Nurse diagnosed with cancer just weeks after giving birth to second child

A nurse was diagnosed with cervical cancer just weeks after giving birth to her second child.

Rhea Crighton, 37, decided to move to the seaside after receiving the devastating news .

She underwent an intensive bout of treatment while also caring for two young children.

Plymouth Live says Rhea was diagnosed 12 weeks after welcoming baby Dylan.

“When pregnant with Dylan, I had symptoms including abnormal discharge and bleeding. In the run up to his birth I was reassured by my doctor that my symptoms were all normal and the baby was fine," the mother-of-two said.

"But the bleeding got worse, and towards the end of my pregnancy I developed leg and back pain and changes to bowel and bladder habits. I was receiving four-weekly scans because of concerns about my thyroid function, but everything was still said to be fine.

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“In September 2016, just before Dylan was born, I was recommended to get a smear test when I went for my six-week check-up after the birth, because my cervix looked ‘angry’.

“I had never missed a test since my first one when I was 18 and had never had an abnormal result."

Dylan was delivered fit and healthy at 38 weeks on September 10 by C-section and Rhea was back at home the following day.

But her symptoms became worse.

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The nurse, who now lives near Barnstaple, Devon, added: “I was referred for a colposcopy in the November following visits to see my GP and on 2 December I was told I had cervical cancer. Dylan was just 12 weeks old.

"Although it was a terrible time to be told I had cancer with a new baby and a toddler at home at a time which should have been only happy, in a way it was a relief to know the cause of all my symptoms. I was pleased to learn the cancer was Stage 2B rather than Stage 4, as I had suspected."

The ordeal happened in 2016 but Rhea's outlook on life has changed dramatically since.

She said: "My experience means I understand all too clearly why the work of organisations like Cancer Research UK is so important. It made us reassess our life and as a result we moved to Barnstaple in 2017 to start a new life.

“Our life in Tunbridge Wells was hectic and we wanted to live by the sea and have quality of life as a family. I took a job in North Devon District Hospital, which I love, and my husband quit his job to care for the children full time.

“We moved to beautiful Devon so we could fulfil our dream of living by the sea and have more time together without having to commute.

“My cancer diagnosis made me reassess my values and despite all the pain and treatment I went through, my next adventures include starting an advanced assessment course in my job, which I am really passionate about.

“I ran the 10k Race for Life in Barnstaple with James too this year.  I had been waiting for men to be allowed to run it.  I not only did it in one hour, 17 minutes but made a friend too, as my legs weren’t working properly at one point due to the neuropathy and a lady came over to see if I was OK and we stayed together the rest of the way.

“It was such a lovely atmosphere I will definitely do it next year, despite every muscle hurting the day after the race.

“I am passionate about raising awareness of symptoms to help early detection, as well as prevention through vaccines, and believe wholeheartedly in the words on the front of a blog I started to document my journey, which read: ‘I have cancer, but cancer will never have me’.”

One in two people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer at some stage in their lives but the good news is, thanks to research, more people are surviving the disease than ever before. Survival has doubled in the last 40 years in the UK and Cancer Research UK’s work has been at the heart of that progress.

Thanks to the generosity of its supporters, the charity was able to spend over £2 million in the South West last year on some of the UK’s leading scientific and clinical research.

Professor Willie Hamilton at the University of Exeter is leading on a project called Cantest. This aims to help GPs diagnose new cases of cancer faster than ever before.

The team will seek ways to bring existing diagnostic tests from the hospital into local GP surgeries while also developing new, faster testing methods.

This is all with the goal of reducing waiting times, reducing referrals and getting people the treatment they need as quickly as possible.

Alison Birkett, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for Devon, said: “We are so grateful to Rhea for showing both the realities of cancer and the positive impact research and improved treatments can have on people’s lives.

“In the South West 34,800 people are diagnosed with cancer each year. That’s why we’re working every day to find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat the disease. But we can’t do it alone. 

“We hope our Right Now campaign will inspire people to take action and play their part in beating cancer. There are so many ways to show your support here in Devon, from joining a Race for Life event, to volunteering in our shops or donating.

"Every action makes a difference and money raised helps to support Cancer Research UK’s vital work. Together, we will beat cancer.”

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