Like most new mothers, Katie Brown readily admits she is besotted with her baby son.
But the 29-year-old has more reason than most to feel blessed by Ethan’s safe arrival – because he is the child she was afraid it would be impossible for her to have.
Miss Brown and her partner Adam Holtby, 28, were planning to get married and start a family when their world was turned upside down two years ago.
Following a routine smear test, Miss Brown was diagnosed with cervical cancer and warned she could die without a hysterectomy. But, distraught that she would never be able to have children of her own, she was offered the chance to undergo pioneering surgery to save both her life and her fertility.
The operation, which has been performed on just a handful of British women, was a success. To her doctor’s amazement, Miss Brown became pregnant six months later and Ethan was born by Caesarean section weighing a healthy 7lb 11oz.
Miss Brown, a dental hygienist, said: ‘Holding Ethan in my arms for the first time was the most amazing feeling ever, it was the best day of my life. It was very, very emotional. I was in tears, Adam was crying, even some of the doctors and nurses were blubbing, it was very special.
‘Little miracle’: Miss Brown underwent pioneering surgery to save her life from cervical cancer and her fertility and to her doctor’s amazement Miss Brown fell pregnant with Ethan within six months
‘To be told I had cancer and that I may never be a mother was heartbreaking, but then to be given this chance and to manage to get through the pregnancy and birth with a healthy little boy – we are just over the moon.
‘People say Ethan is a happy little boy, but we are just so pleased to have him. We look at him every day and can’t quite believe he’s here. He’s our little miracle.’
Miss Brown was diagnosed with cervical cancer in September 2010. Doctors warned her that it was likely that she would need a hysterectomy to save her life.
But, by chance, her consultant knew a doctor pioneering a little known procedure, known as a radical abdominal trachelectomy. The operation, devised by doctors at Hammersmith Hospital and the Lister Hospital, both in London, involves most of the cervix – the muscle which holds a baby in the womb – being removed, together with the upper part of the vagina.
The womb and the upper opening of the cervix, where it joins on to the womb, are left behind and rejoined to the vagina. A stitch is then inserted on to the upper opening of the cervix to hold a baby in place in the womb until it is ready to be delivered.
‘The doctors explained that I could have a hysterectomy or radiotherapy but I knew both would rob me of my fertility,’ Miss Brown, who lives with Mr Holtby, an IT research analyst, in Brough, East Yorkshire, said. ‘This new operation seemed like a much better option. The consultant told me only a handful of women in the UK had had the surgery but it had a good success rate.’
If the doctors had discovered during the operation that the cancer had spread they might still have had to perform a hysterectomy. But fortunately, that didn’t happen.
Miss Brown and Mr Holtby put their wedding plans on hold and began trying for a baby six months after the successful operation at Castle Hill Hospital, Cottingham, East Yorkshire, in November 2010.
She became pregnant almost immediately, in May last year, and after a normal pregnancy, Ethan was born by a planned C-section at 38 weeks in February.
‘When I was diagnosed with cancer I’d thought I’d lost my chance to have children, but having Ethan was made possible thanks to this amazing surgery,’ added Miss Brown, who is in remission from her cancer.
‘I just want other women to know that having a hysterectomy is not the only option if you have cancer, I’m proof that fertility can be preserved and miracles do happen.’