Food cravings, maternity clothes, a cancer diagnosis? What happens when you face cancer and giving birth at the same time? Read more below.
At 30 weeks pregnant I heard the words that no one wants to hear: "I'm sorry to have to tell you this but you have cancer."
Immediately my mind switched from everything that revolves around “baby” to worrying if I would even be able to raise my daughter. Everything was scary.
I was diagnosed with Large Cell Neuro Endocrine Carcinoma of the cervix. My world became all things chemo, surgery, “preemie”, and the NICU. I think whatever situation a person is in at the time they are diagnosed it is shocking and a lot to take in. Your whole world changes in a matter of seconds. More than likely, you have to undergo surgery and treatment. It seems like you are losing so much to a disgusting disease and there are so many unknowns.
I had two weeks until my daughter was to be born via c-section. After my c-section I was to undergo a radical hysterectomy. Then two weeks after surgery I was to start four rounds of chemo. Since the type of cancer I had was very rare and aggressive, everyone wanted to move fast. I struggled with the decision to have my daughter early - I felt like it was unfair to her to have to suffer because of me.
But one of her NICU doctors told me something that really put things into perspective for me. He said, "Your daughter will not remember being in the NICU and the things that come with it. She will remember a life without you."
That cemented it for me. Even though I still have guilt to this day, I know in my heart I made the right decision.
Still, I was also having a hard time adjusting to the fact that I would no longer be able to have children. Our son was stillborn a little over a year before I was diagnosed and now a hysterectomy was in my future. I felt so betrayed by my own body and I felt guilty for being depressed about it. Since we had experienced infertility I thought that I should be happy about having one child and believe me I was, but I couldn't get over being done having kids. I struggled with that even after our daughter was born. Then a very special and wise woman gave me the best advice:
"You have to grieve your son as well as for the children you can longer have."
I may never be at total peace with what happened to me but those words gave me what I needed to move forward.
There were so many things to be done before our daughter arrived. Between getting last minute baby things, to prepping for the NICU life, we were busy. In a way I was so busy preparing for our daughter that cancer would slip my mind sometimes. Nighttime is usually when it would creep in and remind me that it was still there.
When I was first diagnosed, I was devastated and had convinced myself that I would not be able to raise my daughter. When I saw her for the first time everything changed for me and I knew that I had to do everything in my power to fight to be with her. I wish I could say that the doubt about surviving was totally gone but it was significantly reduced. I am not sure if that fear of cancer will ever truly go away but I know better now than to let it take over my life.
I can now happily say that I just entered my third year of remission and we also have a very active three year-old. I have follow-up scans and lab work every six months. Cancer is still a part of my life but I won't let it rule my life. I am so much more than what cancer has taken from me.
Have you dealt with a similar experience? Share yours in the comments below.