Running my fingers through my hair, I giggled as I saw it come away in clumps. But tears filled my mum’s eyes, and she ran out of the ward.
At four years old, I didn’t realise my hair was falling out because of the chemo I’d had after I’d been diagnosed with neuroblastoma when doctors discovered a tumour in my pelvis, wrapped around my spine.
I was too young to understand anything. I spent nine months in Alder Hey Hospital, Liverpool, enduring 276 hours of chemotherapy.
I didn’t know it at the time, but when Mum was told the diagnosis, her first question was: ‘Does it mean Jaide will never be able to have children?’
My doctor, Dr Pizer, told Mum that the tumour’s location in my pelvis, coupled with the toxicity of the chemo, could leave me infertile. But if I didn’t have chemo, I’d die.
After the second round of chemo – still just four years old – an MRI revealed the tumour was not shrinking. The only option now was a type of chemotherapy still on trial. Mum agreed it was my only hope.
The chemo was so toxic that when it made me sick, Mum had to wear gloves when she cleaned up after me, so my vomit didn’t burn her hands.
I was so poorly, Mum even started planning my funeral, thinking they’d play Robbie William’s Angels at the service.
I had a nine-hour operation to try to remove the tumour, leaving me with a scar across my tummy. The tumour was the size of a large orange. Unfortunately, the surgeons were unable to remove it because it was so deeply connected to the tissue surrounding it.
Chemotherapy continued. Whenever I felt well enough, Mum and I would paint pictures from my hospital bed. What made me happiest was playing with dolls. When I could leave hospital, I insisted on pushing around a pram full of dolls. I was too young to notice the tears in Mum’s eyes, thinking how sad it was that I’d never have kids. After a year, when I was five, the tumour was declared benign and chemo was officially over. I still had to visit the Clatterbridge Cancer unit, about an hour from our home, every six months, because I was at risk of secondary cancers developing. I was so susceptible to bugs that I couldn’t risk going to school in case I picked up even a common cold. I was home-schooled until I was seven, when it was deemed safe for me to return.
Me with my younger brother Callum. Cancer might have taken away all of my hair at the age of four, but not my smile.
My little brother Callum, two years younger, kept me company.
The scans, nurses, appointments and other patients were a part of my everyday life. I’d never known anything different. I was the girl who had beaten cancer and would need regular checks for life.
Mum had been honest with me about my infertility from day one. She loved having kids. She said we were the making of her. So to think I wouldn’t be able to have that experience myself broke her heart.
‘There are other options,’ Mum used to say. ‘You could adopt. Or I’ll donate my own eggs. If you want children, we’ll find a way.’
But we always said that though I may have been infertile, I was alive – infertility was a small price to pay for my life. I grew up kidding myself that it was fine, I didn’t want children anyway.
That was until I fell in love with Scott Ward, 24, when I was 19. We’d met through friends and as an electrician, Scott had come to my house to fix my shower. Corny as it may sound, I knew there and then I wanted to spend my life with him. He was tall and slim, with dark hair and stubble. He was quiet, but as we got to know each other, he was so affectionate. He made me feel very loved.
When Scott told me he loved me, I had to let him know the future for us meant no kids. I had no idea that the future in fact meant triplets!
Just a week later Scott told me he loved me. He had a big family and as I watched how natural he was around his nieces and nephews, I knew he’d make a great dad.
I had to tell Scott that I might be infertile – it wasn’t fair for him to fall in love with me without knowing what the future would hold for us.
A few weeks in, Scott questioned me about my scar. It seemed like the right time to tell him everything.
‘I don’t think I’ll ever be able to have kids,’ I said.
‘We don’t need to have kids,’ he replied, hugging me close. But I knew how much he wanted them.
I wanted them too, so I booked an appointment with my GP and requested a check-up. She asked me to do a blood test that checked my ovulation.
Once the results were ready, she called me into the room. ‘You don’t ovulate properly, I’m afraid it’s incredibly unlikely you’ll ever have kids,’ she said. ‘Due to the chemotherapy you’ve endured, there’s a strong chance you’ll go through menopause by the time you’re 24.’
Although it was not a shock to know about my infertility, only when the doctor sat me down and said that I might never have children did I understand the magnitude of what had been taken away from me.
Desperate, I bought 90 ovulation kits and every day for three months, I checked at home, testing my ovulation myself. But every day, the same result. I wasn’t ovulating. I had periods, but they were known as ‘blank’ periods.
Scott tried to convince me it was OK. ‘Think of the holidays we can go on! Think how tidy our house will be,’ he said, cheering me up.
But I didn’t want a tidy house. I wanted a house full of children. I wanted to trip up on Lego, I wanted to get the muddy stains out from the knees of my kids’ dungarees.
To cheer me up, Scott took me to a hotel for one night and we went out to dinner. When we returned to our room, his sister had decorated it with candles and flowers. Scott bent down on one knee and proposed. Tears filled my eyes – he really did want to be with me forever, even though he knew we couldn’t be parents. We decided to have a big wedding in Santorini, Greece, in the summer of 2015.
