A YOUNG mother diagnosed with cancer two days before giving birth says lockdown was a blessing – finally giving her precious time with her daughter.

Poppy Stewart-Brown, from Burgess Hill, missed out on the first year of her daughter Arabella’s life as she underwent intensive treatment.

While lockdown caused issues for most, the new mother was finally able to bond with her baby.

Poppy had suffered headaches and nosebleeds throughout her pregnancy, but symptoms of her cancer were repeatedly missed by GPs, dentists and A and E doctors who claimed they were side effects of her pregnancy or toothache.

“This was my first pregnancy, so I believed them,” she said.

After finding a blockage in her nose, the 25-year-old was referred for a biopsy, but while she waited for the results, a growth grew so rapidly it was almost protruding from her left nostril.

Within days Poppy deteriorated and developed sepsis in her sinuses, and 48 hours before giving birth was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma - a rare cancer that can develop in bones and soft tissue.

The Argus: Young mother diagnosed with cancer two days before giving birth Young mother diagnosed with cancer two days before giving birth

In need of immediate treatment, Arabella was born by Caesarean section on April 26, 2019 – 34 weeks into the pregnancy – weighing 4lb 4oz.

Poppy had to leave her new-born baby immediately to undergo surgery to remove the tumour, before starting 14 rounds of chemotherapy at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London.

Poppy, along with her partner Tommy Bolger and her mother Louise, then moved to Manchester so she could undergo proton beam therapy at The Christie Hospital.

The Argus: Poppy Stewart-Brown, from Burgess Hill Poppy Stewart-Brown, from Burgess Hill

“I was there for seven weeks and was really poorly,” Poppy said. “My face was so swollen – I was unrecognisable. I was so weak I couldn’t lift Arabella and I felt a million miles from home.

“The treatment was really harsh – I had to wear a mesh mask which pinned me to the bed for 45 minutes each time - and I needed 31 sessions. It made me feel very claustrophobic.”

“That period was definitely my lowest point,” she added.

In total, Poppy underwent 10 months of intensive treatment and spent more than 130 nights away from Arabella.

After a traumatic start to motherhood, Poppy said lockdown was a blessing in disguise, enabling her to finally bond with her daughter.

The Argus: Poppy Stewart-Brown with daughter Arabella Poppy Stewart-Brown with daughter Arabella

“I had to shield, but it gave me the chance to rest and have bonding time. I feel I’m still making up for this and I think I’ll forever feel guilty about not being able to have that initial mother-daughter time,” she said.

“But Arabella is the one who got me through the treatment. Now I’m enjoying every last moment of being a mummy to our beautiful girl, enjoying some of the simple pleasures like swimming and baby ballet. She is an absolute treasure.”

Poppy, a beauty therapist, is now taking time out of motherhood to support Stand Up to Cancer - the joint fundraising campaign from Cancer Research UK and Channel 4.

“My experience has helped me appreciate how crucial research is and I want to help more people survive. Charities have been hit hard by the pandemic so it feels more important than ever for everyone to do what they can,” she added.

Cancer Research UK played a leading role in clinical trials for one of the drugs Poppy was treated with - Etoposide phosphate.

The Argus: Young mother diagnosed with cancer two days before giving birth Young mother diagnosed with cancer two days before giving birth

She is also keen to spread the word about less common cancers.

“Somebody has to be the rare patient and as it turned out, I fitted into three rare categories – I was young, I was pregnant and Ewing sarcoma is rare. I was told having cancer in your jawbone is virtually undocumented.

“People need to listen to their body, not feel silly about how they are feeling and go to their GP to get checked out.”

In the South East, around 52,100 people are diagnosed with cancer every year.

Stand Up To Cancer has raised more than £84 million, funding 59 clinical trials and projects involving over 19,000 cancer patients across the UK.

The scheme’s ambition is to see three in four people in the UK survive their cancer by 2034.