Any woman who has been pregnant will tell you that those nine months are certainly not without their challenges. But most women expect those challenges to pretty standard, and are the typical stuff that you find in a copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. But when one woman realized that something wasn’t quite right with her pregnancy, she never expected that her life would be on the line, and that she would face the worst news that you can get.
Expecting the unexpected
Anyone who has ever been pregnant knows that pregnancy can be an unpredictable roller coaster. You might have morning sickness at night, you might have weird cravings, or you might have a baby that refuses to follow its due date.
Babies often have a way of surprising us, and every parent knows you should learn to expect the unexpected. But this woman didn’t think she would be dealing with something so difficult during her pregnancy.
The news no one wants
When Katherine Firbank, and her husband Tom, first found out that they were expecting a new addition to their family they could not be more excited.
But their initial joy at the thought of a baby was cut short when they learned that not only was Katherine pregnant, but she also had cancer. It’s the kind of news that no one ever want to hear, and it rocked Katherine and Tom’s world. The question was, what would this mean for their future?
Who is Katherine Firbank?
At the center of it all was Katherine Firbank, who hails from Huddersfield, a small town in West Yorkshire, England. Katherine, who sometimes goes by Katie, classifies herself as a foodie and coffee addict.
When she fell in love with Tom, they couldn’t wait to get married and start their life together. Even though that hasn’t gone as planned, Katie remains a positive person. Since her diagnosis, she started a blog to share her experiences and raise awareness about cancer.
Wanting the fairy tale
It seemed clear that from the get go, Katherine and Tom were clearly meant to be together, so it was no surprise to their family and friends when they announced that they were getting married.
Katherine wanted the whole fairy tale wedding, and that’s exactly what she got. Just a year ago, the couple said I do, and Katherine called it the most amazing day of her entire life. They couldn’t wait to kick off their new life as newlyweds.
Like most newlyweds, Katherine and Tom had big dreams for their future together. They planned to eventually start a family and live happily ever after. However, starting a family wasn’t necessarily something they planned to do in their first year of marriage.
But when Katherine found out she was pregnant they figured it just meant that their dreams would get started a little sooner than initially planned. Little did they know that those plans would have another wrench thrown in them.
Even before her wedding, Katherine had already begun experiencing unusual symptoms. In July 2017 she starting feeling the need to use the bathroom more often, and noticed she had blood in her urine.
By October she was feeling worse and decided she needed to see a doctor. However, the doctor dismissed her concerns, and believed she merely had a UTI, since that shared similar symptoms. Katherine was prescribed a strong dose of antibiotics and sent on her way.
Katherine had hoped she would feel better after antibiotics, but it seemed her symptoms and discomfort were never ending. She returned to her doctor several times, but each time they didn’t seem to solve her problems.
One doctor suggested her symptoms could be from endometriosis, but they weren’t sure. At one point she even went to the hospital for CT scans, but after not seeing anything on the scans they decided she must just have an infection of some kind.
Starting a family
Despite not feeling well, Katherine powered through her wedding, and tried to push everything else aside. A few short months later, Katherine realized that she might be pregnant.
She later joked in her blog that her and Tom must have looked at close to 10 pregnancy tests before they believed that it was truly real. About a week later, Katherine had some bleeding, so decided she better head to the doctor straight away. The doctor said it was probably nothing, but recommended they see someone for some early scans.
At the seven week mark, Katherine and Tom headed in to do her early scans. They were so excited about the baby that they couldn’t possibly imagine something being wrong.
After the tests, they were called back in and a consultant began to ask Katherine if she had a family history of cancer and what symptoms she had been experiencing. She later said, “I knew something was wrong with me but I didn’t know that it would be cancer.”
Risks to the baby
Cancer is not something you can wait nine months to treat. The doctors were clear that if Katherine wanted a chance at life, they would need to take action immediately.
But Katherine and Tom were worried, what would this mean for their baby? The truth was that there were some high risks to the baby, especially since she was still in her first trimester. The doctors warned them not to keep their hopes up because there was a high chance of miscarriage.
