When Rachael Twigg was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at only 25 years old, the news floored her.
"Everything happened really fast – literally weeks from the initial worry that I might have a cyst to being told I had Stage 2 ovarian cancer," says Rachael, 33, a retail worker from Manchester.
"I had surgery to remove my right ovary and my left ovary was damaged when they removed a cyst. Then I had seven months of chemotherapy.
"The doctors at The Christie, a specialist cancer hospital in Manchester, did their best to harvest some of my eggs, in the hope it might help me to have children in the future, but unfortunately only two were retrieved when usually you need a minimum of eight.
"I was told my chances of having children were almost nil.
"If I’m completely honest, I wasn’t too bothered at that point, as my main focus was to survive the cancer. I was very close to my two nephews so if I couldn’t have my own children, I’d simply be the best auntie I could be."
Six months after her treatment finished, she started working with a new colleague, Alex Donnelly and love very quickly blossomed – although according to Rachael, it was one-sided at first.
"I didn’t like him!", she laughs. "I thought he was quite cold, distant and uptight. It was only when we realised we laughed at the same programme – Family Guy – that I eventually broke the ice."
Alex, 32, a supermarket manager, disagrees. "Obviously, there was a physical attraction but it was when I started talking to her and realised just what she’d been through that I was really drawn towards her.
"She was so full of life and very funny and forthright."
The couple moved in together, with Alex aware that a future with Rachael would mean never having a family.
"Alex knew everything and if he wanted to be with me, it would mean never having a family so we never really had ‘the discussion’," says Rachael.
"But we were happy. We thought we’d live in a swanky apartment, drive a sports car, have lots of holidays – just the two of us."
Life was looking rosy for the couple. But eighteen months later, Rachael started experiencing twinges in her stomach. As she was still having post-cancer check-ups, she feared that the disease may have made a return.
"I’d gone to my GP because I’d felt really tired and the GP checked my stomach and said we needed to do a pregnancy test," says Rachael.
"I shook my head and said: 'I don’t think so', knowing full well that my chances of conceiving were almost nil."
But Rachael and Alex were in for a huge surprise. Not only was she pregnant – she was nearly seven months pregnant with a baby girl.
"We were completely shell-shocked and had to take a few days to get our heads around it before we could tell anyone else," says Rachael.
"I’d had no bump, my periods had been regular. It was a complete miracle."
Says Alex: "We had no buggies, cots or baskets and we only had ten weeks to get everything ready. When we told our families, it was a mixture of shock and elation.
"My dad burst into tears when we told him it was a girl. He and mum and had three boys so this made it extra special. After everything Rachael had been through, our thoughts then turned to whether the baby would be ok? Would she be healthy?
"Rachael worried that because she hadn’t known she was pregnant, she might have harmed the baby in some way."
The couple’s fears were totally unfounded. Little Lucy was born in March 2016 at a healthy 7lbs. She was perfect.
"As well as the joy, we were relieved she was here safely," says Rachael. "She’s five now and a complete force of nature, feisty, funny and such a character."
After Lucy’s birth, Rachael decided to follow her doctor’s advice and have a full hysterectomy. They feared that the hormones from her pregnancy might cause the disease to return.
"We didn’t want to push our luck," admits Alex.
Now, on Sunday, this proud father is cycling from Manchester to Blackpool to help raise money for The Christie Hospital, which saved Rachael and brought his little girl into the world
"I wanted to give back something to the hospital because they’ve literally given me my family – a family I never thought I would have."
Find out more about Alex's cycle ride
Watch: Colorado mom-to-be raising awareness about ovarian cancer