Parents who BOTH had cancer as teens and feared infertility have ‘miracle’ baby – The Mirror


Chris Berns and Laura Hunter met in 2010 at a sailing event for survivors of teenage cancer. Three years later, they began dating and moved in together in 2018. They're now parents to one-year-old Willow

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Fate dealt Chris Berns and Laura Hunter the cruellest of blows... but then delivered the sweetest of gifts.

Teenage cancer had pushed the pair to the brink of despair.

But it would also bring them together and, against all the odds, they are now parents to Willow a one-year-old who fills them with joy.

Chris, 31, and Laura, 29, met in 2010 at a sailing event for survivors of teenage cancer.

They began dating three years later and moved in together in 2018.

Both feared they had been left infertile after chemotherapy.

And thats when fate played a far kinder hand.



Laura says: Willow is just starting to walk and sometimes I have to pinch myself at how lucky we are. Every day we are grateful for what we have with her.

Normally, before cancer treatment you are asked if you want to freeze your eggs and sperm, but that hadnt been possible for either of us because we needed to start treatment so quickly. So we both believed we couldnt have children.

They told me it was unlikely I would be fertile after treatment because of how intense it was.

Chris adds: Cancer took us to the darkest of places, but it also led us to find love, an extraordinary friendship with other survivors and also to have our miracle baby Willow.

She is a little bundle of joy. Her smile melts our hearts.

A lot of people ask if you could go back and change anything would you? I dont think I would as it has made us the people we are now. Ive met Laura, we have Willow and have amazing friends.

So even though it is this horrible thing that youd never wish for anyone to go through, it is almost worth it in a way now, because of everything we have got.

Chris and Laura from Walsall, West Mids, are medical secretaries.


His cancer journey began when he was 17 as Midlands high jump champion and hoping to compete in the London 2012 Olympics.

Rare Ewing Sarcoma cancer, which affects tissue around bones, saw his weight plummet from 10st to 7st. He was temporarily paralysed.

After 14 rounds of chemo, he was able to walk again and was a late addition to the sailing weekend that would change his life.

Meanwhile, Laura, 29, had 30 months of chemo for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia a type of blood cancer. She was diagnosed in 2008, aged 16, and was also a latecomer for the sailing event.

Chris says: If it hadnt been for cancer, and the stage we were both at in our recovery, we would never have crossed paths.

Of becoming parents, he adds: Wed both assumed we wouldnt be fertile due to the chemo. We hadnt used contraception for two years when I decided to go and get myself checked. To my amazement, the doctors said everything was okay.

Then we were in lockdown and had to shield. We didnt have the stresses of work and we think that helped in a way to get us pregnant.

Laura says: We were at the point where we were about to seek help. And then it just happened. I had a feeling of total shock that we had done it without help and this little life was growing inside me. It was another silver lining.


Chris tells of the day he learned a long-standing back problem was actually cancer.

He says: One night I fell asleep on the floor and I woke up and my legs werent working. I had a burning sensation in them the tumour was pressing on my spinal cord.

Chris had surgery that night, with a second operation to remove a blood clot pressing on his spine days later.

He continues: I was paralysed from the waist down. I just remember thinking This is the end of my sporting career.

My surgeon came in and said Im sorry, it is cancer. I asked Am I going to die? As they transferred me to another hospital for chemo, one of the first things they said was If you want, we can freeze some sperm.

But I was 17, I couldnt move or get out of bed and I didnt know if I was going to survive the chemo. So I said No, Ill worry about that later on.

Over the months that followed I went from a wheelchair to walking on crutches. Then my parents took me on holiday and my dad found a hiking stick in a shop and said Give this a go. I never looked back.

Before her cancer, Laura did gymnastics and represented her county at dancing.

Recalling her diagnosis, she says: Doctors took a routine blood test, thinking I had anaemia. They rang the next day and told my mum We think Laura has leukaemia, can you get to the RVI hospital in Newcastle as soon as you can. The following morning I started 2 years of chemotherapy. I would have admissions with constant infections. There was constant pain, tiredness, so draining.

The RVI were amazing. I went from 9st to 5st and in a wheelchair as it left me with osteonecrosis. I have holes inside my bones and will need hip replacements eventually.

While Chris still has annual scans, Laura has been given the all-clear.

Their rollercoaster journey has brought them a group of treasured friends, met at other cancer survivor events. They include Lucy and Adam Anderson-Woods among a group of pals dubbed the cancer crew. Lucy, 30, of Telford, Shrops, was diagnosed with leukaemia at 14, while NHS admin worker and counsellor Adam, also 30, had testicular cancer at the age of 21.

They married in 2019 and, like Chris and Laura, they also credit the Youth Cancer Trust with helping them.

Laura adds: Our cancer crew is our extended family and so we have made them honorary godparents. We call them Willows aunties and uncles and they all absolutely adore her.

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Parents who BOTH had cancer as teens and feared infertility have 'miracle' baby - The Mirror

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