Mom Given 1 Year To Live After Doctor Said Pregnancy Symptoms Were Normal

A woman has revealed how the symptoms of a brain tumor were dismissed as just side effects of her pregnancy.

From the moment Laura Mahon learned she was expecting her first child in May 2021 she felt incredibly unwell. However, the headaches, fatigue, and constant nausea were just attributed to normal pregnancy changes.

Mahon told Newsweek: "I was poorly from the start of pregnancy, even before I knew that I was pregnant. I had headaches and I was vomiting all day and night, and couldn't keep any food down. I had many trips to the doctors, and they put it down to being pregnant. I didn't think anything else was wrong at this point."

People would often tell Mahon, from Liverpool, UK, that "it was normal" to feel as unwell as she did during pregnancy.

Laura Mahon and partner Danny
Laura Mahon, 30, and her partner, Danny, pictured at their baby shower in 2021. The couple were ecstatic to find out they were expecting a girl, but the symptoms continued to get worse for Mahon. Laura Mahon / @lauradowntherabbithole_

However, in September 2021, Mahon woke up unable to move her toes. She went immediately to the hospital to get checked over.

She said: "Doctors thought it was the baby lying on a nerve in my back, so I was sent for an MRI of my spine which came back clear, so I was referred for a brain scan. I was around 24 weeks when I had the scan on my brain, and that's when they found the tumor.

"They couldn't tell me what grade the tumor was, since I couldn't have contrast dye during the MRI as it wasn't safe for the baby. They could only tell me it was a glioma tumor, and it had been there for years. I couldn't believe what the doctor was telling me. I told him I can't have a brain tumor as I was only 29."

Gliomas are a common type of tumor that can grow within the substance of the brain and mix with normal brain tissue. Johns Hopkins Medicine estimates that gliomas account for around 33 percent of all brain tumors, and although they can affect people of all ages, they are most common in adult males.

Cancer researcher Dr. Mona Jhaveri, who is a postdoctoral fellow at the National Cancer Institute, explained further about the practicalities and considerations of brain tumors during pregnancy.

Dr. Jhaveri told Newsweek: "The symptoms of tumors in the brain range from headaches, seizures, changes in hearing, sight and personality disorders. Brain cancer during pregnancy is very rare, therefore symptoms might lead to misdiagnosis.

"There are many dangers to being diagnosed with cancer during pregnancy. Most concerning are the outcomes to the fetus while treating a pregnant woman with cancer drugs. How the tumors get treated depends on where they are located, and if they are cancerous."

In terms of treatment, Dr. Jhaveri notes that surgery is usually the first line of treatment to remove the tumor, but it can also be treated with radiation and chemotherapy.

Laura Mahon in hospital
Laura Mahon pictured in hospital for her cancer treatment. Mahon was experiencing sickness and headaches from the beginning of her pregnancy, but the cancer was discovered at 27 weeks. Laura Mahon / @lauradowntherabbithole_

'Deep Down We Knew, But Nothing Can Prepare You'

After receiving the devastating diagnosis, Mahon was in a state of shock, knowing that the joy of starting a family with her partner, Danny, was now under threat. As they didn't know if it was cancer at the time, Mahon and Danny decided to continue with the pregnancy before undergoing a cesarean section at 34 weeks, followed by brain surgery shortly after.

However, Mahon's health took a turn for the worse at 27 weeks, and the c-section was rescheduled to 30 weeks gestation instead.

Mahon told Newsweek: "At around 27 weeks pregnant I became really poorly. My right leg went numb, and I couldn't walk without using crutches. My right arm also starting to numb, so we decided to bring the c-section forward.

"We had many discussions with our doctors, and we decided that 30 weeks was safe for me and Sienna [her baby]. I was put to sleep for the c-section as they couldn't risk any pressure going to my brain.

"Sienna was taken straight to the neonatal unit. After two days Sienna's lung collapsed, and she needed to be moved to a higher care unit."

