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Last Updated: Friday, 6 October 2006, 12:29 GMT 13:29 UK
The baby that defied the odds
Evelyn Evans wrote to the BBC News website to say she was pregnant, defeating the medical odds which had lengthened through 18 years of breast cancer. Months later she had a healthy baby girl.

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Evelyn and Isobel
Evelyn was told she would never conceive

At 10.26am on 21 August 2006, Isobel Jennifer Alexandra Evans was born to the sound of Tchaikovsky at Queen Charlotte's Hospital in west London.

Her birth flew in the face of medical opinion which had written off her chance of existence.

For nearly 20 years her mother Evelyn, 38, had lived with breast cancer which had spread to her lung and chest wall, and endured treatment which had dramatically diminished her chance of conception.

But the moment Evelyn first held the 8lb-Isobel, the years of treatment, pain and dashed hopes were put out of mind.

"It was amazing. She was born to the Nutcracker Suite and all the staff were brilliant," she says.

"Nothing could prepare you for it and we were absolutely thrilled.

"It was something that at times I thought I would never experience and I was just looking forward to helping someone grow up in the world, looking forward to the future."


The future wasn't such an uplifting thought in 1988, when university student Evelyn found a lump which was diagnosed as malignant the following year.

Evelyn credits complementary therapies for increasing her fertility

The hardest thing about having cancer, she says, was the prospect of not being able to have a family, which became all the more likely during the next 14 years of treatment, hope and disappointment.

The cancer returned several times and Evelyn had a double mastectomy in 2001, amid bouts of chemotherapy, which can cause infertility.

"It is much more crushing than anything else, the thought of losing your fertility. Anything else is bearable."

This issue became all the more urgent when she met her future husband Peter in 2003 and she explored the options they had to have a child.

Chemotherapy stops ovulation and can cause temporary or permanent infertility
If the cancer is oestrogen-dependent, stopping the ovaries from working is offered as treatment
Radiotherapy or surgery can cause permanent infertility
Drug treatment zoladex stops periods temporarily and tamoxifen can have the same effect after continued use
Source: Breast Cancer Care

Considering freezing her eggs, she was told they could already be damaged and the chances of conception were remote.

Using a donor egg would have meant a long wait and normal fertility drugs could stimulate the cancer, which was oestrogen-linked.

Adoption was not possible because of her illness and last year she felt her biological clock ticking with the onset of an early menopause.

When asked about the possibility of having children, her oncologist said he didn't know what the risk was of the pregnancy stimulating the cancer, and if the baby suffered any severe deformities then Evelyn would probably miscarriage in the first three months.

Power of herbs

But he agreed to support her through it, although she would not be allowed chemotherapy during the first trimester.

14 Feb scan of Isobel
The first scan was a huge relief

"I thought that however long it takes, if you want something badly enough, it may take a long time but I would never, never give up. My instinct told me I was going to be a mother."

By sheer coincidence, through her work as a freelance writer for a pregnancy magazine, Evelyn came across a clinic in north London called Oeuf, which specialised in complementary health and fertility.

A combination of herbs helped to allay the menopausal symptoms and a course of reflexology tried to stimulate ovulation.

Evelyn credits Oeuf for delivering the hormonal balance she needed and she says it also eased the nasty side-effects of the chemo, such as the nausea and "burning feet". Six weeks after finishing the course of chemotherapy she was pregnant.

Within six weeks, Isobel was conceived

"It was absolutely awesome. I was very nervous about losing her but I wanted to think positively.

"It happened much faster than anyone expected, faster than many healthy women in their late 30s."

The first proper scan on 14 February allayed Evelyn's fears about limb deformities or heart defects. She herself did not need any treatment throughout pregnancy - or any since - but continued the reflexology and massage to "keep her well".

Now, as she tends to her one-month-old healthy baby girl in the family home in Oxfordshire, she wants other women with cancer to keep up hope that they can have a child.

She says: "Each case has to be judged and you can't just write off every breast cancer patient that is oestrogen-dependent. I was supposed to be very high risk.

