I think I knew within the hour when I had ovulated, and was on my OB-GYN’s doorstep 10 days post-conception. My dream of having four children was coming true and I was ecstatic. My labs showed that my thyroid hormone levels were abnormal, which was no surprise. I already knew I had Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an auto-immune disease destroying my thyroid. Being very into alternative health, I had shunned thyroid meds up until now and focused on an organic diet and healthy lifestyle instead. Now, however, the baby needed more thyroid hormones, so I went right to the endocrinologist to get my prescription. That’s when the lump was found in my neck. Previously I had felt something in there when I swallowed but thought it was due to Hashimoto’s. Had I not been pregnant and forced to see that physician, I would have gone right on ignoring this. On December 29, 2005, at two months pregnant, I got the news that it was Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma.
Despite my physician’s excellent bedside manner, I didn’t hear a single thing he said after the “C” word. At first, I pictured the pathology slide I had memorized back in medical school. It had been my favorite because it was pretty with its pink and purple stains, circles and dots. All reason left my brain, and it didn’t matter that I knew it had a high cure rate. All I could think of was the horror of not being there to raise my children, and then the shock that this could happen while I was pregnant. How could this be when I felt like Mother Earth, glowing, beautiful and invincible? How dare this cancer mess with my baby! My Mother Bear instinct was in full gear, and so so angry. I had just seen the movie Family Stone in which the mother dies of breast cancer and they show a Christmas with and without her. I sat staring at our beautiful tree just overwhelmed, and desperate to see so many more with my family.
Finally, determination set in. I learned that the tumor was thus far small and slow growing. One option I had was to wait the entire nine months of my pregnancy before having surgery. I chose this because I wanted to make sure she was okay, my way of showing her gratitude that without her, it would have been so much longer before my cancer would likely have been discovered. I went about my pregnancy determined to enjoy it as much as possible to spite that damn cancer – and I did! I added a new meaning to the word nesting, especially when I found out we were having our first girl.
Whoever guessed they made that much stuff in pink? I had a C-section at 37 weeks and Annalise Sophia was finally here: 8 lbs., 2 oz. of pink, gorgeous, healthy girl. Such joy, there are no words.
Five weeks after I had Annalise, I had a complete thyroidectomy. While they got the tumor, I unfortunately had two positive nodes and would need radiation. I delayed this until I had nursed Annalise for five months, another victory for us. In April 2007, I ingested a good-sized dose of radioactive iodine, which was very terrifying for me given that I am a health freak. Now finally it is September, and I am in the middle of the work-up to determine if I am in remission. One negative test down and two to go. I am so hopeful.
We all know that life can be horribly unfair, that even very determined, loved and prayed-for persons succumb to cancer. I don’t know why Annalise and I are so lucky to be here, and others not. It doesn’t make sense. I only know that what has helped me through difficult times, to rise above life’s unfairness so that I can embrace life with all my being, is love. Throughout my illness, people have been downright amazing! I have been overwhelmed by the love I have been shown. The women I have met in the Pregnant with Cancer Network have been so brave and full of grace, so much bigger than their bodies. I have been inspired to do all I can to help others who are suffering in any way, and I started by creating the first Annual Pregnant with Cancer Walk in Tampa, Florida. We released the first pink balloon for Jennifer, a member that helped me greatly and who is no longer with us. It is up to us all to help each other through life’s challenging times. I hope to do this with as much laughter and love as I can, down to the last laugh, which you bet, will be mine.