A new mum was in high spirits after giving birth but within weeks she received a rare one-in-50,000 diagnosis that even the nurses had to google.
Just eight days after giving birth, Darlene Lynch beamed as she walked her best friend down the aisle.
“I was in great form,” the 32-year-old recalled.
“I had a really good recovery from the C-section. I had a few sneaky dances as well. I felt really good. ”
But within a couple of months, things turned pear-shaped for the new mum of baby Cillian and she was rushed to Melbourne’s Casey Hospital with severe haemorrhaging.
The Doctors thought it was a molar pregnancy, a rare complication in which tissue that normally becomes a fetus turns into an abnormal growth in the uterus.
Ms Lynch was to have it removed within days but was frightened because it was risky, given her blood type.
Just before the surgery, though, she got what seemed welcome news: It wasn’t going ahead.
Instead, she received a shock diagnosis: She had choriocarcinoma – a rare cancer occurring in about one in 50,000 pregnancies – and started chemotherapy the very next day.
The diagnosis was an isolating one for Ms Lynch and her fiance Nigel Bermingham, both Irish nationals on temporary work visas.
Now family and friends were abroad, so they had few social supports and the rare nature of the cancer made it difficult.
“I’ve never heard of it before,” Ms Lynch said.
“I’ve never even really heard of molar pregnancy. Nobody has, that’s the thing.
“Some of the Doctors have said, ‘You’re my first patient I’ve had with this.’
Choriocarcinoma forms when cells that were part of the placenta in a normal pregnancy become cancerous. It can happen after a miscarriage, abortion, ectopic pregnancy or molar pregnancy.
It can be cured with chemotherapy with a potential survival rate of over 90 per cent, depending on risk factors.
Ms Lynch has undergone her third round of Chemo and responded well so far.
While the hair loss has been hard, she has been buoyed by the support of her hairdresser who closed her salon, brought food and wine, and invited Ms Lynch’s family, including pooch Ish, along for her head shave, which they did for free.
Mr Bermingham also got a dyed green mohawk in support.
“He said, ‘I was hardly going to let you go through this alone,'” Ms Lynch said.
“I don’t feel too bad about my hair anymore. He looks more ridiculous than me. ”
Ms Lynch, a social worker, has documented her journey on Instagram to raise awareness of choriocarcinoma and support others with post-partum cancer.
“It’s been quite an isolating kind of a diagnosis because it’s so rare, it’s hard to get support around it,” she said.
“If you have breast cancer or ovarian cancer, there are lots of organizations that you can go to for support.
“Even when I was in a day clinic I was looking for a pamphlet or something on my type of cancer and couldn’t find it.”
While her health treatment is covered under a reciprocal agreement between Ireland and Australia, not everything is covered. Her friends have set up a GoFundMe page to help with expenses.
Her sister has also flown in from Ireland to help, while Mr Bermingham continues to work as the couple does not receive entitlements.
She has also been referred to a Counselor to help her navigate her emotions.
“Every time I have Chemo, it’s just that realization that I’ve got the cancer and what I’m going through,” Ms Lynch said.
“At home you’re in mummy mode. You’ve got a little boy and you need to be strong for him and I need to care for him and his needs. He comes first regardless of anything I’ve gone through. ”
Ms Lynch said the experience had made her more Grateful for what she had.
“When you’re sitting in a hospital bed and you think you know your days are kind of numbered, it just puts things in perspective,” she said.
“In one of the Chemo Wards I was in, there were two women at the end of life that were going into palliative care.
“I found that really hard, being on the Wards with some very, very sick people and it just put things into perspective for me and what’s important in life.
“Family and your health are now important. If you don’t have your health, you don’t really have anything. ”
Ms Lynch’s parents, plagued by health issues, have been unable to make the long journey here.
She has not seen her family in Ireland since 2019 and is looking forward to the day she can return.
Meanwhile, Cillian – dubbed a “Miracle baby” because Doctors were shocked he survived the pregnancy and got to full term – is going along in leaps and bounds.
“He’s just the happiest little boy, he’s just the best thing to come into our lives, by far the best thing to ever happen to us,” Ms Lynch said.
“He was meant to be such a good baby because I was going to be going through a bit.”