I need you to stay home for me, my MBC and my premature newborn
If you would have told me how life was going to turn out this time last year, I would have said there is no possible way that could all happen to one person. In a nutshell, in the middle of a worldwide coronavirus pandemic, I brought home a baby which was born prematurely at 27 weeks, while going through chemotherapy for metastatic breast cancer. It’s a lot to take all in one sentence, so let me tell you what the past few months have looked like.
The original cancer diagnosis came just five weeks into my pregnancy. The biopsy results were dropped on me like a ton of bricks. I was reassured that surgery and treatment can be done safely during pregnancy. Surgery went well and treatment was set to start at the beginning of November. Cancer had other plans. Before the lumpectomy, I felt something was wrong in my body. My back ached and I couldn’t get out of bed on some days. I was told this was normal during pregnancy until it wasn’t. An emergency MRI showed diffuse lesions throughout my spine. The cancer diagnosis changed to stage 4, metastatic breast cancer. Along with these lesions, I had seven broken vertebrae and five broken ribs. Chemotherapy needed to start right away to start fighting.
My daughter was due at the beginning of April 2020 but was actually born in January 2020. She was only 1 lb 10 oz at birth. There was no rhyme or reason to her premature arrival. My water broke early and it could have happened to anyone. Just my luck that it happened to us. She was so tiny and looked so fragile.
She rocked the NICU and every week she was passing milestones. Slowly but surely, she grew, she developed and eventually was big and strong enough to go home in March. The week prior to her leaving the NICU, the hospital had stopped all visitors into the NICU because of the pandemic. The week she did go home, only one parent a day was allowed. Now many NICUs don’t allow any visitors including parents. The possibility of a COVID-19 outbreak in the NICU is something that no one wants to happen. It is something I worried about every single day while she was in there. It was a huge relief to get her home but now that she is, I need to protect her myself.
My husband and I started self-isolating way before the government put in the extra measures. He works from home and I haven’t been able to work since the fall. Currently, the riskiest thing I do is go to the hospital to get chemotherapy in hopes of extending my life long enough to see my daughter grow up.
There have been a lot of changes in the medical day care unit. No one is allowed company during their treatments. The number of patients is reduced significantly. Today, I found out that the hospital pharmacy is in isolation and the pharmacists that would normally be making sure everyone is taking their pre- and post-meds properly are working remotely. I also found out that a patient was treated two weeks ago and was later confirmed to be positive for COVID-19. This means that everyone that was there on that day can get tested. Even with heavy screening, I wasn’t protected fully from the coronavirus.
I am relying on everyone in my city to follow the recommendations. I need to go out at least once a week, because my treatment is mandatory. I need to trust that people at the hospital are there only because they have to be. I have to believe that people are not lying when they get screened in the hospital lobby. And lastly, I have to hope that people stay home so that I can continue to be stable.
I think that most people understand the gravity of the current situation with the novel coronavirus in terms of themselves getting sick. Maybe you will get a little cold and have to stay home. For me, I worry my immune system may be busy fighting something else in my body and a “cold” would just be too much. But mostly, I am terrified that coming home from the hospital puts my daughter at a greater risk. Being born premature, her immune system is underdeveloped. The antibodies that she would have built up in utero are not there.
I need everyone to stay home for me, for my cancer and for my newborn. – Margaret Loniewska