An Aberdeen mum who battled liver cancer as a child today told how she is fighting the disease again – only months after giving birth to her second child.
Cameron Jay, who lives in Torry, was diagnosed with liver cancer hepatocellular carcinoma when she was 10 and was given a month to live.
Now, 18 years later, she has found out that she once again has the disease after six tumours were found in different parts of her liver – and the warning signs that it had returned began during her pregnancy.
As a child she went through chemotherapy, as well as a range of alternative therapy sessions such as reiki, before travelling to Birmingham to have a lifesaving operation which removed three-quarters of her liver.
Doctors undertook a nine-hour operation to remove the tumour. They told her parents she was unlikely to live longer than a month, as they did not believe her body would be able to cope with more than two chemotherapy treatments.
Her friend Sammy Murray, 30, has now set up a fundraiser to raise money to support her, her partner and two young daughters as she goes through treatment.
She is also mum to Aria-Skye, who will be two next month.
Cameron was pregnant with her second daughter Ivy-Rose, who was born in February, when alarm bells were raised during a routine pregnancy scan.
The local singer, whose real name is Jenna but has the stage name Cameron, had high levels of a protein called AFP (alpha-fetoprotein). Originally, it was thought the results were indicative of Ivy-Rose potentially having spina bifida.
She said: “Throughout the pregnancy we were made aware that there might be something wrong with our baby.
“We were told she might have spina bifida. It was scary to hear. I just had my first baby the year before.
“It was a hard time for me and my partner as we had Aria-Skye, who was just seven or eight months old and we had to stay strong to focus on her needs.”
An MRI was carried out but it came back clear, showing there was nothing wrong with the baby.
At that point, doctors realised the high AFP levels were coming from Cameron.
They were around 8,000 ng/ml when tests came back. Normal levels for a person are around 10 ng/ml and elevated levels can be an indication of liver cancer.
She said: “We found out pretty early on in the pregnancy it was a sign my cancer had returned, but I just had to forget about it until after the birth as I didn’t want to go through any more MRI scans and put my baby at risk. Once she was born we went with full force to get various scans and then got the confirmed diagnosis on April 27.”
Although Cameron had a large part of her liver removed as a child, it had regenerated and the tumours are in different places within her liver.
She said: “We think it restarted through my pregnancy.
“My levels were sky-high. I was still breastfeeding when I found out about the tumours and we needed to get a lot of scans so I had to stop.
“It’s been really frustrating.”
She has already been through her first procedure at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary called TACE (transarterial chemoembolisation), which directly targets the cancer cells and restricts their blood supply, and is waiting for the results to come back to find out what affect it has had.
Options include an operation, which she has been through before, or a liver transplant and she may need to travel to Birmingham to visit a specialist.
Cameron said: “My liver was healthy enough for all these years. I’ve survived an operation before. I feel really optimistic.
“I’m trying a couple of different alternative therapies. I don’t want to be weak and lethargic because I have two babies to look after.
“My partner is working six days a week for us. I don’t want to have to ask for any more money.
“If I have to go down to Birmingham I might not be going to hospital in Aberdeen any more and I’ll probably have to pay for flights.”
Cameron’s friend Sammy Murray has launched a fundraiser to help.
Money raised will also go towards helping the singer fulfil her dream of starting her own entertainment business so she can mentor budding singers.
A singer-songwriter, she has released her own music and works as a recording studio tutor at Station House Media Unit (SHMU). She has recently taken up a new post at ACE Voices, which provides community projects based around singing.
Cameron said: “I have been mentoring young singers, that’s something I wish I’d had when I was younger.”
Sammy and Cameron met when they were both 13 and pupils at Inverurie Academy.
Originally from the north-east, Sammy moved to Middlesbrough three years ago, which means she cannot get back to Aberdeen to support her friend as often.
She said: “I wanted to do something that would support her. She is such an inspirational person.
“We only launched the fundraiser on Friday and it’s just been donations by friends and family from Facebook and Instagram really so far.
“She does a lot of work with young children and she’s always giving back. She’s so humble.”