Laura Mahon's brain surgery scar
Laura Mahon, 30, after the brain surgery in December 2021. Mahon had to deliver Sienna at 30 weeks pregnant before undergoing brain surgery just a week later. Laura Mahon / @lauradowntherabbithole_

Sienna was born on November 30, 2021. Just a week later Mahon was back in theater for her brain surgery. By this time, scans revealed that the tumor had doubled in size, and it was intertwined with brain tissue.

Surgeons took out as much of the tumor as they could, but it couldn't be removed in its entirety without the risk of Mahon becoming permanently paralyzed.

"Me and Danny were told it was grade 4 cancer two days before Christmas 2021. I think deep down we knew, but nothing can prepare you to hear that. They told me my life expectancy was around a year. We both broke down. We didn't celebrate Christmas that year because we were in shock."

'Everything I Had Been Through Was For Nothing'

Almost immediately after the two major surgeries, in January 2022 Mahon had to start radiotherapy to shrink what was left of the cancer.

"In 2022, I had another scan and was told radiotherapy had worked, I then started on six months of chemotherapy and was scanned after that," she explained. "I was told the chemotherapy had worked and the tumor had shrunk, and it was now dormant."

After months of grueling treatment, things started to look up for the new mom. The family got to enjoy several months together without the daunting backdrop of cancer treatment—but sadly that happiness was short-lived.

Laura Mahon with family
Laura Mahon pictured with her partner Danny, and their daughter Sienna. Sienna was delivered via cesarean section at 30 weeks, before Mahon underwent brain surgery a week later. Laura Mahon / @lauradowntherabbithole_

During a follow-up scan in January 2023, Mahon received the "completely unexpected" news that the tumor had spread to the other side of her brain.

"We were heartbroken again, it felt like everything I had been through was for nothing. We picked ourselves up and I started a new chemotherapy. Unfortunately, I only did two months before having a seizure.

"Another emergency scan showed the new chemotherapy hadn't worked, and I needed to change chemotherapy again. Danny was told to take time off work as it wasn't looking good."

Mahon is still undergoing chemotherapy at present, saying she hopes to "prolong" her life.

Laura Mahon and daughter Sienna
Laura Mahon, 30, pictured with daughter Sienna. Sienna was born in November 2021 via emergency cesarean, as Mohan's symptoms continued to progress. Laura Mahon / @lauradowntherabbithole_

'I Have To Keep Fighting For Sienna'

Mahon has fought an incredibly long and uphill battle since the diagnosis in September 2021, but it's the love of her family that keeps her going. She and her partner are aware that they may not have forever, so they're using the time they have together to make as many memories as possible—not just for themselves, but also for Sienna.

Mahon said: "My husband, daughter, and family keep me going. Life can be hard sometimes, but I just tell myself that I have to keep fighting for Sienna.

"Danny is still off work, and we've been focusing on making memories and spending time with our daughter. We take lots of photos and videos so she can look back on them. I've also made a memory box for her to look at that when she's older."

Any health battle can be an isolating experience, but Mahon has found a way to connect with others dealing with cancer through social media (@lauradowntherabbithole_).

She began documenting her cancer story in August, and has already received millions of views on her videos, as she hopes to "continue raising awareness for this awful disease."

Laura Mahon outside hospital
Laura Mahon, pictured outside the treatment center in August 2023. Mahon's scan in August 2023 revealed that the tumor has slightly decreased in size, and is stable. Laura Mahon / @lauradowntherabbithole_

Speaking about the response she's received, Mahon said: "People have been so kind, and I've had messages from all over the world. I've spoken to a lot of people who have the same cancer as me, and they've outlived their prognosis by years, so I'm hoping to be one of those people too."

Following the latest round of chemotherapy, a scan in August 2023 revealed that the "tumor is stable and has even shrunk a little bit."

Is there a health issue that's worrying you? Let us know via We can ask experts for advice, and your story could be featured on Newsweek.

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