Like any mother-to-be, Elle Halliwell wanted to do what was best for her child.
And instead of relishing the exciting pregnancy news, the Sydney journalist was forced to choose between her life and her unborn baby.
Just two days before she discovered she was expecting a son, the Australian author was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia – a life-threatening cancer of the white blood cells.
Here, the devoted mother spoke candidly about putting her now one-year-old son Tori’s life before hers.
Elle Halliwell spoke candidly about the unthinkable dilemma that saw her put her now one-year-old son Tori’s life before hers after she was diagnosed with cancer
Against all odds, the mother gave birth to her bundle of joy after refusing chemotherapy
Astonishingly, her life now is a far cry from the turbulent journey she endured in 2016 after she was faced with the devastating choice.
‘I hadn’t even come to terms with the fact my own life was in danger, but now there were two lives at stake,’ she said in an extract of her book A Mother’s Choice, published in Stellar magazine.
Chemotherapy was needed to save her life, but the doctor warned the treatment could seriously harm her unborn baby.
Elle and her husband Nick had told their haematologist they were planning to conceive a baby later in the year, during which he advised against the idea.
Just two days before she was diagnosed with cancer, the mother discovered she was pregnant (pictured now with her baby son Tori)
Elle and her husband Nick had told their haematologist they were planning to conceive a baby later in the year, during which he advised against the idea
He suggested waiting until she received the results of her blood test first before discussing any plans about parenthood.
During the consultation, Elle already had an ’embryo the size of a sesame seed’ growing inside her – but she just didn’t know at the time.
‘By the time I fell pregnant, I already felt like a bad mother,’ she said.
Taking a turn for the worse, Elle was told if she delayed her treatment for a few months, the cancer could become acute if left untreated.
She understood declining treatment was risking leaving her baby son without a mother – and there were also talk of terminating the pregnancy.
But Elle said she found the strength to hold onto the glimmer of hope by undergoing an alternative treatment to ensure the safety of her unborn baby.
Elle shared her anguish after she was forced to choose between her life and her unborn baby
Happy family! Despite the turbulent journey, the proud parents welcomed their baby son
‘The moment I thought about the tiny embryo, this seed of hope germinating in my womb, the idea of losing it was inconceivable,’ she said.
‘It had given me a reason to live – a tiny beacon of light flashing in a sea of blackness, urging me to stay afloat and find a safe harbour.’
Speaking to 60 Minutes in an emotional interview in November 2016, Elle shared her anguish after she was forced to choose between her life and her unborn baby.
‘It was pretty devastating,’ she said.
‘I just instantly thought this will kill me. Knowing that it had invaded every kind of area of your body, a blood cancer, felt so fatal.’
And against all odds, she welcomed her baby son in December 2016 before she embarked on her chemotherapy treatment.