Isobel's foot
Life is for living, says Evelyn
"Several people said to me I would never have children but that just made me more determined than ever."

The cancer treatment meant Evelyn was already prepared for the sleepless nights of motherhood - which at least lacked the nausea of chemotherapy - and the uncertain future does not trouble her.

"The cancer is always present but it's stable and I can't see the point in sitting down and worrying about what might happen.

"You have to live your life and that's what I'm trying to do. I'm looking forward to seeing her wedding day."

Your comments

Every good wish to Evelyn and Isobel - a wonderful heart warming piece of news. I hope Evelyn can continue to give hope to other cancer sufferers.
Keith, London, UK

My heart goes out to the new mum and baby
Jacqueline A. Telfer, Maraval, Trinidad and Tobago
As a breast cancer patient myself in 2001 and now part of a small support group of survivors both in UK and here in T&T, my heart goes out to the new mum and baby. Your story was my good news today. One of our 'girls' has had 7 bouts of cancer and we pray for her to see her young children grow up. She had a hysterectomy after the second birth, then it was in her hips, then spine, lungs, kidneys, etc. Each time she pulls through to the next stage, but her children have now both entered High School for which we give thanks. Inspiring story.
Jacqueline A. Telfer, Maraval, Trinidad and Tobago

It is refreshing to read a good news, well a great news story for a change. The future looks bright for Evelyn and little Isobel. One day, Isobel will understand the true meaning of courage and hope as shown by her mother.
Helen Brown, Ipswich, Australia

Such a lovely story of life against all odds! I wish Evelyn, her husband and beautiful baby girl all the best for the future.
Emily Nicolaou, Leeds, UK

What a fantastic story. I spent many years as a cancer nurse looking after people like Evelyn, and to hear the news about her beautiful daughter is so heartening. She is quite right, life is for living, people with cancer should never give up on their dream.
Helen, Dorset

This is an amazing story, so very uplifting and what a terrific inspiration for every woman going through breast cancer. This little girl is very blessed to have a truly awesome mother who I am sure will be there on her wedding day looking every inch the proud Mother of the bride.
Muriel, Bexleyheath

It's absolutely fantastic for Evelyn and I am so pleased for her
Shirley Lynch, Halifax, West Yorkshire
This has been such a heartwarming story to read, it's absolutely fantastic for Evelyn and I am so pleased for her. I was diagnosed with breast cancer exactly 3 years ago, and though I am way out of the child-bearing age (I am 55) the fact that Evelyn has achieved her dream of a baby is fantastic, I know what I felt like earlier this year on the safe birth of my first grandchild, also a little girl, called Mia Grace. May I wish Evelyn and baby Isobel Jennifer Alexandra a long, healthy and happy life together. It is much deserved.
Shirley Lynch, Halifax, West Yorkshire

This is a wonderful story! I too have oestrogen receptive breast cancer and although I am lucky to already have a beautiful little girl, I had given up all hope of her having a brother or sister. But having read this amazing story, maybe it is possible?
Julie Sullivan, Surbiton, UK

What a wonderful outcome. My brother was made sterile by chemo because he contracted Hodgkin's when he was 23 yrs old. That was over 30 yrs ago. It is so good to read that now there is hope for so many other people. I hope they all have many,many happy years as a family.
Lin Eaton, Bournemouth, UK

My son was diagnosed 5 years ago with testicular cancer, he had the testicle removed only to find the cancer had travelled into the body. After 9 weeks of chemo and a major operation he was declared clear, and 5 years down the line he is still clear, and fertile. Check-ups for 10 years, so 5 years left. He got married last year. His wife has just been diagnosed with cervical cancer, and having just gone through 6 weeks of radiotherapy with some chemo included, she has been told she will not be able to have children but she is clear now. She has to have check-ups for 5 years, so hopefully they will both be declared totally clear at the end of 5 years. What are the odds of that happening to anyone? They are both very positive people and both happy despite their problems.
Sue Grimshaw, Chester, UK


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