I Found Out About My Pregnancy and Breast Cancer On The Same Day
The day my second pregnancy was confirmed was also the day my doctor discovered a tumor in my right breast. I had always happily outsourced my breast care and had never had any health issues. Six weeks later I was told that I had breast cancer. I went back home, got into the car and cried whilst my husband drove me and our 18-month-old son 400 km up North to our new home.
That same evening, I started my research and soaked up any information I could find about my diagnosis. So I knew better when my local doctor implied that I would need to terminate my pregnancy. Gathering knowledge was my way to make sense and, to a certain degree, control my entry into “Cancerland”. I chose my doctors wisely and decided to have my operation in a small, but well known, hospital. Ten days after my operation, I travelled across the country to talk to one of the leading experts on cancer during pregnancy for a second opinion. Following her recommendation, I continued my treatment at a university hospital, which had experience with cases like mine, and where I could give birth, too. I felt confident that my treatment would not endanger my daughter’s health. As for me, I knew I had no other option but to survive THIS. For my unborn daughter, my son and my husband, but also for my parents, who had lost my brother at the age of 18.
So, there I was in a situation so bizarre and contradictory that I was struggling to comprehend it in its entire complexity. Pregnant and due to give life, but with my own life under threat. Taking medication targeting cell growth whilst, inside my womb, my child was quickly amassing cells for its own growth. Aware that my pregnancy was feeding my cancer, because it was sensitive to estrogen. Wanting to trust my body, especially its innate ability to heal, whilst feeling utterly disappointed by it. And this was just the inner struggle. But I made it through. Chemotherapy wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. Apparently, the side effects are lower during pregnancy. I never went bald altogether, which comforted me, because I felt alien enough as I was – both, inside and outside “Cancerland”.
All the while, I still attended a normal prenatal class and found that nature and yoga supported me during these challenging times. Yoga, or rather Yoga Nidra, saved me when I developed contractions prematurely in week 29 after the chemotherapy medication had been changed. The doctors were at a loss and I ended up in hospital twice. Then, I started listening to the Yoga Nidra tape on the way to the clinic and during the actual chemotherapy, and the contractions never appeared again.
In week 36 of my pregnancy after 11 out of 16 scheduled chemotherapy sessions under my belt, it was time for my daughter to leave my womb. Her birth was induced, but one day later, I could deliver our wonderful and perfectly healthy daughter naturally. We named her “Zoe”, which means “life” in ancient Greek. All in all, it seemed like a perfectly normal birth apart from a few minor facts. My daughter had more hair on her head than me, I was promptly given medication to prevent lactation, and my oncologist rushed in not only to congratulate me, but also to secure my placenta for research purposes. I stayed in hospital for a week, picked up my next chemo and went home with my family. Slowly, my lack of sleep, and the last rounds of chemotherapy took their toll, but my parents supported us tremendously well. After radiotherapy, I went into rehabilitation together with all of my family.
Life went on since then. Zoe is now 7 years old and absolutely healthy. There is still limited knowledge about possible long-term effects of my treatment on chemobabies like her. Therefore, she will participate in a study at the university hospital in Leuven, Belgium, until the age of 18. As for my own health: Work-in-progress, I would say. – Katrin R-U