I was 27 at the time, three months pregnant, and I found what I thought was a lump in my breast.
We did a mammogram and some ultrasounds, and then a needle biopsy to make sure. Even after we did the biopsy, I never even considered that it would be cancer. I was 27 and completely healthy. We don’t have a history of cancer in our family. It was a total shock. And it was our first child. I was so scared for him.
I was diagnosed with a ductile carcinoma. We weren’t sure what to do then… whether we should consider a mastectomy right away, or even if treatments were an option because of my pregnancy.
I had a lot of concern about whether chemotherapy was safe, but they explained it all and told me the risks—worst-case and best-case scenarios. There has been a lot of research, and a lot of women before me who have had chemotherapy while pregnant, so I’m lucky to be able to know that these other women have been through it and the children have been fine.
We decided to go ahead and start treatments. All the cancer cells were contained in my one breast, so that was very good news. The cancer had grown very quickly, from when they found it to when we started treatments. It had grown to 12 centimeters, which is pretty large. I was 16 weeks along when I did my first round of chemotherapy.
Being pregnant through all of it helped me focus on [my baby] and the milestones and the good news he brought. That focus gave me so much strength. I didn’t focus on myself or get down about the cancer, because I knew I had to get through it for him.
We did four rounds of chemotherapy every couple of weeks. Then we got off the chemo to help boost my immune system. On January 29, I had a mastectomy. I recovered from that for a couple weeks, and then started chemotherapy again. We were very lucky, because it was starting to spread, but the chemo had shrunk it enough and I had the surgery before it could spread beyond the breast.
One of the possible side effects of the chemo was a lowering of the amniotic fluid around the baby. They did in-depth ultrasounds while I was on the chemo in order to check the baby.
We went in for a chemo treatment the previous Monday. Then on Friday we went in for an ultrasound, and we found out that almost all of the fluid was gone. It was very scary.
We stopped the chemotherapy, but waiting the full two months for him to come to full term would be a little scary for me. I had a couple of steroid shots to help boost his lung development, and then we decided to induce.
I was just a day shy of 32 weeks pregnant when he was born, at about 10 PM. All the neonatal people were there, and my doctor, the OB and a lot of nursing staff. He was born really quickly because he was just 4 pounds, 1 ounce. He was crying the minute he was born. They checked him to make sure he was OK, and then I got to hold him for about a minute, which was wonderful.
It was a long, tough day, but it was totally worth it to hold him. He was beautiful, full of hair, full of crying. He had more hair than I did, since I didn’t have any hair because of the chemo.
He was in the NICU for 41 days, mostly to get him to grow and learn to eat. He was on a ventilator for about a day and a half. He was very strong, very healthy, just small. I was so worried that there was going to be something wrong, something that he went through that would have been my fault, but he was healthy.
He was born Thursday, and then Monday we were back doing chemo treatments. We didn’t get a reprieve from anything.
Through it all, my husband was great support. He came to all of my appointments, made all the trips. I don’t know how you could do it without family support. It’s tough, emotionally and physically draining, but I came through it. It was the toughest couple of years I ever did.
All we can do is hope to find a cure. Organizations like the Edith Sanford Breast Cancer Foundation will hopefully find a cure, so no one else has to go through this. So much money is needed to find the cure, and I hope that people will just support the research. It takes the research to get there.
No one should have to go through this. When we find a cure, every child will have his mother, and his grandmother. It’s such a wonderful thing that so many people are reaching out to donate and help for such a wonderful cause, and that 100 percent of the money is going to saving someone’s life. It might be me, in the future.
It’s the worst word you’ll ever hear, “cancer,” because you think the worst. It’s always a scare for the future that it could come back. Hopefully with the research moving forward, we can find a cure so I can grow old enough to see my son grow up.
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