Gina Chick had only known she was pregnant for four days when doctors delivered a devastating warning: ‘Terminate the baby or you will die.’
Having been told she could never have kids, the then 40-year-old and her husband Lee were over the moon after learning they had been blessed with the baby they had always wanted.
But the Sydney couple’s joy was ripped away from them after a scan revealed a seemingly innocuous lump on Gina’s chest was stage three breast cancer.
‘Everything froze,’ Gina told Daily Mail Australia, recalling the evening call from the doctor in October 2009.
‘I looked at the wall and could see the paint flex. The cat was batting against me and I couldn’t bring myself to even pat it.’
Gina Chick, 51, is battling a second round of breast cancer 11 and a half years after her first shattering diagnosis
In the days that followed, her doctor, oncologist and breast surgeon all repeated the grim warning that keeping her miracle child would be a death sentence.
Diagnosed with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer, which is fuelled by estrogen, doctors told Gina the gestation would aggravate her illness.
But the mother-to-be was determined to keep her child, and refused to terminate the pregnancy.
‘No one was taking my baby away from me. She was only two weeks old, but there was no way I was going to let anyone take her away,’ she said.
Her maternal instinct told her there was a way to bring her baby into the world safely, and she hunted down a surgeon willing to treat her throughout her pregnancy.
The new doctor told her that chemotherapy does not harm fetuses, but they tend to be born smaller than average until they catch up by age two.
She resisted chemo for as long as possible, until a blood test three months later showed her cancer cells were high and she was forced to start treatment.
Gina pictured in 2010 while she was undergoing chemotherapy while pregnant with her daughter, Blaise
‘There was a moment of despair, cradling my baby, that I began thinking ”there is no way this can end well”,’ Gina, now 51, said.
‘It felt like I had liquid metal in my veins. Everything gets so slow and heavy. But I made it through that night, and she was still kicking in the morning.
‘And I thought, maybe this will be OK.’
After four gruelling rounds of chemotherapy, Gina was able to enjoy the last two months of pregnancy before giving birth to a healthy baby girl, Blaise, on June 23, 2010. Neither had hair at the time.
Gina was still required to undergo radiotherapy, but after learning she would not be able to hold Blaise if she took the treatment, she refused. Subsequent testing found the chemotherapy had worked – she was already in remission.
The family then relocated to a sprawling property on the NSW South Coast, where Blaise grew up in the wilderness surrounded by animals.
Blaise (pictured) was born healthy at 4.5kg when she entered the world on June 23, 2010
A wild, free-spirited child, she loved wearing tutus but no shoes, and would end up covered in dirt as she ventured outside to feed the family’s rabbits and guinea pigs.
But after a magical three years, tragedy struck.
Gina found a lump on Blaise’s tummy which was diagnosed as neuroblastoma – a cancer of the nervous system – which was unrelated to her mother’s illness or treatment.
Doctors cut it out and initially gave her the all clear – but ten weeks later, when Blaise developed a cold and quickly declined, they realised she still had the disease.
After Blaise spent nine days in ICU with no hope of recovery, her parents made the heartbreaking decision to turn off her life support.
‘Lee and I sang to her as she flew away,’ Gina recalled.
‘She was the love of my life. When I was pregnant, I fought fang and claw to get her. I had to turn up every day to say I want you.
‘When she was here I didn’t take her for granted for one second. Having her was the greatest gift.’
Almost 12 years on, Gina has again been diagnosed with the same breast cancer after discovering a new lump last month.
The family spent three wonderful years living on a South Coast property where Blaise was immersed in wilderness before the toddler was tragically struck down with cancer
While her estrogen was high during pregnancy, her levels will be lower heading into menopause, rendering the illness much easier to treat.
After Blaise’s death, Gina and Lee, who have since separated, launched a rewild your child program through their businesses Bluegum Bushcraft and Wild Heart, which runs wilderness survival classes and family camps to teach children bush skills.
The Covid-19 pandemic has devastated the business, which has just restarted retreats 18 months later, leaving Gina struggling financially and ineligible for government support.
A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to help raise funds for Gina’s treatment and to help her relocate to Sydney from Jervis Bay to be close to her therapy clinic.
Although she has danced with cancer before, this time the journey is completely different.
‘Now I don’t have a cub to protect, it is harder to find that passion and fire for why do you want to live?’
‘But this bout [of cancer] is a call to attention- to ask myself ”how do I want to spend my precious life?”
‘I still have gifts to bring to the world. I am not ready to die yet.’
Gina is the daughter of acclaimed author Suzanne Chick and the granddaughter of Australian writer Charmain Clift. Her book on her life experiences title She Wolf, will be released later this year.