GWENT-born Melanie Jaggard is expecting twins in November - she is also terminally ill with a rare cancer for which she is hoping to help find a cure.

The 32-year-old from Gilwern, who lives with husband Charlie in London, has already won one battle against adenoid cystic carcinoma (ACC), surviving the removal of a tennis ball-sized tumour from her head in a 10-hour operation in 2007, followed by intense daily doses of radiotherapy.

But the cancer - incurable, stubborn, slow growing - has returned with scans showing small tumours scattered throughout her lungs like, she says, "stars in a clear night sky."

This time, there is no suitable treatment, but the couple refuse to give up hope. While Mrs Jaggard, a manager with Unilever, continues to work ahead of the arrival of twins, her recruitment consultant husband is preparing to cycle more than 900 miles to raise money for ACC research.

The cancer is extremely rare, with around 20 cases a year identified in the UK, and is little researched.

It has no known risk factors and most commonly affects salivary glands in the head. People can live with ACC for 15 years and more after initial treatment, though it often reappears in lungs, liver and bones.

For Mrs Jaggard, a former pupil of Haberdashers' School, Monmouth, it currently does not affect her daily life, and the couple's decision to start a family is part of their determination to get on with their lives.

"It has no impact at the moment. I don't feel like I've got cancer, my lung capacity is great," she said. "The most frustrating thing is not knowing what it will do and when. ACC can grow very slowly, but it can speed up."

The couple met in July 2008, a year after Mrs Jaggard's surgery. Shortly after they were engaged in May 2009, doctors discovered the disease had returned. They married in January 2010.

Last year Mr Jaggard, relatives and friends - including Mrs Jaggard's father Rod Thomas - raised more than £50,000 to fund research, through a Land's End-John O'Groats cycle ride. Over 11 days next month (August 8-18), the ride will be repeated in the opposite direction. The aim is to beat last year's total and raise awareness of ACC.

"Cancer research and pharmaceutical companies don’t fund research into ACC because it is so rare," said Mrs Jaggard, the first known person with ACC to become pregnant.

"But we want to help fund research and ultimately help more UK and worldwide sufferers."

  • Two charities will benefit from the bike ride proceeds - the Get A-Head Charitable Trust ( which helps fight head and neck cancers, and the ACC Research Foundation (

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