When an aggressive tumour was found in Jessica Lonsdale’s neck, she feared her dreams of becoming a mum were over.
Just 20 at the time, she asked doctors if she could freeze her eggs – to help her have children in the future as chemotherapy can leave women infertile – only to be told it was too late.
A lump in her neck had spread rapidly and there was no time to waste. Fertility treatment would have delayed her chemotherapy by a few weeks and the cancer was moving too quickly.
But today, 24-year-old Jessica, from Ansdell, is expecting her second child – and has spoken of her pride after her two-year-old son, George, raised hundreds of pounds for the NHS heroes who saved her life.
Remembering her ordeal, Jessica, who was studying for a degree in drama and theatre in Wales when she was diagnosed, said: “The one lump in my neck had multiplied to 20 lumps in three weeks and doctors said there was no time to waste.
“I didn’t think I would be able to get pregnant afterwards and as I knew I wanted children I was heartbroken.”
After first finding the lump, Jessica was sent for blood tests, an ultra sound, and a fine needle biopsy. She was then referred to a clinic for a surgical biopsy.
Medics at Blackpool Victoria Hospital told her she had Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of cancer that affects the body’s immune system.
She quickly began a gruelling eight-week course of chemotherapy, followed by three weeks of radiotherapy at Royal Preston Hospital.
Before having the treatment, Jessica, who is married to her childhood sweetheart, Tom Lonsdale, 24, an engineer at BAE Systems in Warton, asked if she could freeze her eggs, but was devastated when doctors told her it was too late.
While women under 30 have the best chance of still being able to get pregnant naturally after chemotherapy, the drugs used are known to cause fertility problems.
After being diagnosed in January 2015, Jessica was told her cancer was in clinical remission the following September.
Despite undergoing treatment, she was still able to achieve a 2:1 in her degree by carrying on studying and writing essays at home.
And the couple were delighted when, in March 2016, Jessica discovered she was pregnant with George.
She and Tom, who met at Lytham High School when they were 14, married last July at the Winter Gardens in the town centre.
And now Jessica is pregnant with their second child, and is expecting the baby on December 23, just in time for Christmas.
She said: “We are over the moon. When I was diagnosed I was shocked and upset.
“Everyone said it would be something or nothing like my glands.
“But I had this gut feeling that something was really wrong and I had a bit of a meltdown.
“I was scared but I was so happy when I was told I was in remission and then found out I was pregnant.”
Little George has completed 100 sponsored slides to raise money for Blue Skies Hospital Funds, which works to boost patient care across Blackpool, Wyre, and the Fylde.
He has raised just under £300, which will go towards buying vein readers for the haematology unit at the Victoria Hospital.
Jessica said: “At the end of my chemotherapy my veins had collapsed. The vein readers help to identify where the best veins are to help avoid lots of failed attempts trying to get a needle in.”
George completed his sponsored slides at Blackpool Zoo’s Play Barn, Bounce Play Centre in Bispham, and even around his local parks.
Jessica, who is now also working as a volunteer for the charity, added: “He really enjoyed it. But when he started to tire towards the end, we bribed him with some chocolate buttons.”
Different drugs are more likely than others to affect a woman’s fertility, according to Cancer Research UK.
The charity added: “Whether your infertility is temporary or permanent depends partly on your drugs and doses.
“Permanent infertility is more likely if you have higher doses of the drugs. It’s also more likely in older women than young women.
“Some chemotherapy drugs can be very damaging to the eggs in your ovaries, so that none are left after treatment. If this happens, you can no longer get pregnant.”