In July of 2003, at 32 years old, I was diagnosed with breast cancer (invasive ductal carcinoma stage 2A) during my fourth month of pregnancy. I was shocked and particularly outraged that it had to happen now during this very happy time in my life. I was frightened beyond belief. God gave me the strength and courage to face this disease, and my husband Pete was at my side endlessly assuring me that I would be okay.
After meeting with many oncologists, surgeons and ob-gyns, we decided on a plan of action. I would immediately have a mastectomy followed by three months of chemo (A/C), a short break to deliver the baby (about a month), and then the final three months of chemo (taxol).
I decided to work full time during my treatment. I knew that if I were home I would feel sick and sad. Working kept me “normal” and busy. When my hair started to fall out, my husband shaved it all off. This gave me a feeling of taking control. I also felt that with my hair all gone – this was the worst it would get. Once you’re bald you can’t get any balder.
Shortly after I was diagnosed, my husband surfed the web continuously for information on treatment. In his searches he was lucky to find the Hope for Two…The Pregnant with Cancer Network. The stories gave us the hope we needed to forge through the next few months. My support person at the organization provided an endless supply of inspiration and answered so many questions. It was wonderful to hear her story and know that my baby would be okay.
It was a long journey. I have to admit that I didn’t think the chemo was as bad as I thought it would be. I never got sick, and my appetite was the same. At chemo each week, I met amazing strong women who were my role models. In December of 2003, I had an especially rough month. Picture this – I am 9 months pregnant with one breast and no hair. My husband told me I was beautiful – the remarkable thing is that he made me believe it.
In December of 2003, I went into labor naturally, about a week early. I delivered by c-section an angelic baby girl named Scarlett Jean. Scarlett was 5lbs 14ozs and 18.5 inches long. Scarlett was perfectly healthy and still is.
I completed my treatment in April of 2004, had my other breast removed (by choice), and underwent reconstructive surgeries throughout 2004. I decided on such a radical treatment plan because I have had lumps in my breasts since the time I was young. I did not intend to spend the rest of my life worrying about the status of those lumps.
At first, I was resistant to attending a support group. I am a licensed social worker and I felt that I was the one who ran those groups not attended them. I was wrong, and it was not until after I delivered my baby that such sadness set in that I was desperate for intervention. I joined a young survivor’s support group where I could complain, cry, feel sorry for myself and most importantly laugh. These women have become very special friends who I now get together with every month for dinner.
I am cancer free now. It really took a full year to feel “normal” after completing the chemo. I can honestly say that I am at a point where I don’t think about the cancer every day. I am too busy living life. Like many, cancer has changed my life. I enjoy every day; I don’t get angry over little things; and I eat only all-natural foods. I am looking ahead to a future filled with good health, happiness and hopefully more children.