This is not happening. This is not happening. This is not happening. These were the words that I chanted over and over to myself after getting off the phone with my doctor.
We went to my OB/GYN at 20 weeks pregnant and had the ultrasound done to tell the sex of the baby. It was a boy!!! I had a feeling all along that it was a boy, but to hear the news from the ultrasound tech was unreal. Tears came to our eyes as my husband and I watched her scan the heart and see it beating away. During the visit, we met with my doctor, and my husband reminded me to tell her about the pain I had in my breast and the lump I felt.
She ordered an ultrasound the next day. I was not worried, and this did not suit my personality. I was convinced it was a part of pregnancy and nothing too out of the ordinary. The technician showed me what she saw and told me the ultrasound was inconclusive. “It doesn’t look like a tumor,” she said to me, but she needed to check with the doctor. After the ultrasound, they told me I had to come back for a biopsy to gain more info. Still unfazed, I scheduled the biopsy. It was done the next week. My doctor called me on the phone the following day and asked me if I had made my appointment to come in for the results.
I told her that the nurse had scheduled me for tomorrow, but she asked me to come in that afternoon. That was the moment I knew it was cancer.
This is not happening. This is not happening. This is not happening.
After hearing the news, my support army began assembling. My dad came right over to the doctor’s office, my husband sped home from work fifty miles away, my mom and her husband got in the car and drove four hours to our house, and my sister was on the next flight from California to New York. For the next few days we had meetings in my kitchen. What doctors would we go to? Do we need second opinions? What will happen with the baby? When can we begin? I felt like I wasn’t in the room as my support team discussed the next year of my life.
It was during these kitchen table meetings that I decided this had happened for a reason. I got over blaming myself and analyzing everything I did in my younger years. I realized that this was bigger than all of that. I had a choice. I could feel sorry for myself, or I could learn from and share my experience. I chose the latter. Don’t get me wrong, I had some really tough days and I still do here and there, but I began to notice things around me that used to seem ordinary: a beautiful leaf on the ground, a raindrop in the windshield, and a cobweb over the doorway. I quickly saw that life is precious and I could not take a moment for granted.
I felt so lucky that I had such a great support system in place around me. My family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, and acquaintances were ready and able to help in any way possible. My family began researching all that you ever wanted to know about breast cancer, especially in pregnant women. It was then that my mom came across the Pregnant with Cancer Network.
She searched the website for information, and my son and I were quickly enrolled in Dr. Cardonick’s study. My mom found the website and the people at PWCN extremely helpful and supportive at a very difficult time for all of us.
During the time of diagnosis and treatment, I had an incredible support system surrounding me. It was a year after my treatment ended that I realized what good might come of my diagnosis. The light bulb went on in my head and I thought to myself, “This is part of the reason why this happened to me.” I was meant to help others through this and support other women who are diagnosed with cancer while they are pregnant.
We had a very busy year with the birth of our son, a move across the country, and new jobs. When we had settled into our new life, I decided it was a great time to begin to support other women. I signed up online and received a call a few days later. There was a woman in Southern California that was going through a similar experience with cancer and pregnancy. I read her contact information and was amazed that she lived one town over! We were in contact right away and we met up several times. She was able to meet my son Owen during our first visit, and we chatted away as our children played together. My first endeavor as a support woman was very enlightening. I hope that I have been able to make a difference in someone’s perspective on their treatment and their future, and seeing the experience through a survivor’s eyes has given me new insight into my own journey.
My support team was the reason that I got through treatment. The kitchen table meetings were the starting point of the continuous support that I have been fortunate to have. I could not have done it alone and this is why I wanted to help other women who may not have their own support team. I felt lucky to have a husband who loved me unconditionally, family members who supported me, friends who treated me like they had for the last twenty years, physicians in my family who interpreted and asked questions at doctor’s appointments, and a truly amazing medical team.
My hope is that with the help of PWCN we can support each other through the tough times and learn from our experiences.