Woman diagnosed with cancer weeks after daughter’s stillbirth

Hayley and Ben Oakley
Hayley and Ben Oakley

The family of a woman who was diagnosed with cancer two weeks after the death of her baby girl has thanked the Steyning community for its ‘absolutely unbelievable’ support.

Hayley Oakley, 34, was brought up in Steyning before she moved to Australia three years ago to live with her husband Ben – whom she married in England in August 2016.

Hayley and Ben Oakley on their wedding day in August 2016

Hayley and Ben Oakley on their wedding day in August 2016

However, in November 2017, Hayley – an assistant teacher – suffered the devastating loss of her baby girl Erica Rae at 36 weeks gestation – two weeks before her due date – because of an extremely rare case of spontaneous fetal-maternal haemorrhage.

Within a week of returning home from the birth, Hayley began suffering severe abdominal pain and a week later was informed she may have lymphoma. Before Christmas 2017, she was diagnosed with stage two B-Cell follicular lymphoma (non-Hodgkin).

Living in Shell Harbour, approximately 60 miles south of Sydney, Australia, she began undergoing chemotherapy to manage the condition. Currently, she has had five treatments out of six.

Hayley’s dad Martin Coleman, from Steyning, said: “Australia’s healthcare Medicare is similar to the National Health Service but it costs. The quality of treatment is very much the same and the waiting list seems shorter and Hayley wanted to stay out in Australia with her husband while she had the treatment. The medical team has been absolutely fantastic with Hayley.

“My wife Linda and I have tried to support them as much as we can but as Hayley isn’t working and Ben is working three days a week in order to look after her, the money can only stretch so far.”

Since Hayley’s diagnosis, fundraisers have been set up in Australia and England raising roughly £5,000 of which ten percent has been donated to Cancer Research UK.

Vicky Holliday, who has been friends Hayley since their time at Steyning Primary School, set up a JustGiving page which raised £800 with a walk from the Devils Dyke pub, in Brighton, to Steyning Football Club.

The money raised will be used by Ben and Hayley to seek immediate fertility treatment after chemotherapy because of the risks it poses to fertility.

Martin added: “It is a tragic thing that has happened but I cannot thank the people who have rallied around enough. The reaction from people here and in Australia has been absolutely unbelievable. As her parents, I often get asked ‘how do we cope when our daughter lives 8,000 miles away?’ but the community has been so helpful.

“From my point of view, if our story can help save even just one life somewhere then we have done what we can to help.

“We don’t want to make people panic but if you are pregnant and experiencing severe pains, then we would encourage you to get it checked with a doctor.”

On Saturday, June 16, Hayley’s family will be holding a race night at Steyning Cricket Club and intend to donate some funds to a stillbirth charity.