Real Life

Cancer survivor Bailee: ‘my baby saved my life’

After a brutal health battle, a miracle pregnancy gave her hope, then tragedy struck again...

He may not know it yet, but four-month-old Henry did something remarkable for his mum Bailee White. Before he was even born, his every kick and wriggle gave the 24-year-old Masterton mum a reason to live.

For a long time, CanTeen ambassador Bailee was told conceiving naturally would be near impossible. At just 15, she had aggressive chemotherapy to treat stage 4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It had left her nearly infertile and battling severe mental health issues.

Despite having two eggs frozen, Bailee decided to try for a baby naturally with her fiancé Hamish Robertson. In a journey they thought might take years, or not happen at all, the pair got pregnant in two weeks.

Although Bailee was still plagued with PTSD from her teenage years battling cancer, her pregnancy was supposed to be a new beginning.

Bailee’s cancer treatment nearly left her infertile.

But heartbreakingly, tragedy struck her once again – just five weeks into the pregnancy, Hamish had a near-fatal car crash, hitting a tree at high speed. Life became a living hell for the cancer survivor.

“On the night of Hamish’s accident, I thought I’d lost Henry because I experienced cramping,” Bailee tells Woman’s Day. “In those first few weeks, I couldn’t eat or sleep, but once a scan confirmed he was OK, I knew I had to pull it together, even though the journey would be really hard.”

Bailee waited three weeks for Hamish to wake up from a coma. He’d suffered an array of broken bones and punctured organs, plus a brain injury that triggered a stroke. “I saw the state of the car that night and was told my partner wasn’t going to survive,” Bailee tells. During that time, Henry gave her hope. “Being pregnant with Henry kept me going.”

As hospital staff tended to Hamish, they were besotted with Bailee’s growing belly. “I would always sing to Hamish while he was in a coma and in doing so, I was singing to Henry,” recalls Bailee. “I used to sing Your Song by Elton John to my belly, and now I still sing it to Henry, and every time he has this smile on his face.”

While her pregnancy should have been a chapter of bliss, instead Bailee spent months visiting Hamish in hospital as he slowly learned to speak and move again. She juggled a job at a petrol station with being a supportive partner. Now, nearly a year later, she’s balancing her new life as a mum with the role of carer for Hamish at home.

“People tell me that I’m doing an amazing job, and that I’m a great mum and am handling things so well,” says Bailee. “And while I respect that and I am thankful for it, the reality is that I have to handle it. If I don’t, then not only am I upset, but Henry and Hamish are too. And then everything would fall apart. So I have to have it together.”

Although she’s better able to control her triggers now, panic attacks have plagued Bailee over the years. Little Henry is a welcome distraction, who has helped her cope with the memories of the cancer that riddled her lungs, spleen, liver and bone marrow.

“Every moment with Henry is my favourite moment,” she gushes. “I love giving him a bath because it’s one of his favourite times of the day – he’s just so happy and giggles.”

Another support for the new mum has been her CanTeen family. She’s an ambassador for the cancer youth charity and over the years fellow fighters have become just like family.

Before Hamish’s tragic accident, the couple had planned to marry in December last year. That’s on hold, but Bailee intends to involve her CanTeen friends when she does tie the knot.

“Two of my closest friends are cancer survivors,” smiles Bailee. “They’ll be my maid of honour and bridesmaid at my wedding!”

In the meantime, Bailee is focused on helping Hamish get stronger.

“With his injuries, Hamish wasn’t meant to be home from the hospital until 2024 or 2025,” she tells. “But he was so determined to be home in time for the birth, he was able to get home by March this year.

The doting mum has her hands full caring for baby Henry and crash survivor Hamish.

“So Henry helps me in my mental recovery, but he also helps Hamish in his physical recovery too. He’s such a good baby and he’s changed so many things for us!”

Support young people impacted by cancer across Aotearoa this Bandanna Day on Friday, 23 September. Donate at

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