Jennifer Pearson with her husband Shane, and daughter Roxy smile at the camera

Jennifer Pearson from Blessington in Co. Wicklow was diagnosed with a rare cancer-like condition called Langerhans Cells Histiocytosis in 2016, Langerhans Cells Histiocytosis can affect different parts of the body. Jennifer’s affects the bone marrow and nerves. She wants to share her story to raise awareness and to support others going through a similar diagnosis.

“I suffered with a pain in my hip for a few years, and I always thought it was nerve pain. My doctor thought it was sciatic pain and I treated it with painkillers.

In April 2016 my cycle stopped, I took a pregnancy test and wasn’t pregnant so went to my doctor and he referred me to St James’s Hospital for a scan. I was admitted because the pain was so severe. They did so many tests couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me, but after about 5 weeks they found lesions in my left hip, which they thought looked cancerous. The biopsies came back as a type of cancer but one they hadn’t come across before. They said it was extremely rare to be found in a woman in her 30s.

I was completely by myself when I received the news. When they told me I broke down, I thought they have to be misdiagnosing me, because I felt fine bar the pain. I thought there is no way I have cancer, and if I do, should I consider myself lucky to feel as good as I do? I couldn’t help myself by googling my diagnosis, which was the worst thing to do. Anyone who gets news like that will know that you start overthinking. I was reading about amputations and spiraled into a roller coaster of emotions.

I’ve always been a positive person, and I’ll never give up until I’ve finished a project. So, I told myself this was no different and said out loud to myself ‘Whatever comes my way, I have to get married and have a family. This diagnosis won’t define me as a person. I will keep moving forward and although at times I’ll be very sick, I can do this!  

My treatment began in July 2016, which was a high dose of chemotherapy (methotrexate) in tablet form, every Wednesday for a year. It was tough and it made me very weak and sick. I started keeping a diary of things I wanted to do to keep my mind occupied and took up pottery, writing, and drawing on the days I felt a little better.

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“Myself and my partner Shane planned our wedding for October 2017, so after my chemo ended that Summer, they kept a close eye on me."

Myself and my partner Shane planned our wedding for October 2017, so after my chemo ended that Summer, they kept a close eye on me. In November my pain returned and began in the other hip. A scan showed the hip joint was eroding away and the cancer had spread to other parts of my body.

So in January 2018, I had an operation, with plates inserted into both hips, followed by further chemotherapy.  I always wanted to be a mum, but it was around this time it really hit me that I wanted a family more than anything.  Because of treatment side effects I was told I wouldn’t conceive naturally, so in September 2019 we began the IVF process. I tried so hard to remain positive but was really scared that my body couldn’t do it and I felt so disheartened that it wouldn’t work. The day I went in for our embryo to be implanted they told me they couldn’t implant it…I was already 7 weeks pregnant!! I couldn’t believe it I just started balling crying, it was the middle of Covid so Shane was waiting outside for me, I rushed out to show him the scan of our baby! That moment I thought this is really good, my body is doing what it’s meant to do!

Our beautiful baby girl, Roxy May was born in January 2021, we came home after 2 nights in hospital and I’ve never felt better in my life!

Unfortunately, two months later they found a small tumour in my right hip, so I started treatment again, this time injecting myself into the hip with the chemo. It was really hard going through this treatment with a new baby but I got up every morning and continued as normal because I had to. My husband’s work have been amazing and allowed him to stay at home with me on my treatment days.

When I was first diagnosed I reached out to the Irish Cancer Society Support Line, and they gave me information about IVF and free counselling.

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"Our beautiful baby girl, Roxy May was born in January 2021, we came home after 2 nights in hospital and I’ve never felt better in my life!"

Jennifer with her daughter Roxy

I began counselling through St. James’s Hospital, somedays you feel so low and angry thinking why is everything going against me? I’ve found talking about it great to get it off my chest. Most days I put on a brave face, but I do have my breakdowns, sometimes I worry that one day I’ll be gone and poor Roxy won’t have a mammy. When that happens I find it helpful to write everything down, because the thoughts can just weigh me down when they’re in my head.

At the beginning of May, we fell pregnant naturally again, we couldn’t believe it. But at around 8.5 weeks, I began experiencing horrendous pain and bleeding and miscarried, we found out then that we had been pregnant with twins. This was an incredibly sad and vulnerable experience.

That September I started radiotherapy and my team were happy with my progress.
I’m due to have a scan soon, so we will see where we go from there.

When you hear the word cancer you can’t help but put your mind to death. Everyone knows someone affected by cancer, but I try to look at the positives and have a happy outlook. I count myself lucky in a way. I know no one with cancer is lucky but although I am in a lot of pain I can get out and do stuff. I was delighted to manage the Dublin mini-marathon this Summer, I wanted to do it to raise money for other people affected by cancer but also to push myself and achieve something positive, it was incredible and has really empowered me to say yes I am doing well!”

Jennifer is encouraging anyone affected by cancer to come along to the Irish Cancer Society’s Relay for Life Celebrate and Remember event on 29th September.

“Whether it's you or a loved one going through cancer, Relay for Life and what it means is incredible, the support and warmth you feel is beautiful. At times in my life, I’ve felt alone or no one understands me, but coming together at Relay for Life, I feel understood and not alone. It’s so important to raise awareness and bring light to everyone affected by this horrible disease. I would encourage everyone to get involved and fight against cancer.
We all know someone who has been affected by cancer in our lives so let’s all stand together! WE WILL NOT GIVE UP UNTIL CANCER DOES!!”

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