Harrowing twist for Aussie mum-of-two after surviving cancer

Clare Slater was first diagnosed with cancer when she was pregnant and had to give birth early to get treatment.

Baby Daisy in hospital (left) and Clare Slater holding Daisy (right).
Clare Slater was 31 weeks pregnant when doctors delivered her baby girl Daisy in order to start treating the 39-year-old's cancer. Source: Supplied

After first being diagnosed with cancer in the final few months of her second pregnancy, an Aussie mother is once again fighting for her life against odds that aren’t in her favour.

Doctors still don't know what type of rare and malignant cancer Queenslander Clare Slater is once again battling, but her strength and determination to defeat it one more time are carrying her through the most gruelling chemotherapy.

“I feel hopeful despite the 50 per cent success rate,” the 40-year-old told Yahoo News Australia.

“I have a lot to live for, to stay strong for — my family — so I feel like there’s no room to be sad or depressed.

“I just have to get through my treatment and onto life beyond cancer.”

When Slater began bleeding heavily during her second pregnancy in early 2023, it was thought that she had placenta previa, a condition where the placenta lies low and may block the cervix.

But her daughter was “growing beautiful” and doctors weren’t too worried.

Yet when Slater, who was living in Melbourne at the time, didn’t feel her baby moving much during a holiday to visit family in Brisbane, she panicked and went to hospital.

It was during a speculum examination that a little bit of tissue came away which was sent off for testing. Then doctors found a five centimetre mass in her cervix area.

“But I'd had pap smears, internal scans and blood tests just before getting pregnant, because we’d struggled to get pregnant, and there was no evidence of any cancer, lumps, bumps or anything,” Slater said.

So doctors told her not to worry, indicating that it was probably a polyp (most often a benign growth).

In Melbourne, at 30 weeks pregnant, an MRI revealed Slater’s mass was now 7.7 centimetres.

“But the oncology gynaecology team said, ‘don't worry, you know it's not going to be cancer because you had that pap smear’,” explained Slater, who booked in for a biopsy the following week.

“Then Redland Hospital in Brisbane called me. They said: ‘We've got the tissue sample back and it’s malignant. You’ve got cancer’.”

With a cancer diagnosis, Slater’s medical team wanted to deliver her baby as soon as possible and on May 4 little Daisy was born early at 31 weeks.

A week later, Slater underwent surgery with surgeons going “straight in through my caesarean wound” to remove the tumour — which by this point was over eight centimetres — to perform a hysterectomy.

But just four weeks later, a follow-up scan revealed that the tumour had grown back in the space where her cervix used to be.

Clare Slater with no hair (left) and with her son Jack (right).
The mother-of-two was told by doctors not to worry about the 8cm mass growing inside her. Source: Supplied

Days after that, Slater started her first round of chemotherapy.

“I felt like I missed a lot of Daisy’s first four months,” the mother of two said.

“I was supposed to be on maternity leave looking after my newborn, but instead I was visiting a chemo unit daily. It felt unfair. To both me and her.”

But the treatment worked and in October Slater was given the all clear — “no more cancer” — so she moved her family to Brisbane to be closer to family and for a new job.

Months flew by while the family set up life in Queensland.

“Everything was going well until the Easter long weekend and I started having the kind of back pain that I had last time,” the 40-year-old said.

“I thought it was related to carrying my children around and that I’d just been overdoing it. But you know when you sort of just have a bit of a feeling that it's not that.”

What followed was the worst news imaginable. Her cancer was back.

“I was really upset,” she said. “Not so much health wise because I was never thinking: ‘I'm going to die’, I was thinking: ‘I've just started to get my life back on track and somebody has now completely taken the scissors to it’.”

Clare Slater with her husband Joe, son Jack and daughter Daisy (left) and holding Daisy (right).
Slater was diagnosed with cancer again in April and had already commenced chemotherapy when the family celebrated Daisy's first birthday in early May. Source: Supplied

While doctors again don’t know exactly what type of cancer Slater has, she’s currently undergoing five cycles of “brutal” chemotherapy with a 50 per cent success rate.

Her stem cells will also soon be harvested in order to transplant them back to help her recover from the treatment.

“I am hopeful,” she said. “I have seen a psychologist, and obviously cancer is hard, but she thinks I am doing very well. I’m functioning.”

But Slater and her family can’t do it alone.

As the main breadwinner, the mother of a one and almost three-year-old, is now out of work.

Fortunately, they’re surrounded by loving friends who’ve set up a GoFundMe page to help support the family.

More than $28,600 has already been raised.

“We know that everyone is doing it tough right now with the cost of living crisis, and a lot of people out there are struggling," Slater said.

"We really, really appreciate anything.”

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