By David Hennessy
A charity started by an Irish father brought attention to his cause with a recent and poignant story from Coronation Street.
Mummy’s Star, created in 2014 by Pete Wallroth, born in Limerick, helps families affected by cancer during pregnancy. Pete started the association after losing his own wife to illness in 2012.
Viewers were struck by the Coronation Street script showing Sinead was diagnosed with cervical cancer while pregnant with her baby, Bertie. She passed away when Bertie was still far too young to remember her.
The story, played by actress Kate McGlynn and Rob Mallard who plays her husband Daniel, came to a climax last Friday night with Sinead’s passing during Bertie’s bedtime story.
Pete helped ITV with the script, making sure it remained realistic and that the cast got involved in the association as patrons.
Pete Wallroth told The Irish World that the script has raised awareness of what Mummy’s Star is doing: âIt sets a good direction for what we’re doing and about. We’re thrilled with the response to the script and how it was done by Corrie’s team.
“There were quite a few people who reached out to the actors themselves saying the script encouraged them to go back and get their smears and reschedule smears that they had been pushing away for ages.”
While many are referred by medical professionals and maybe not because of the soap opera story, Pete says: More families are reaching out and knowing there is a support network for them.
The charity has operated across the UK and Ireland since 2016. Pete saw the need for an organization like this even before his wife Mair passed away in December 2012. Like Sinead, Mair was diagnosed with cancer while pregnant with their son Merlin. At 22 weeks, she discovered a lump in her breast which was later confirmed to be cancerous. The family were given assurances that they had contracted cancer in their early stages and that Mair would recover after her treatment. Merlin was born safe and sound, and Mair continued with her treatment as Pete worked to create as normal a home as possible for the couple’s son, and then her three-year-old daughter, Martha.
However, the family were devastated when Mair learned that she had secondary brain cancer: âEven before Mair died, it was evident that there was a gap in terms of arrangements for families like us. who were diagnosed as newborn and the seed was sown. trying to get over that.
âAfter Mair died, it was kind of a silent determination in thinking that if another family was diagnosed and hadn’t had their family close or hadn’t had a lot of friends to support them, to what point would it have been more insulating for them?
“If there is another family there, we want to make sure they are not alone.”
A new child will give any couple enough, but any couple undergoing cancer treatment should take care of diapers and feeding times in addition to the treatment: âChemotherapy has well documented side effects as well. terms of nausea, fatigue. Trying to juggle a newborn baby, nighttime feedings and the constant need to be put down, picked up, trying to balance that when you’ve just had chemotherapy or just had surgery for any type cancer is logistically and practically an absolute nightmare for families.
âIt impacts the partner because I only had a limited amount of paid time off that I could take and you end up having to take more unpaid time off which will impact the family finances. This leads to financial pressures. It can cause stress. The relationship can get a bit hectic and there are tensions in the household along with all the worries that were there anyway. It just brings such a catalog of different emotions and different responses to families.
Pete says there’s a perception that if you’re diagnosed with cancer during pregnancy, you can’t get treatment, but that’s not necessarily true.
Symptoms can also be masked by pregnancy: âThey can be very well hidden when a woman is pregnant. Stomach tightness, breast changes, pain, tenderness: a lot of people get it wrong during pregnancy when they come up with things like this and the reality is that it can sometimes be a harbinger of something more sinister .
At the time of diagnosis, some families may need to consider terminating the pregnancy to ensure the safety of the mother, but until not so long ago in Ireland this would not have been an option: âA lot of our families must decide whether to continue these pregnancies after diagnosis or abortion in order to have the best possible treatment for their cancer. It is a heartbreaking decision for any family. You can’t predict what cancer will do if you leave it for a few more weeks to arrive later in pregnancy to meet families who are facing horrible decisions.
âIf they had been in Ireland, they wouldn’t have had those options either. If a woman was diagnosed in the middle of her pregnancy and you couldn’t prove her cancer would spread, but you also couldn’t prove it wouldn’t: who is going to play devil’s advocate to know whether this woman’s life is in danger or not?
âInadvertently, the old law could have put someone in a fatal position, so I am arguing for the choice, period and if a woman chooses to continue, we fully support her. If she chooses not to, to end her activities for the best chance in her life, to be there as a mother for her existing children, we support her as well.
For more information on Mom’s Star, visit mummysstar.org/