Doing what is necessary
The last thing that Katherine wanted was to do something that would hurt her baby. After all, her and Tom were both so excited at the idea of being parents.
Knowing that her surgery might harm her baby was tough for Katherine to hear, but the doctors were clear that this was something that was absolutely necessary to do. At this point it was a matter of life and death. Katherine needed to listen to the doctors if she wanted to save her life.
Life saving surgery
Another scan a couple weeks later confirmed that Katherine indeed had cancer, specifically bladder cancer. Surgery was scheduled for the following week, and they assured her that while she shouldn’t keep her hopes too high, they would try to do everything possible to help the baby.
So, at 12 weeks pregnant she underwent a transurethral removal of tumors in the bladder, during which doctors kept her awake, and gave her a spinal anesthetic. By keeping her awake they hoped they could maybe save the baby as well.
Thankfully, Katherine’s surgery was a complete success. The doctors were able to take out the tumors they had seen on her scans, and during the procedure they even found an extra tumor that had not shown up on the scans.
The tumors were then sent away for testing, to help the doctors better understand what they were dealing with and how aggressive Katherine’s cancer might be. But overall, Katherine was just happy to have the surgery over with and know that it did what she needed it to do.
Hang in there, baby
Katherine wasn’t just happy that the surgery had helped to remove her tumors, but also that her baby had survived the ordeal as well! Katherine and Tom had both been very upset at the prospect of losing their little one, so it was a relief to find out that the baby had endured the surgery.
She later said, “That was the hardest bit to cope with. As soon as I was out of theatre and in recovery I was allowed to listen to [the baby’s] strong little heartbeat to let me know everything was okay.”
Not out of the woods
Even though the surgery had been a success, the doctors warned Katherine that she was not entirely out of the woods yet. It’s not uncommon for cancer like this to return or spread, so she would have to be monitored very closely.
They were particularly concerned because she is quite young to be diagnosed with bladder cancer, as this type is usually only seen in patients over the age of 70, and is usually more common in men. So, the doctors knew they would have to keep a close eye on Katherine.
Plan of action
The doctors decided to lay out a plan of action for Katherine so that they could get to work at keeping her healthy as soon as the baby was born.
It was decided that after she gives birth it would be best if she began a treatment of chemo for at least six months, to ensure the cancer really stays away. After that, she would have to be going to for scans every three months for at least two years, after which they could slowly begin stretching out the time between scans.
One day at a time
A cancer diagnosis can be difficult for anyone to handle, but for Katherine she was especially vulnerable because she was pregnant. Katherine was worried what this might mean for her future, but she was advised to simply take it one day at a time.
One of the most important things that people often tell pregnant women is to avoid stress as much as possible, because it can cause problems with their pregnancy. So it was important for Katherine to try not to worry too much.
Tough on Tom
This was all undoubtedly a lot for Katherine to handle, but she wasn’t the only one struggling. Her husband, Tom, was also having a tough time wrapping his head around the fact that not only was his wife sick, but his unborn child could also be at risk.
Katherine expressed that Tom did his best to be strong for his wife, and she called him her rock. However, she could also tell that it was all taking its toll on the poor guy and he was very upset.
Despite everything, Katherine has done her absolute best to stay positive and upbeat. She frequently posts positive messages on her Instagram, and has expressed that she doesn’t want anyone pitying or looking down on her.
She has also started a blog about her experiences, with the idea that maybe someone else facing similar circumstances as her will find and feel that they are not alone. Katherine has noticed that not many people talk about bladder cancer, and that’s something she wants to change.
After a difficult start to her pregnancy, Katherine managed to hang in there, and so did her little baby. On October 27, 2018, Katherine and Tom welcomed their little one into the world.
It turns out, they had a beautiful baby boy, who they decided to name Oscar Bennett Thomas Firbank. Katherine excitedly shared the happy news on Instagram and wrote, “We are so happy to finally meet you.” Tom and Katherine were both thrilled and relieved that their baby was as healthy as could be.
