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Jacqui Napier, formerly McCloy, has been battling a rare cancer, osteosarcoma, since pregnant with her first child.
During her modeling career from 13 to 23 years, she worked at top agencies in Tokyo, Miami in New York and appeared in fashion magazines such as Elle.
The brave mother, now 44, saw her knee and leg balloon for more than six months before panicked doctors revealed her devastating diagnosis, just four days after the birth of her wonder son Lewis, now two years old.
Jacqui van Ayro also had part of her lung removed as part of treatment for the cancer that affects bone, soft tissue and ligaments.
The former Chestnut Hotel waitress has spoken of her courageous struggle that destroyed her early days of motherhood as a painstaking surgery and treatment prevented her from lifting her boy.
At times, Jacqui felt “inadequate” as a mother as she watched from the sidelines as her husband Gareth Napier, age 47, and supportive parents, John McCloy, 72, and Sheila McCloy, 72, and big sister Louise Lachlan, 45, took over.
Now the feisty mom wants to raise awareness of the under-researched cancer that is more common in children and often misdiagnosed as ‘growing pains’ in adolescents after several trips to her GP failed to diagnose it.
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She said Ayrshire Live: “When I was pregnant in 2018 I had gone to the doctor with pain in my knee, it hurt to stand up and not put weight on it.
“The first doctor I saw just assumed it was pregnancy related and it would go away. I was sent home with a hundred acetaminophen.”
“The second time I saw the second doctor, they thought it was a tire damage.
“My knee was huge, it was twice the size, it was red and I just felt like something wasn’t right.
“The pain didn’t go away with acetaminophen and it got worse at night, there was so much swelling and it was hot to the touch.
“I think the pregnancy masked a lot of symptoms, but this continued through my pregnancy for six months.”
Jacqui was rushed to hospital just four days after her son was born in March 2019, where scans revealed the devastating diagnosis.
She said, “They told me you have cancer. I thought it was a torn ligament. I had never heard of osteosarcoma. It was such a devastating shock.”
Jacqui believes doctors should have pushed for a faster scan to identify the cancer raging through the bones in her leg.
She said: “Even one X-ray would have shown that something wasn’t right. I had a terrible feeling in my stomach that it was more sinister than ligament damage.”
Emergency surgery has left metal plates in her knee and shin after top surgeons saved her cancer-stricken leg.
Jacqui said: “When they took me to the operating room, I went for an amputation.
“But they managed to get the whole bone out, from the middle of the thigh to the middle of the shin.
“They managed to save my leg so I could walk. I had metal plates in my knee and shin.”
Jacqui has undergone brutal treatment, which has left her with life-changing physical and mental scars, the most serious of which is kidney failure.
This year she had to undergo another lung surgery after being cancer-free for 14 months and now she’s anxiously waiting to see if the cancer can be kept at bay.
She said: “Sarcoma has been so little researched that treatment options have not changed in 40 years.
“The side effects of the chemotherapy are so harsh – I now have an underactive thyroid, I had to go through menopause because the cancer closed my ovaries, my vision was reduced.
“I have stage 3 kidney disease, I am at high risk of kidney failure and I have to deal with this.
“I have six fractured discs on my back because of the drugs, steroids and chemotherapy that have crumbled my bones.
“I also have nerve damage in my hands and feet that makes me unable to do simple things.
“The treatment has been so cruel I couldn’t lift my baby. I’ve never been able to lift my baby boy. I can’t take care of him alone.”
During her battle with cancer, Jacqui benefited from several charities that supported her.
She received life-saving treatment at the Beatson and was supported by a charity Mummy’s Star that supports mothers who go through cancer during or after pregnancy.
Supportive friends gathered around her this year to raise money for the Beatson where Jacqui received most of her treatment, while she undergoes further scans to make sure the cancer doesn’t spread elsewhere.
Employees at the Chestnut Hotel participated, and Jacqui’s sister Louise all took part in a six-mile walk that passed her home as she prepared for her major lung surgery the following day.
The charity walkers have raised £4,700 for the center which Jacqui has hailed as a “positive and inspiring place”.
Jacqui added: “The support from everyone has been incredible, the hardest day was not being able to participate in the 10k walk at all.
“For me now it’s about survival, every day is a survival day, I have a baby at home, I’ve wanted him for so long.
“We were out of the hospital for four normal days and then all of a sudden you found yourself in this whirlwind and were told words that you don’t know or have never heard of.
“Nobody knows what the next step will be, I just want to be here to watch my son grow up and recover from this.”
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