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Hours after giving birth, Karyn was told she had 3 weeks to live. She's just celebrated 6 months with her daughter.

Hours after giving birth to her daughter, Karyn Love sat digesting the news that she was about to be wheeled from the maternity ward, to the palliative care ward.

Billi had arrived via an emergency C-section at 29 weeks, because of what doctors originally assumed were pregnancy complications. 

But post-birth scans showed something much more sinister.

"It looked like scattered confetti," Karyn told Mamamia. "There was cancer all through my liver."

Hours after meeting her daughter, doctors told Karyn she was very, very sick. Image: Karyn Love. 

Doctors went on to diagnose the new mum with Stage 4 metastatic hormone sensitive breast cancer that had spread to her bones and liver. 

As Metro North Hospital explained to Mamamia, "hormonal changes during pregnancy can affect the course of hormone sensitive breast cancer and can result in the cancer growing and spreading, as is the case of Ms Love."

As her daughter was whisked away to NICU, Karyn was told she had three weeks to live. 

"I wasn't given a lot of hope, said Karyn. "A few days after [I gave birth] I was being prepared for end of life."

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Faced with the impossible reality that she might never take baby Billi home, let alone see her grow up, the 38-year-old opted for the less invasive option offered to her by her treating team; hormone blockers and oral chemotherapy. 

"They wanted me to stay in hospital...and I didn't want to do that," she told Mamamia. "I remember saying, I would rather feel pain in my body, and be present."

Once Karyn and Billi were finally allowed home together two months later, there were new challenges. Billi's father had walked out when he'd learnt of the pregnancy, and with most of Karyn's family interstate, she was left to tackle new motherhood and terminal cancer largely alone. 

Watch: The day Billi and Karyn went home together. Post continues after video.


Video via Karyn Love/Facebook.

"Being a tiny, premmie baby Billi [had to be] fed round the clock and as the days rolled on, I saw Karyn fall into utter exhaustion as she cared for her daughter alone 24 hours a day while undertaking daily chemotherapy tablets and monthly in-hospital chemo injections," Karyn's friend and Natural Medicine Practitioner Camilla Chaplin wrote in a GoFundMe raising money for the young family. 

"I set out to find support for her. Surely there was government funding to assist sick mums look after their babies? Surely large cancer fundraising organisations have enough funding to support individual circumstances like this? What about NDIS? Sadly no. Sick Mums fall through the cracks. While there is some support it's absolutely not enough to make a real impact," she wrote.

Local mums of Queensland heard the cry for help and rallied, forming a makeshift village around Karyn. They cooked her meals, helped in the evenings with feeds and housework, and drove around Brisbane on her behalf picking up donated breast milk. Due to her medication, Karyn couldn't breastfeed Billi herself. 

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In August 2021, three months after giving birth and getting her diagnosis, Karyn received a phone call from her doctor on her birthday. 

"I had a call from my oncologist and she is astounded at how far I've come with my healing journey. She said, 'do you want to have a good birthday present?' I said 'I'm ready'," a smiling Karyn told a Facebook video. 

Karyn was told her cancer was healing. 

"[She said] the tumour in my breast is gone, the liver [cancer] has gone down, and she said we can barely see it, and the cancer all through my bones, she said we can just see the scarring of where the cancer was but not where the cancer is. So basically my body is responding," she told the camera. 

In August, Karyn was told by her doctors treatment was working. Image: Karyn Love. 

"I am celebrating this amazing, amazing, amazing day. It's the most perfect birthday present of all."

In a statement the hospital explained, "hormone sensitive cancer is fuelled by high levels of hormones, therefore treatment is likely to be effective when these hormones are blocked. The effectiveness of the treatment is dependent on the patient's ability to tolerate treatment."

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It's now been six months, and although Karyn says her doctors don't give her "a date, a time, a number," they've been amazed by her recovery so far. 

"Ms Love has responded to treatment and will continue her current treatment indefinitely, or until it ceases to work. She has recovered to a level where she is able to self-care and care for her baby, though with the added physical, psychological and emotional strains of a cancer diagnosis," the hospital told Mamamia.

Karyn is still in a lot of pain. She has good and bad days, but she says none of that matters because she's "grounded in love."

Karyn and Billi celebrated six months together in early November. Image: Karyn Love.  

She has Billi, and together they're taking it day by day. 

If you'd like to support Karyn and Billi, you can find their GoFundMe here. 

Feature image: Karyn Love/Supplied. 

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