Karyn always wanted to be a mum. Last May her wish came true and she was blessed with her long-awaited first child, a beautiful little girl she named Billi.
Due to what Karyn and the doctors thought were pregnancy complications, Billi was born early at 29 weeks.
However, just four hours after the birth, Karyn discovered that it wasn’t pregnancy complications that were causing her body to shut down. She not only had widespread terminal cancer in her body but she wasn’t expected to live longer than three weeks.
This was in May 2021. 23 weeks later, Karyn has beaten the odds for her daughter. She knows she doesn’t have long, but she is so grateful she got a chance to be Billi’s mum and is cherishing every single moment she has left with her little girl.
‘You won’t survive’
The pain started at 28 weeks pregnant. Aching bones. Swollen feet. Back pain. Karyn, who was an advocate for healthy living with no family history of cancer, assumed it was simply pregnancy-related issues.
However, at 29 weeks pregnant the pain became too much and she went to the hospital. She recalls barely being able to walk or see her toes due to her whole body being full of fluid.
Doctors took blood work which confirmed something was seriously wrong.
They came back in quite a hurry and said my blood were very abnormal and I was very sick, and ‘you need to have this baby. If you don’t both of you won’t survive’,” she explains.
“My liver function was through the roof – and it was three times the size of my baby. My placenta had stopped giving any nutrients to my baby.”
Karyn was immediately rushed to the operating room to have Billi via emergency cesarean. Billi weighed just 1.2 kg and was taken to the NICI straight after the birth.
Karyn did not get to hold her daughter that day or the next. In fact, she didn’t get to hold her daughter until she was five days old.
Widespread terminal cancer diagnosis
Instead, as she recovered from the birth, she was greeted by a team of six doctors, crammed into her room with serious looks on their faces.
They held her hand and told her she was dying.
They explained to her that she had Stage 4 Breast Cancer that, due to pregnancy hormones, had quickly spread to her liver, bones and optic nerve.
They told her she wouldn’t leave the hospital, that she would be going into palliative care.
They told her to choose a guardian for her daughter (Karyn is a single mum after short-lived romance).
They gave her just three weeks to live.
Karyn remained in hospital letting the news sink in. After five days, she was able to finally hold Billi.
The moment I held my daughter and got skin-on-skin was when the vulnerability of my life hit – that was when the real heaviness of it hit home.
I held her I looked at her and said, ‘I am not going, I am staying’. I knew I couldn’t give life to this baby and then leave.”
Over the next three weeks, Karyn did everything she could to fight for Billi. She chose her sister, who already has four children, as Billi’s guardian. She spent as much time in the NICU as she could but she was also dealing with intense pain and sickness due to the medications.
I knew that wasn’t the place for me to get well. I felt like I was losing myself. I couldn’t speak and I couldn’t see because of the cancers in my optic nerve. I was falling asleep holding my daughter and I thought, ‘I’d rather feel pain and be present than be dosed up with all this morphine’.”
Karyn chose to leave the hospital and spend her final days at home.
She began holistic treatments including THC and cannabis oil, as well as daily chemotherapy tablets and monthly in-hospital chemo injections.
However, she remained by Billi’s side in the NICU every day, for endless hours, praying she would be able to bring her baby home before cancer beat her.
Billi goes home
69 days after Kayrn gave birth and discovered she had cancer, Karyn was able to bring her daughter home. She also discovered that the medication was working.
Many of her tumours had shrunk. Her liver was returning to its normal size and appearance and, although not in the clear, she was given a bit more time.
As grateful as she was, she was also exhausted. Taking care of a newborn alone 24/7 and battling a serious illness is not something anyone should have to do, especially not without help.
Camilla Chaplin, who is Karyn’s Natural Medicine Practitioner set up a GoFundMe account to ensure Karyn gets the funding she needs to hire help, such as a night nanny, continue medications and remain financially stress-free for the rest of the time she has left. The account is close to $140,000.
Karyn was told she would only live for three weeks. It’s been five months now. In between caring for Billi, she has also arranged her will and is planning her funeral.
Since I been living like I’m dying, I’ve actually been starting to live – and living a life very, very present like I’ve never felt before,” she explains.
“I want my daughter to remember me and be proud of how her mumma chose to live her life.”
To support Karyn and Billi, you can donate through GoFundMe.