Pain of husband whose wife died after cancer was hidden by pregnancy


A first-time mother died 10 weeks after giving birth because her pregnancy had masked critical symptoms of bowel cancer.

When 38-year-old Laurel Cohen experienced abdominal pain, shortness of breath and constipation, she assumed these were just normal symptoms of pregnancy.

But when the pain worsened five weeks before her due date, she was admitted to the Royal Free Hospital where doctors discovered a huge lump on her liver.

Four days later she gave birth to her premature daughter Ruby by caesarean section.

Tests went on to reveal that Mrs Cohen, an occupational therapist who worked with cancer patients at University College Hospital in London, had terminal bowel cancer which had spread to her liver.

In the following weeks, Mrs Cohen underwent four rounds of chemotherapy at the Royal Free, but was eventually transferred to the Marie Curie hospice in Hampstead, north-west London.

Now, just over a year on from her death on July 26 last year, Mrs Cohen’s widower David, has launched a series of fundraising events in his wife’s memory. Mr Cohen, an internet company team manager, has run 10-kilometre races – accompanied by baby Ruby in her pushchair.

“Laurel was an amazing woman,” said Mr Cohen, who lives in Golders Green. “There are no words to describe how difficult losing her has been and it all happened so fast. Nothing could have prepared us for it.

“After her death I so wanted someone to blame but the doctors did everything they could. Every symptom she had was so easily explained by her pregnancy.

He told The Times that he missed his wife “every single day” but that Ruby gave him strength.

The couple had been married for five years but had met at a youth summer camp in 1990.

Inspired by his wife’s strength, Mr Cohen decided on the fundraising initiative in order to help charities which support women who suffer from cancer in pregnancy.

He said: “We are doing the 10k runs as, while it’s not a challenging run alone, it is really challenging when you’re also pushing a buggy. Ruby mostly sleeps the whole way so it seems she enjoys it.”

Mr Cohen is raising money for Marie Curie Hospice Hampstead, Chai Cancer Care and Mummy's Star (dedicated to women and their families who are affected by cancer during pregnancy).

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