In a very rare case, when Li Li, 43, fell pregnant, the cells of her placenta turned into a cancerous tumour.
By the time miracle baby Luca was born, the cancer had spread all over Li Li’s body and her life was in peril.
But thanks to pioneering immunotherapy, doctors managed to save her and she is about to celebrate her first Christmas cancer-free with her family.
Li Li, who lives with business analyst husband Kevin Guthrie, 58, in Sunderland, said: “We are so looking forward to spending this Christmas together with Luca.
“Now I’m all clear thanks to the amazing treatment I was given, and we can celebrate properly.”
The couple were thrilled when Li Li became pregnant in early 2022, as they had been trying for a family since they got married in 2018.
But at five months pregnant Li Li started suffering heavy bleeding.
She said: “The doctors told me it was nothing to worry about but a few weeks later I started coughing up blood. Then I got shooting pains in my chest. I was told it was pneumonia and given antibiotics.”
Then in October last year her lung collapsed.
Doctors didn’t know why, and so delivered Luca five weeks early by caesarean. She weighed under 5lbs.
It was then they discovered cancer had developed in the placenta, which affects one in 50,000 pregnancies.
Li Li said: “It was such a shock. Because the disease was so aggressive it had already spread into my womb, bones and brain too. There was no time to lose, I had to start treatment straight away.”
“I couldn’t stop crying. I’d just given birth to Luca and now doctors were trying to save my life.”
She began immunotherapy treatment at specialist Weston Park Hospital in Sheffield and was given the all-clear in September.
She said: “I wouldn’t be here if it hadn’t been for the team at Weston Park. I can’t thank them enough. They have saved this family.”
Dr Matt Winter, based at Weston Park Cancer Centre, said: “We were delighted to be able to care for Li Li and it is great to see her back at home with her family and making such a good recovery.”