Hope for the future
Katherine hopes that her health will continue to stay on a good course, and that her cancer will not make an ugly return. Now that her baby has been born she can’t wait to spend her time being a mother, and being around for her son and husband in the future.
On top of that, Katherine is hoping that by sharing her story with others, through her blog and other media, she can inspire those who are facing similar challenges, as well as bring awareness to bladder cancer.
As of lately, mom and baby are doing well. Katie is enjoying the perks of not being pregnant anymore and loving being a mother.
About a week after welcoming baby Oscar into her life, she was finally able to enjoy a glass of wine while in company of her infant son. She said that it had been a week of very little sleep, but she had made to the point where she was able to wean herself off of the pain killers she’d been on.
Katie admits that she doesn’t mind the sleep deprivation. She thinks everything involving her son is all worth it, even if it means she is exhausted.
This photo was taken after the new family survived their first week home after Oscar’s birth. The new mom says she loves waking up to this little bundle of joy and that so far motherhood is the biggest adventure of her life. She seems to be loving every minute of being a mom.
Baby coffee breaks
Katie has pretty much returned to her normal self, not that she ever really changed much, after her pregnancy and cancer ordeal.
She now brings little Oscar with her on coffee breaks. Here you can see she is back to her old habits and drinking her usual coffee from a place called Costa Coffee. To her, this is an essential part of her day. We wonder if the baby will grow up to love coffee as much as his mother.
Time for a break
Sometimes every mom needs a break to rest and feel like herself again. Luckily for Katie, she has help for times like this.
She updated her followers with this post, saying that she was able to steal some time for herself and enjoy a bath with scented candles. The adorable mother did follow up the photo by saying she was only able to get away for 30 minutes before she missed her little boy, though. How cute!
Probably the best part of Katie being a new mom is how much she loves her baby boy. She unapologetically posts almost daily updates about how her son is doing.
We are pretty certain that no one on her followers list minds seeing these precious posts because Oscar sure is cute! Katie calls the amount of photos baby spam because she is “spamming” peoples’ Instagram feeds with photos of her little cuddle bug. Did Katie coin a new term? Baby spam should be the next big thing.
Help from dad
One thing Katie is most grateful for in this difficult time of becoming a new mom and dealing with a cancer diagnosis is the help of her loving husband, Tom.
This photo was in appreciation for the man who has been by her side through it all. Tom was only able to take two weeks off of work after Oscar was born and this was his last day staying home with the baby. Katie knows it will be difficult without him, but she’s excited to spend time with the baby.
Look at that face
When you have a new baby in the house, you really start to realize how difficult it is to get even the simplest of tasks done.
Katie had planned to straighten up around the house, but in the end admitted she got none of those things done. She just couldn’t concentrate with this adorable little face staring back at her. Katie did claim his cuteness helped calm the nerves she had for her second surgery. At least she was able to shower, brush her teeth, and get dressed. Baby steps.
Katie has made it out of a successful second surgery and is now in recovery. She feels like her body has been shattered and she is hoping that this will be the last treatment for her bladder cancer for at least three more months.
As you can see, her little man is sleeping right next to his mom so that she doesn’t feel alone. Currently, Katie is staying at her parents house and is thinking positive thoughts for her future.
Three weeks old
While he watches him mom grow stronger and stronger, baby Oscar is also growing big and strong. The little guy is currently three weeks old and Katie says he is already getting too big for his first pairs of clothes.
The family also loves his goofy faces that he makes and can’t wait to watch their son grow up. It’s needless to say that this boy will live his life full of love with a mom and dad who are always thinking about him.
It seems Katie and Tom like focusing on little things in life that bring them joy, rather than dwelling on difficult events. There’s no denying, these two have had an extremely hard year.
That being said, they also recently celebrated their one year wedding anniversary. The two are just as in love now as the day they walked down the aisle. They have a beautiful baby now and hope they’ll be happy and healthy in the future. They have a long road ahead, but at least they have each other.