My wife died three weeks after giving birth to our daughter

Thursday, September 1, 2011
My wife died three weeks after giving birth to our daughter
Peter, Natasha, Mia and Hugo.

Peter Wojcik's wife was 23 weeks pregnant when tragedy struck — she was diagnosed with cancer. Here, Peter shares his bittersweet story of finding love again and building a new family.

Not a day goes past that I don't think about Ellice. I'd never met anyone quite like her before. She would light up a room. She'd make you laugh. She was a very special woman.

We'd only been married 11 months when our dreams of starting a family came true.

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Yet, a few months in, Ellice started having night sweats and fevers. We thought it was the pregnancy, but she knew something wasn't right and, after lots of tests, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma when she was 23 weeks pregnant.

I was completely overwhelmed. Numb. I would sit next to her bed and hold her hand, bring her food, give her Panadol and just be by her side and help her as best I could.

She was started on a very mild dose of chemotherapy, as anything that was going to harm the baby just wasn't an option.

By the time she was diagnosed, the cancer had already spread to Ellice's bone marrow.

The chemo didn't work, so they tried another slightly more potent dose, but that failed as well. Her condition was getting worse. The fevers and rigours just kept coming every few hours.

She would shiver uncontrollably, so we would have to put doonas and blankets on top of her just to keep her warm. We thought she was going to die just from the rigours alone.

She was admitted to Monash Medical Centre's maternity unit and the chemo was stopped.

She was given some drugs to develop the baby's lungs and, at 31 weeks, had a caesarean, as she was too weak to have a natural birth.

Mia Ellice was born on August 20, 2007 and weighed 1.7kg. We were both over the moon when she arrived and surprised at how relatively healthy she was, given the circumstances.

With Mia safe, Ellice was started on a very aggressive form of chemotherapy at the Alfred Hospital.

Things were failing faster than they could treat her and, within a week, she was in intensive care with liver failure.

You're always hopeful that a miracle will happen, but she never recovered. Ellice died three weeks after giving birth to Mia, the day before my birthday.

After Ellice passed away, one of her closest friends, Natasha, offered to look after Mia once in a while, so I could get out and do some work.

She and Ellice had had so much in common. They'd known each other for 20 years and were both GPs. It was such a generous gift and, after a while, we grew very close.

Tash and I share a unique bond. We both knew Ellice in our own special way and being together feels very comfortable.

In those last days, Ellice actually suggested to me that Tash would be a good one to get to know better. It was kind of funny the way she mentioned it.

Tash is right when she says that it doesn't change my love for Ellice. We've both discovered that you can love more than one person in a lifetime.

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We now also have a beautiful little boy, Hugo. I was overjoyed when we found out we were having a boy. Hugo is gorgeous and healthy, and Mia is now four.

I always find it quite difficult talking about Ellice. It reminds me how precious and unpredictable life is. We now find more time for our families and friends. We try to enjoy every day for what it is.

Read more of this story in the September issue of The Australian Women's Weekly.

Subscribe to 12 issues of The Australian Women's Weekly for just $69.95 and receive two FREE profile photo frmaes, valued at $37.90. That's a 15% saving on the retail price.

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