Mum diagnosed with a brain tumour while pregnant wrote letters to her baby in case she died

A mum wrote letters to her unborn baby in case she died after being diagnosed with a brain tumour while pregnant.

Amy Mitchell has shared moving diary extracts thanking the little one for bringing “sunshine” into her darkest days.

Terrified she might not survive a 14 hour operation to remove the walnut-sized tumour, Amy Mitchell recorded her thoughts in an intimate diary – hoping her supermarket manager husband Craig, 42, and daughter Darcy would read them if she died.

Business manager Amy, of Doncaster, South Yorkshire, said: “I prepared for the worst.”



Mum diagnosed with a brain tumour while pregnant wrote letters to her baby in case she died
Amy and Craig after she graduated from university

“I wrote letters to Darcy and Craig in the build up, which I still find too upsetting to read,” the 34,-year-old said.

“And I kept a diary for Darcy throughout my pregnancy and beyond, so she could read how I was feeling and know she was loved.

“I left them in our bedroom somewhere I knew Craig would find them if I didn’t make it home.”

Amy, whose surgery on May 21 was initially thought to have removed 95 per cent of the non-malignant tumour is now awaiting radiotherapy to blast what is left.

She first felt poorly on honeymoon in Devon, after marrying Craig in March 2018, seven years after meeting at work, and recalls feeling “foggy-headed.”

She said: “I thought it was a head cold, but then I started getting this rushing noise in my ears which made it really hard to hear.”

After returning home, her GP thought Amy had an ear infection and prescribed a spray, but the rushing noise continued.

In June 2018, after seeing the GP twice more, she was referred to an ear specialist at Doncaster Royal Infirmary, where they discussed her possibly requiring hearing aids.

But when hearing tests proved inconclusive, by then finding it difficult even to use the telephone, Amy was given an MRI scan the week before Christmas.



Mum diagnosed with a brain tumour while pregnant wrote letters to her baby in case she died
Amy’s scar

Referred after an administrative delay to Sheffield’s Royal Hallamshire Hospital, during a momentous week in March 2019, she first discovered she was having a baby and was then told she had a 3cm tumour on her brain.

She recalled: “Craig and I were on cloud nine, finding out we were pregnant. We’d been planning to have a family, so it was very exciting.

“Then I was told doctors had found a 3cm tumour on my brain and we were in complete shock.”

She continued: “I went into practical mode – thinking, ‘Right, what’s the next step? How do we deal with this?’”

Told it was an acoustic neuroma – a benign tumour that grows slowly over many years on the nerve used for hearing and balance – two weeks later she discussed her options with a neurosurgeon.

Refusing to terminate her pregnancy, she was told the tumour – more common in people aged 40 to 60, according to the NHS – was too large for radiotherapy and that it was too dangerous to perform surgery until the baby was born.

Instead, medics decided to monitor its growth with three monthly MRI scans and operate as soon as the day after the birth.

She said: “This was awful, as I didn’t want to miss the moment of coming home as a new family together.”

Fortunately, as the tumour was not growing, Amy’s surgery was delayed so she could bond with her baby.

But its spectre cast a shadow over her pregnancy.



Mum diagnosed with a brain tumour while pregnant wrote letters to her baby in case she died
Amy and Craig before she got sick

She said: ” We didn’t tell many people and when friends asked if I was excited about Darcy arriving, there was this cloud hanging over me.”

It also made a natural birth and epidural impossible, because of the pressure on her brain, so she had a caesarean under general anaesthetic at Doncaster Royal Infirmary on October 28, 2019.

Amy said: “Having a general anaesthetic was tough,  as I wouldn’t be awake to see her being born or hear her first cry and it meant Craig was not allowed in the room.”

But all their worries melted away when Darcy was born weighing a healthy 7lb.

“I was out for about 45 minutes, so as soon as I came round I was able to hold her. Craig met her at the same time. She was beautiful.”

Sadly, as the family enjoyed bonding at home, Amy’s symptoms returned.

“There was still the rushing sound in my ear and it was making me unsteady,” she explained.

“Then, in January we were told the tumour had grown by 30 per cent, meaning it was now the size of a walnut, not a grape.”

Originally booked in for surgery in March, the Covid-19 pandemic meant her operation was postponed until May 21 at the Royal Hallamshire.

It was the only operation Amy had ever had, besides her caesarean, and coronavirus restrictions meant she had to go through it alone.

“Saying goodbye to Craig and Darcy was really emotional,” she said. “I left my diary and some goodbye letters somewhere he would find them, in case I didn’t come back.”

In one diary extract, addressed to her then unborn baby after deciding to proceed with the pregnancy, she wrote: “In that moment, I realised how much I loved you already even though I hadn’t met you yet, and also that I would always put you first even if it put me at risk.”

Heartbreakingly, she also said Darcy “deserved a mum that wasn’t broken.”

Meanwhile, to Craig, she wrote: “Please promise me that our beautiful baby girl will know just how much I love her. You have both been my sunshine on the darkest of days.”

Fortunately, surgery was a success and, during her week-long hospital stay, Amy stayed in touch with her family through video calls.



Mum diagnosed with a brain tumour while pregnant wrote letters to her baby in case she died
Amy and Craig with Darcy last Christmas

“I spoke to Craig and Darcy more or less straight after the operation, although I don’t think I made much sense!” she said.

“The worst thing was having double vision, which I was not prepared for.”

“It was an effect of the surgery. It was quite scary,” she continued.

“Thankfully, it went after about a week, but I still felt like I’d been hit by a bus for a good while after the operation.

“When I came home on May 29, I burst into tears seeing Craig and Darcy – who were really happy to have me back.”



Mum diagnosed with a brain tumour while pregnant wrote letters to her baby in case she died
Baby Darcy

Left with permanent hearing loss in her left ear, although her head still feels sore and tight, Amy is enjoying being at home with her family.

“Darcy is a lovely, cheeky baby. She’s got the biggest smile,” she laughed.

“I’m just so grateful that I’m here to see my daughter grow up.”

In August,  after an MRI scan revealed surgeons had not removed quite as much of the tumour as initially thought, it was decided Amy should have radiotherapy and she is now waiting to be told when it will start.

“It’s another hurdle we need to get over, ” she said. “At least I can see light at the end of the tunnel.



Mum diagnosed with a brain tumour while pregnant wrote letters to her baby in case she died
Amy, Craig and Darcy

“We probably won’t have any more children after all I’ve been through, but Darcy and I have the most wonderful bond and she is definitely enough.”

Keen to raise awareness and money for Brain Tumour Research, who have launched a petition calling for increased national investment into research, Amy and her family took part in the charity’s virtual Walk of Hope around Doncaster last week.

She said: “A brain tumour diagnosis does not have to be all doom and gloom.

“Craig, Darcy and I are making lots of memories and I’m grateful to have been given that chance.”

Amy added: “It’s also important for people to persist if they think something is wrong. You know your own body and if something is not right, tell someone.”

Menu