By the third kid you like to think you have the pregnancy thing figured out! However, my third pregnancy included a curveball no prior pregnancy or prenatal book could have prepared me for. Twenty-nine weeks into my pregnancy I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma… cancer.
One morning I noticed that I had a hard lump in my left breast.
Within days I had an appointment with my OB who got the ball rolling with an ultrasound, which turned into a mammogram which then turned into a needle biopsy all in the same day.
But in those days a lot of thoughts went through my mind.
Just two-and-a-half years earlier my best friend from childhood was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma at the age of 33. Witnessing her fight through her breast cancer diagnosis made me feel more calm about the situation. I knew that if it was cancer, I was going to be okay, just like Dori.
Then, I thought to myself, this could be nothing. This could just be related to the pregnancy.
But in the back of my mind I was thinking of all the other things too. What if this is cancer? If it was in fact cancer, how bad is it? What stage? How could this be happening to me now, after Dori (my bestie) just went through all this?
I then thought about my kids and my unborn child I was still carrying.
A few days later, Dr. Hailey called to tell me the biopsy came back as cancer. Later that same day my husband and I made our way down to Woman’s Hospital to meet with him.
We had so many questions and were so worried.
How bad was it? What were we going to do in terms of treatment, while I’m pregnant? What does this mean for our baby boy still growing inside me?
Immediately Dr. Hailey, put our minds at ease. He was a very calming presence for my husband and I. We just knew he was going to step up to take care of me and help me through this process of treatment.
The next two weeks were filled with a lot of different appointments with various doctors.
When we found out my cancer was hormone positive we felt very worried and unsure of what that meant for me and the baby. We went back and forth with our OB and my oncologist on how to move forward. Doing nothing until the baby was born was not an option as the hormones in my body due to pregnancy would feed the cancer and make it grow.
We made the decision to try out one of the hormone blocking chemo drugs,Herceptin via infusion. A few days later I had an appointment with Maternal Fetal Medicine.They found that my amniotic fluid was basically gone and it was related to the Herceptin I received.
I then went into the AICU at Woman’s for the next 2 weeks for observation. We had daily ultrasounds and three sessions a day of monitoring the baby’s heart rate. Meanwhile, my husband was back at home with our three and four year old children.
I was able to go home for about four days before I was induced at 35 weeks.
Right after the baby was born I had an MRI and a biopsy which showed the cancer had grown and was now in my lymph nodes.I then went into surgery less than a week after having the baby to have a port put in. Within days of the port surgery I had my first chemo treatment.
The baby was still in the NICU when I was at Woman’s for my first round of chemo.
Our son was able to come home after just one week in the NICU. Once he was home, I felt like I could focus all my energy on getting better and getting through treatment.
In the midst of it all, cancer has taught me quite a few valuable lessons.
Usually I’m a control freak in life, however this diagnosis has helped me to let go of having control and just let others help me through this season. I try not to let the small things bother me, because I realize now how inconsequential they are.
I have learned that my family is incredibly lucky to have such amazing support from our community here in Baton Rouge. Neither my husband or myself are from Louisiana so we have heavily relied on our friends here to help us through. It is incredible to me how selfless others can be. I’m talking with so many of our friends when they were dropping off meals to us, I found that literally everyone knows someone or is related to someone who has or has gone through breast cancer.
And if I have to fight cancer, there is nowhere else I would rather do it.
The staff and doctors at the Breast & GYN Cancer Pavilion, a partnership between Woman’s Hospital and Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center do such a good job of making you feel like you’re okay and everything is going to be okay.
From the moment I spoke to Dr. Hailey on the phone when he called to tell me the biopsy came back as cancer, I felt that I was in the right hands. Dr. Spell is a one of a kind doctor. I am so pleased with him and his staff.
I always thought I was too young to worry about something like this, especially with no family history.
But I wasn’t and neither was my friend Dori. There are so many of us, at all different ages and stages of this disease who never thought cancer would be a part of our story. So don’t ignore the recommendations. Keep up with your annual mammograms and well-woman visits. Perform monthly self-breast exams and call your doctor if you notice any lumps or bumps, or odd feelings.
Through the generosity of our community donors, the Foundation for Woman’s supports free mammograms to any woman who cannot pay. We do this on our campus and through our two mammography coaches. Woman’s is also a partner of Louisiana Cancer Prevention & Control Programs, that enables us to provide no-cost mammograms and Pap tests patients with barriers to care.