I'm eight months pregnant but my severe morning sickness turned out to be cancer

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Caitlin McAlinden, 24, put her cancer symptoms - including a golf ball-sized lump on her neck, nausea and fatigue - down to morning sickness.

A mum-to-be was diagnosed with cancer at five months pregnant - when her extreme morning sickness turned out to be a symptom of the disease.

Caitlin McAlinden, 24, put her cancer symptoms - including a golf ball-sized lump on her neck, nausea and fatigue - down to morning sickness. But, after losing two stone in four months, she was referred to the haematology team at Arrowe Park Hospital. They gave her a neck biopsy and diagnosed her with stage one Hodgkin lymphoma in March 2024.

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Caitlin, who lives on the Wirral, is expected to make a full recovery but has to take a steroid injection and a blood-thinning pill every morning. Her baby boy is due on May 8, and after he is born, she will start a four-week course of chemotherapy.

The primary school teacher said: “This isn’t the pregnancy I was hoping for - I haven’t felt well this entire time. Everything I want to do after my baby is born has to be put on pause due to the chemo. My odds are really good - but having my baby will be a good distraction for everything I’m going through.”

Caitlin found out she was pregnant on September 16, 2023 - after feeling nauseous at her birthday dinner the week before. Her first trimester was ‘rocky’ and she originally believed she had a severe form of morning sickness. She was vomiting at least once a day and would fall asleep intermittently throughout the day. But, it wasn’t until Christmas Day that she first noticed the pain in her neck and after weighing herself, noticed she’d lost two stone.

“I went back to County Armagh to visit my family for Christmas. I remember Christmas Day, falling asleep on the sofa and waking up with a really sore neck. I thought I’d just slept funny, but I started massaging my neck. That’s when I found a lump, about the size of a pea,” she explained.

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Caitlin McAlinden, 24, put her cancer symptoms - including a golf ball-sized lump on her neck, nausea and fatigue - down to morning sickness. Image: Caitlin McAlinden/SWNSCaitlin McAlinden, 24, put her cancer symptoms - including a golf ball-sized lump on her neck, nausea and fatigue - down to morning sickness. Image: Caitlin McAlinden/SWNS
Caitlin McAlinden, 24, put her cancer symptoms - including a golf ball-sized lump on her neck, nausea and fatigue - down to morning sickness. Image: Caitlin McAlinden/SWNS | Caitlin McAlinden/SWNS

Caitlin didn’t want to see a GP at first - believing the lump was just another ‘weird’ sign of pregnancy. But in just a week, her tiredness became worse and the pea-size lump tripled in size.

Her partner, Connor, 27, a procurement manager, told Caitlin she needed to see a doctor as soon as possible, so she visited her GP on January 2 and was referred for an initial ultrasound on her neck.

They gave her a biopsy on January 16 and the clinician asked Caitlin if she had any family history of Hodgkin lymphoma. She told them one of her second cousins had gone through it years before and they urgently sent her for more blood tests.

“My doctor’s whole demeanour changed when I said I had a family history of it,” Caitlin said. “I went for a blood test on the same day,” she added.

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Caitlin was diagnosed with stage one Hodgkin lymphoma on March 12, 2024, and instantly started steroid treatment to shrink the mass on her neck. She was told she won’t need surgery and doctors are confident she’ll be able to start chemotherapy after her due date on May 8.

Despite the cancer being treatable, chemotherapy will stop Cailtin from doing things she wanted to do after her baby boy is born. She says she won't be able to hold a Christening or breastfeed - which isn’t advised while on chemotherapy due to the chemicals passing through the milk.

Caitlin says her partner, Connor, has been her 'rock'.  Image: Caitlin McAlinden/SWNS

Caitlin says her partner, Connor, has been her 'rock'.  Image: Caitlin McAlinden/SWNS
Caitlin says her partner, Connor, has been her 'rock'. Image: Caitlin McAlinden/SWNS | Caitlin McAlinden/SWNS

She said: “In Catholic culture, we’re expected to christen our baby within the first few days of birth. But that coincides with chemotherapy - so I can’t. I really wanted to breastfeed, but chemo is stopping me from doing that, too.”

A haematologist needs to be present at all of Caitlin’s obstetrics and gynaecology appointments - and doctors may try to induce her earlier than her due date.

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She said: “They might try and induce me next week, as I’ve got my cervical sweep booked. The waiting times back home in Northern Ireland for treatment are a lot longer than here, so I’m really lucky with how fast everything has moved.”

Caitlin says Connor has been her ‘rock’ throughout the ordeal - and the pair have since found out they’re going to have a baby boy, but will be keeping his name a secret.

“Connor has been amazing,” she said, adding: “My family have also been making lots of trips back-and-forth from Ireland to England.”

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