In my seventh month of pregnancy, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My only thoughts were how to save myself and protect my unborn child. I have to say it was the most difficult time of my life. And I am happy to say we are both healthy and happy a year and a half later.
During my fifth month of pregnancy, I found a lump in my left breast and reported it to my OB/GYN. He told me that, during pregnancy, it is common for women to get blocked ducts, which cause lumps, and to keep an eye on it. It was hard to tell if it got larger, so one month later I asked him, at my husband's insistence, to refer me to a specialist.
We went to the specialist, who performed a needle aspiration and found it was not liquid but hard. He immediately took a tissue biopsy. One day later, he called with the diagnosis of cancer. I was very shocked and didn't know what to do. My husband broke down and cried. At that time I did not know he knew two other women diagnosed during pregnancy, and both died from the cancer.
I was convinced I would survive this and did not understand why everyone else was breaking down around me. After all my treatments and surgery, I realized that I did not break down emotionally because I had a plan of action and felt in control, whereas everyone around me felt helpless.
We met with three doctors (OB/GYN, Oncologist and Surgeon) and came up with a game plan. First, I had surgery to remove my left breast. The mastectomy went well and the baby did not show any signs of stress. Pathology came back and said we needed to get better margins or I would need radiation. So, one week later, I had a revision surgery to take more tissue.
One week later, I went back to the hospital to induce the birth of my child. It took two full days of induction and three hours of pushing. I finally resorted to C-section and our beautiful son, Adam, was born.
Two weeks after that, I received my first chemotherapy cycle. I had seven more to go. I lost my hair 18 days after the first cycle and that was the hardest part to deal with for me, because it was now evident to the world that I had cancer. I couldn't believe I was that upset. I got over the hair loss, and finished all of my treatments on time.
I had four cycles of AC and four cycles of Taxotere, over more than seven months. During all of this I had a newborn baby to care for. I must say our child made the emotional side of this much easier. His little happy face kept me from being blue. I had help from everyone I know.
I have to thank my husband Bob for being so supportive and strong. I learned to accept help and to ask for help from friends and relatives. I believe this has made me a stronger and more understanding person. The world did not revolve around me. I learned to recognize that everyone in your life is affected by your cancer diagnosis. Sometimes, it seemed like the people around me were affected more than I was.
It is now 17 months later and we are doing well. I want to tell every pregnant woman that pregnancy masks a lot of the symptoms and not to assume they are all pregnancy related. It is important to get everything checked out, even if you don't want to know. It could be your life!
Coleen Kirnan Friedmann