Then one night, we were watching the rom-com What To Expect When You’re Expecting, when I suddenly felt incredibly nauseous.
Even though I never thought I could be pregnant, I did a test. Immediately, two lines appeared. Positive!
I couldn’t believe it. I continued testing for 15 days, and all were positive. Scott and I sat together in bewildered silence. We couldn’t believe it. We were having a baby!
It was so wonderful to tell Mum. She was over the moon. ‘I’m so happy, I just can’t believe it,’ she said, through tears.
Then at five weeks, I began to bleed. Scott was away at work but I summoned an ambulance, which rushed me to the hospital, where the doctor ran some tests, did a check-up and told me it was nothing to worry. He also had a surprise for me.
‘It’s twins,’ he said. ‘But don’t get excited, it’s very early days. Anything can happen.’
Still, I rang Scott with the good news. ‘We’re not having one baby. We’re having two!’ I said, as Scott cheered. We set a new date for our wedding, August 2014, at the Holiday Inn in Haydock. We had just five weeks to plan everything. I didn’t have time to buy a tiara, borrowing one off Mum. Nearly everything was borrowed. But all that mattered to us was that we were officially a family when the twins arrived.
I found my dress in a factory outlet. With an A-line shape and a bow above my baby bump, I matched it with a blue-and-white floral bouquet.
My tummy was huge as I tried on my dress two weeks before the wedding.
‘I cannot fit into this!’ I laughed, wondering why I was so big at just under 12 weeks pregnant. Then I remembered – I was having twins.
I had to go for an extra scan because I’d bled and again, because Scott was at work Mum came along with me.
‘How many babies do you think you’re having?’ the sonographer asked.
‘Two?’ I said tentatively, wondering why he was asking.
‘Well, we’ve found an extra one,’ he said. ‘It’s triplets!’
I was speechless. Mum’s eyes lit up in delight. She knew more than anyone what I’d been through. I was carrying three little miracles.
I called Scott. ‘You’re not going to believe this,’ I said. ‘It’s triplets!’
Scott cried with joy. ‘No more scans!’ he joked. ‘It’ll be quads next time you go in!’
Our wedding day took on a whole new sparkle as friends and family congratulated us on our news. Then a special guest arrived – Dr Pizer. Mum had invited him as a surprise to me. He had cared for me through my cancer battle and was our guest of honour. He was so happy to hear that I, his first-ever patient, was carrying triplets.
I grew big, fast. Nurses at the cancer centre said they’d never heard of anything like it before. They monitored me closely throughout the pregnancy to make sure I was OK.
At 22 weeks, a scan revealed that of the two babies sharing a placenta, one was suffering from growth restriction. I was warned the smaller baby might not make it.
It was torture. We didn’t dare buy three of anything or decorate their nursery, because we just didn’t know what would happen.
I never thought I’d see the day where I’d become Mum, so my gorgeous girls Scarlett, Caitlin and Francesca are so precious.
At 31 weeks and six days, I had an elective C-section on January 2 last year, and had my three miracles – girls – Scarlett, Caitlin and Francesca.
Scarlett and Caitlin are identical, except they’re not, because Scarlett is so tiny. Francesca is non-identical. Francesca looked like me, with a little nose and round face, whereas Scarlett, with her stick-out ears, was the spitting image of Scott.
The girls spent several weeks in intensive care, feeding and gaining strength.
With nurses helping us feed them, it didn’t sink in that they were ours. We didn’t get to hold them for a month and at night, we’d go home, eat a quiet dinner together and watch TV until we were allowed back in the ward in the morning. It felt like we were going to visit someone else’s babies. That was, until Caitlin and Francesca came back to our Wigan home on February 9 and Scarlett came home eight days later.
In their Winnie-the-Pooh bedroom, in three little cots, lay our three little babies. No sooner had I fed one, than another would need feeding, and it hit me. We did it! We had babies – we were Mum and Dad. We soon bought three of everything we needed. We could tell them apart but our family struggled, so we’d paint Francesca’s toenails blue, Caitlin’s pink, and nothing for Scarlett, as she was so much smaller than the other two that it was easy to identify her.
Scarlett is cheeky. She pulls funny faces and we know she’ll be the mischievous one when she’s older. Caitlin is a diva, she throws huge tantrums when she doesn’t get her own way. Francesca is grumpy. We have to work hard to get a smile out of her.
Cancer left me with a low immune system. Over the years I’ve been back in hospital numerous times, battling meningitis and various other illnesses. But since the triplets were born, I’ve never been in better health. It’s like they saved me from my past.
The tumour remains on my spine but is, for now, not cancerous. I have no guarantee that it’ll stay like that, so I savour every moment of my very lucky life.
Jaide Ward, 22, lives with her family in Abram, Wigan.