WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT: Alice Hall had a rare disease, which made her body mimic pregnancy symptoms
When I started feeling sick one morning last June I decided to do a pregnancy test and could not believe it when the blue line appeared on the stick,
A doctor confirmed I was four weeks “gone”. It was a shock. I was only 20 and, although it wasn’t planned, my boyfriend Christopher Tolles and I were still thrilled.
I’d been with Christopher, 24, who’s a sales assistant, for nine months and we were both very young.
Despite this, we knew we’d step up and become good parents when the time came and we threw ourselves into the pregnancy and even toyed with possible names.
But eight weeks in, I started bleeding. Concerned, I rushed to my GP who referred me to Hereford County Hospital for a scan.
Heartbreakingly, medics told me I was having a miscarriage .
But a pregnancy test confirmed I was still pregnant, because my uterus thought there was a baby in there as my body was mimicking the symptoms of pregnancy.
Next day I returned for more tests which revealed my hormone levels had shot back up – indicating I was pregnant.
At this point, they thought I’d had a miscarriage scare and told me to watch how I feel and return to the hospital if I started bleeding again.
A week later I was in agony so I went back. They thought I was having an ectopic pregnancy, where the foetus grows inside the Fallopian tube instead of the womb, so I underwent a keyhole laparoscopy so doctors could have a look around inside.
It showed there was swelling in my womb but doctors had no idea what it could be – but knew it was not a viable pregnancy. I felt relieved they didn’t think it was an ectopic pregnancy but was devastated to learn that I wasn’t pregnant any longer.
It was so upsetting, my emotions had been everywhere and I cried for the baby I’d lost. Sadly, one week later, I was bleeding again. Doctors performed an ERPC, where pregnancy tissue is removed from the womb.
Two days after the procedure doctors gave me a blood test which showed that my hormones had dropped.
But two days later I had another test and my hormones had shock right back up – as if I were still pregnant.
It was so confusing, no one knew what was going on inside me.
So I was referred to Charing Cross Hospital in London as they suspected something more serious was happening.
I was diagnosed with gestational tropho-blastic neoplasia (GTN), which had caused a tumour to grow in the womb.
Medics again removed the womb tissue and a biopsy confirmed that it was cancerous. Doctors told me that GTN was an incredibly rare illness only treated by two hospitals in the UK – and Charing Cross Hospital handles only 120 such patients a year.
In July 2016, two weeks later, I underwent more tests. I was taken for a chest X-ray and a full body MRI which showed there was a tumour the size of a foetus in my uterus and it was cancerous .
They could not operate as there was a large blood vessel running into it which, if cut, could cause me to die from blood loss.
My mind went into meltdown.
I went from being overjoyed and planning to welcome a baby into the world, to instead doctors telling me that I had a tumour and if they tried to cut it out I would bleed to death. It was really distressing.
I was given eight sessions of a low-dose chemotherapy starting from July which stopped the tumour from growing. But worse was to come. I woke up with agonising pain at 5.30 one morning in September. When I called my doctor, he confirmed I was effectively in labour.
I was taken to Hereford County Hospital and told I’d have to give “birth” to the tumour , which weighed around one pound.
It was really traumatic. First, I was in a side room of A&E and then had to be taken to the women’s ward where heavily pregnant women ready to give birth were. It was heartbreaking.
After 30 hours I expelled the tumour on the toilet. It was such a traumatic experience. In December I was given the all-clear and am now in remission and hoping to get back to work soon.
Once recovered, Christopher and I plan to try for a baby.
Doctors see no reason why I can’t have babies in the future, but they told me the chances of this happening to me again are higher.
Becoming pregnant came as a big surprise, but now becoming a mum is something I really hope will happen in the near future.
Rare disease that grows in the womb
Alice’s tumour was caused by gestational trophoblastic neoplasia (GTN), a rare disease which can strike in the womb during a molar pregnancy.
This is when the placenta and foetus do not form properly and a baby does not develop.
Usually, after a sperm fertilises an egg, new cells grow within the womb to form an embryo. As the embryo grows, its cells start to specialise. But with GTN, there is a mistake when the sperm fertilises the egg. This results in a mass of abnormal cells that can grow as fluid-filled sacs – cysts. These cells grow rapidly within the womb, instead of developing into a baby.
These tumours are usually not cancerous but, rarely, a molar pregnancy can become cancerous and can spread to other parts of the body. Nearly all of the tumours are treatable.