UK couple discover 'baby' is actually cancerous tumour at 12-week scan

"I just wanted the horrible mass out of me immediately," Ms Baker-Padden says.
"I just wanted the horrible mass out of me immediately," Ms Baker-Padden says. Photo: Instagram/Teenage Cancer Trust

Young couple Grace Baker-Padden and Joe Cowling were delighted to hear they were expecting their first baby. But their excitement turned to shock at the 12-week scan when doctors discovered a cancerous mass.

"It was such a shock. From planning this exciting new future as a family to suddenly no baby and my health at risk was awful," Ms Baker-Padden, 23, told The Mirror.

"I just wanted the horrible mass out of me immediately."

Despite the pregnancy being a surprise for the UK couple, Ms Baker-Padden says they were "happy and excited". "Our parents couldn't wait to be first-time grandparents."

Vomiting each morning, which she put down to morning sickness, Ms Baker-Padden says she also experienced "very mild swelling" in her belly. After some spotting at both eight and ten weeks, Ms Baker-Padden saw her GP, fearing she was having a miscarriage. 

 "We just wanted things to be okay," Ms Baker-Padden recalls of their scan in February 2018.  But they knew immediately that it "didn't' look right."

 "There was no baby shape – it looked like a bunch of grapes," Mr Cowling says. "The midwife said it looked like a 'molar pregnancy', and went to find a doctor."

Doctors later confirmed the midwife's suspicion -  Ms Baker-Padden was experiencing a molar pregnancy or gestational trophoblastic disease. (GTD)

According to the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG), GTD is a rare complication of pregnancy that occurs in about 1 out of every 200–1000 pregnancies. 

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"The most common type of GTD is a Hydatidiform Mole," they note. "It is not like a mole on your skin. It is just a term used to describe the abnormal growth of the placenta (that part of the pregnancy that usually feeds the baby). The overgrowing placenta produces high levels of pregnancy hormones so the woman 'feels' pregnant and has symptoms of pregnancy. "

For Ms Baker-Padden and her partner, the news was devastating.

"We'd gone from expecting a baby to having the C-word thrown about," she says.

After the tumour was removed two days later, further testing showed that it was malignant.

For six months, Ms Baker-Padden underwent chemotherapy. And, in September 2018, she was was admitted to the Teenage Cancer Trust for further treatment.

"They were confident I could be treated but it was scary," she says.

The trainee conveyancing solicitor was treated with further chemo for eight weeks as an outpatient, something she says left her "weak and exhausted."

Just after Christmas last year, however, Ms Baker-Pdden received the news they'd been hoping for: the all clear. 

"The relief was incredible. We just wanted to be normal again and planned a holiday to celebrate," she says.

​And while the couple still dream of having a baby, doctors have warned that there's a 15 per cent chance it could happen again. 

"We're scared to try again after what happened. We'll wait a while," Ms Baker-Padden says.

Over the weekend, to thank the Teenage Cancer Trust for their "incredible" care, Mr Cowing competed in the Great North Run to raise funds for the service.

"At the beginning of 2018 my partner Grace was told she had gestational trophoblastic disease, a rare form of cancer," he writes on his fundraising page. "Over the past year I have seen her show real strength as she received rounds of chemotherapy to fight the disease. I am so proud of her ..."

Explaining that the treatment was administered at the Teenage Cancer ward, Mr Cowling continues, "The work that the nurses and doctors do on that ward is nothing less than amazing, every time I have visited with Grace I have been taken aback by everything they do for the brave individuals they are treating. It really puts everything in perspective and I hope to raise as much money as possible to do what little I can to help such brilliant cause."

"I feel really emotional about him doing it because it's such a good cause," Ms Baker-Padden says. "We've seen them help so many people along the way."