"It was the strangest feeling." Paqui had gone to see her doctor for one of her three-monthly check-ups after overcoming her second cancer, and he spotted something unusual while carrying out an ultrasound on her bladder. "Are you pregnant?" he asked, and received a resounding and instinctive "no!" in response. He didn't make any other comment; he just told her to see her specialist, "as soon as possible".
Paqui had longed to be a mother for many years but everything went against her: a complete mastectomy, two intensive programmes of chemotherapy and a genetic test which showed her susceptibility (and that of her children) to breast cancer. However the gynaecologist, as surprised as she was, confirmed the news. In three months time she is due to give birth to a little boy, who will be called José Luis after his father.
After being diagnosed with her first breast cancer in 2011, Paqui, who works in a ham factory in Alhaurín el Grande, feared that she would never be a mother. "My mother was a carrier, just like me, and she had her complete reproductive system removed. They're going to have to remove mine as well," she says. Her doctors, knowing how much she wanted a baby, told her the operation could be postponed until she was 40. "I'm 37 now, so there were only three years to go," she says.
Paqui was convinced she could never become pregnant because of the two chemotherapy programmes she had undergone. "They told me I probably wouldn't be able to have children," she says. She wasn't surprised when she missed a period for the first time, assuming that she had lost all chance of becoming a mother, a feeling which still overshadows her as she talks about her experience.
Apart from the maternal instinct of this young woman and her husband, who also wanted to become a father and was prepared to try anything as long as it didn't affect Paqui's health, the pregnancy has also been a counterpoint to her illness.
"When you're in this stage you feel really bad, there are relapses, you need to be surrounded by your loved ones although sometimes you keep away from them because you don't want to upset them. You feel suffocated, nervous, uncertain. When I found out that I was pregnant, I became very emotional," she says. "Now, it's like the calm after the storm. What has happened has brought us such hope."
Decided from the start
Paqui says that when the gynaecologist confirmed her pregnancy, he asked her, "looking very serious", if she was prepared to go ahead with it, knowing the risks. "I told him I didn't even have to think about it," she says.
Everyone around her is overjoyed, from her closest family to her colleagues at work. It is Paqui's mother, though, who is most excited. "She thought I would never experience what she felt when she had me", says Paqui.
Paqui volunteers with the solidarity association ' Un sí por la vida - Unidos contra el cáncer', which since 2014 has been advising and supporting cancer patients. Since overcoming her second episode, she has been sharing her experience with new patients, most of whom are feeling discouraged and downhearted. In three months, she will be able to tell them something else: "Life gives you compensations for this very difficult situation, it is always worth carrying on."