In what seems like a story out of a movie script Anna Marton was diagnosed with a deadly bone marrow disease with doctors giving her only two to five years to live. Devastated she found out a few months later that she was pregnant and despite doctor’s warning she not only gave birth, but was totally cured of the disease.
39 year-old Anna who lives in Rhu near Glasgow was diagnosed with myelofibriosis in February 2009. This deadly disease affects the bone marrow and stops the body’s ability to make red blood cells. Anna initially thought that the occasional bruises on her arms were due to over exertion at her farm but tests revealed the grim truth.
‘I just kept finding these bruises all over my body,’ she said. ‘The slightest knock would turn me black and blue. I couldn’t really understand why it was happening, as I never remembered knocking myself.”
“ At first I thought it was my outdoors lifestyle – I ride horses and help out on the local farm, so there is plenty of opportunity for knocks and bangs doing all that outdoors work. But then my gums started bleeding and I noticed cuts and bruises weren’t healing properly, so I thought that something might be wrong, and I was feeling exhausted all the time too.I had the tests done at the haematology department of the local hospital so they could take a bone marrow sample.”
Partner Tony Harman, 41, accompanied Anna to get the test results. It was the day before her 37th birthday and from the moment they saw the consultant’s face they knew something was wrong.
The test revealed the condition and the consultant added how patients only had a thin chance of survival.
“I was absolutely devastated,” said Anna.
She was already a mother to Arran, 18, and Annabel, 13 and the first thought that struck her was that she was not be able to see them grow up.
“It just seemed so surreal and I couldn’t really take anything in. It was only when I left the hospital that the reality of what the consultant had said hit me and I just burst into tears. I just kept thinking that I wouldn’t see my children grow up. I just couldn’t stop crying.”
The condition was so rare that not even the doctors could provide a solution accept monitor her condition and prescribe steroids to boost the cell count. Although a bone marrow transplant was an option, the chances were still meek for her complete recovery.
What made the ordeal more terrifying was that everyday Anna had to be careful not get cuts or bruises or any infection that would distress her.
Anna recalls, “The whole family had to have flu jabs and keep away from me if they had a cold or infection as my immune system was so low. Without a cure for this disease, even the slightest knock or cut could lead to me having to go to hospital. I was terrified. I couldn’t go riding any more in case I fell. And every time my gums started bleeding I worried that I would bleed to death. I had to spend most of my time indoors so that I didn’t come into contact with anyone.”
She also did not want to upset her children and therefore told them that the doctors could not cure her condition and she might need a bone marrow transplant.
Then miraculously in April 2009, Anna discovered that she was pregnant.
“I had missed a period and I put it down to my illness. I went to see the doctor and he agreed that it was probably due to depression and stress about my diagnosis,” she said.
“But something just kept nagging me in the back of my mind and a week later I went to buy a pregnancy test. I didn’t tell Tony about it because I was so sure that it was going to be negative. But then I did the test and up came two blue lines on the stick. I just kept staring at it, I couldn’t believe that it was actually positive. I had to do another test before I was actually convinced I was pregnant. I told Tony and the children and they were all thrilled.”
The midwife at the GP warned Anna that pregnancy could be disastrous for her condition if there was internal bleeding. But Anna wanted to have the baby and a doctor at the hospital supported her decision assuring that they would give her drugs if during labor there was bleeding.
‘I just had to put my trust in the doctors and hope for the best.’
With each scan the baby showed positive signs and finally in November 2009 Jason was born weighing a healthy 6Ib2, after just three hours labour. Anna had given birth naturally.
‘It was such a relief when I finally held him in my arms. The doctors had told me they couldn’t carry out a caesarian operation as it was too risky to me as I could have bleed to death if anything had gone wrong, but luckily the labour went smoothly and Jason was born naturally.”
Anna felt a pang of grief when holding Jason in her arms she thought she would never see him grow up. Then in February last year Anna went for her regular check up and the doctors were shocked to find no traces of the disease.
To reconfirm doctors sent the test results to 25 other specialists but all had the same thing to say. Anna had been cured!
‘I couldn’t believe it, and neither could anyone else,’ said Anna. ‘Just a year ago I’d been given just two years to live. And now I was being told that the disease had completely gone from my body. It was unbelievable. The doctors had never seen a case like it before, and they told me that somehow, the pregnancy hormones had helped my body heal itself.’
Doctors think that because of her pregnancy Anna produced an increased amount of a male hormone called androgen. Some studies show that the hormone can make symptoms less severe but in Anna’s case they cured her.
On February 2011 Anna went for another round of checkups and the results assure that she is completely disease free.
‘Jason really has been my miracle cure,’ said Anna. ‘Even the doctors couldn’t explain it – it really is a miracle – and that’s what I call him. There was no medicine to treat me – but my own baby cured me.’
Anna is now a full time mom and hopes to tell Jason how he was her life saviour when he grows up.
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