one in three Australians suggesting sufferers brought it on themselves.