Imagine being 30, pregnant and diagnosed with breast cancer. Well, that is me. When I was 26 weeks pregnant, I felt a lump in my left breast. I went to my obstetrician and discussed my lump with her. She said that there was probably nothing to worry about but she would rather be safe than sorry, so she called the hospital and scheduled an ultrasound for later that same day. Once the ultrasound was completed, the radiologist came in and asked if I had time for a core needle biopsy. At that point, my head was spinning. This was supposed to be a swollen milk duct. This could not be cancer, could it? The radiologist took 5 samples of tissue. He advised me that the results would be ready 4 days later. My obstetrician would call me with the results.
Before I proceed, I should tell you that my husband runs a cancer institute in our area.
On Tuesday morning I went to work as usual and waited for a phone call from my obstetrician. My husband called around 10:00 am and asked if he could request the results of my pathology so that we could be put at ease. I signed a consent form and faxed it to the lab. I jokingly told a friend at my office that if my husband showed up unannounced, it would not be a good sign. By noon I had not heard from my husband and I began to worry. Then, around 12:15 my husband was standing in the doorway of my office. I knew things were not good, as he never came to my office. It had taken him a few hours to get there, as he wanted to get things in order before telling me the devastating news. He knew the best oncologist and surgeon in the area, so we were lucky. He had already scheduled appointments with them for that same day.
Due to the fact that I was 26 weeks pregnant with a very strong family history of breast cancer, we needed to make some quick decisions. I chose to have the genetic testing for the BRCA 1 and 2 genetic mutations. Our surgeon, obstetrician, neonatal specialist and medical oncologist all had differing opinions on how we should proceed. Three doctors wanted me to begin chemotherapy immediately, deliver my son at no less than 36 weeks and proceed with a surgery after chemotherapy was completed. My other doctor advised me that if I were his daughter he would recommend a lumpectomy, deliver my son at 34 weeks and begin chemotherapy immediately following the delivery. Around this time the results came back negative for the BRCA mutations. Needless to say, this was a positive. With this information, my decision on how to proceed was much easier.
While pregnant, I had a lumpectomy with a sentinel node biopsy. I was node negative but had unclear margins around the tumor. This meant that I would have another surgery after chemotherapy, to obtain clear margins. I was thankful to be able to conserve my breast. On July 9, 2003, I delivered my son, Ean. He weighed a hefty 4 lbs. 15 oz. with no breathing problems. He had not yet developed his sucking reflex, so he was in the intensive care unit for 2 weeks.
I chose to proceed with the most aggressive approach to chemotherapy and began a regimen of 6 treatments with 3 separate chemotherapy agents. I received all 3 agents during each chemotherapy infusion. These agents made me extremely ill and I lost all of my hair. On December 4, 2003 I had my last chemotherapy session. I then had another surgery to obtain clear margins from the lumpectomy and began radiation treatments. I had a total of 33 radiation treatments, which concluded on April 1, 2004.
I now look back over the past year and I think about how much has changed. I am now a mother and I am extremely proud of myself. I have overcome obstacles that I would have never thought possible. I know that my parents, who are in heaven, have been my guardian angels and have helped me so much over the past year.
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