family and cancer

Dealing With My Mom’s Breast Cancer Diagnosis While Pregnant

I was hoping that after my last blog post I would take a break from blog updates. Yes, cancer will always be at the top of mind BUT, for the time being, I was hoping to put cancer aside and enjoy some good news for once…my pregnancy!

But shortly after I announced my pregnancy to friends and family, my mom reluctantly told me that during a routine mammogram they found a lump. After a biopsy, they confirmed that it was cancer. This brought back a flood of memories and emotions to the day I was told I had cancer and the months that followed. More than anything I did not want my mom to have to go through what I did and I would do anything to take it all away.

My mom is my best friend; we text daily, enjoy the same interests and, of course, we are there for each other through every life milestone. We share clothing, recipes and gossip, but we did not think we would be sharing in this experience of cancer. When I was diagnosed, my parents, were both by my side throughout the entire process, coming to almost every appointment, checking in on me daily and showering me with gifts.  I could tell how hard it was for them to see their baby girl going through this experience but they stayed strong and followed my lead staying positive, but also allowing me to vent and feel sorry for myself at times. When I was tested for the genetic mutation BRCA1/2 three years ago I was relieved when it came back as negative since I did not want to even think about what it would be like for my mom (or even my brothers) to have to go through this experience as well. I thought she was spared.

We met with the surgeon soon after my mom’s diagnosis and we were told she could have a lumpectomy. I was so happy – any surgery sucks, but I did not want my mom to have to go through what I have with the pain of a double mastectomy followed by implant complications and lingering scars.

We really were hoping that this surgery would be the biggest hurdle and that she could forgo chemotherapy and would only need to follow up with rounds of radiation. But unfortunately, when we went to the follow-up appointment and heard the pathology, we instantly knew chemotherapy would be the next step. My mom was diagnosed with the exact same cancer I had; PR/ER+ Grade 3 – her Stage is 2 (mine was 1A) since it had spread to one lymph node. This hit me the hardest – chemo is not easy for anyone; losing your hair and basically putting your life on hold for four months while you just walk around in a haze while the rest of the world passes you by. I knew she would obviously get through it but the “journey” to get there would not be a fun one.

Experiencing cancer a second time through my mom’s eyes has come with mixed emotions. It’s been hard knowing exactly what my mom is about to experience having been there myself. I know she’ll be fine but I also know that this process will, in fact, change her forever as it has to me.

A few weeks ago we shaved my mom’s head.  I assured her that this may be the hardest part of the whole process. We tried to have fun with it and crack jokes but at the end of the day, her bald head will be a daily reminder that she has cancer.

I am so proud of my mom as she is taking everything in stride and coping extremely well. She has completed three out of eight chemos and so far, the side effects have been bearable. My dad has been a true star (which is not surprising). He has taken a break from work to be her number one caregiver – being there when she doesn’t want to be alone, taking her to every appointment and giving her space when she just wants to feel sorry for herself. As hard as this is for my mom and I, I can’t imagine how my dad must be feeling to have to watch two of the most important women in his life go through this nasty disease.

My mom is scheduled to finish up her chemotherapy at the end of October, ironically falling on breast cancer awareness month as well as my due date month. She will be ringing the chemo bell as I am about to bring a new life into this world. This is one of the hardest things for me to wrap my head around. Although most people think that the end of chemo is the happiest time in a cancer patient’s life, it is, in fact, one of the hardest – you are at your weakest and you are entering into another stage of the “journey”, and sometimes this unknown is a bit scarier than the bi-weekly chemo routine. I’m sad she won’t be at her best when I know it is a time that she would want to be there 100%. But like everything else, I know we will get through it.

Hopefully, after this stint, we will have a break from cancer. I am hoping my daughter will never have to hear those three words: “You have cancer”, but I know we have a way to go. I am worried about what her future will look like, and now, I have a new mission in this community to help the young women’s breast cancer movement to try and find a cure in order to help her have a better future. – By Dory Kashin

Read Dory’s Mom’s post about being diagnosed with breast cancer, here.

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