I was diagnosed with TNBC while pregnant

April 4, 2023

I’ve contemplated sharing my story for a while, and today, looking at my daughter who was part of that story, I realized how important it is to share. I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer at 8 weeks pregnant. 

Our journey began when I went in for my 8-week appointment to confirm my pregnancy — I was so full of joy and excitement. During that visit, my doctor asked me if I had felt the lump that was in my left breast. I had let her know I did feel it, but since our bodies do crazy things while pregnant, I thought it was due to pregnancy. My doctor sent me for additional testing, a biopsy and ultrasound. I thank my lucky stars daily that she took it so seriously. I was able to get the additional testing scheduled and completed with results a few days later. 

I will never forget that phone call, we were just getting ready to go on a family vacation. My husband was at the store picking up last minute things and we were going to meet at home to start packing up the car. I remember feeling numb, almost like I knew life as I knew it would never be the same — I would never be the same. My first thought was How can this be happening? How do I fight this? Most importantly what does this mean for my baby?  The next few days were a blur scheduling appointments, canceling our trip, and tears — a lot a lot of tears. I was thankful my surgeon scheduled me 3 days after I was diagnosed. I remember sitting in the office thinking this is it, this is when we find out if it is even possible to continue this pregnancy and get treatment. The relief I felt when he let us know that it was possible was tremendous. 

Since I was pregnant there were a lot of moving pieces that had to be considered and worked out — timing was everything. I had my port placed at the start of the 2nd trimester with chemo starting the next day. I did 8 total rounds of chemotherapy followed by a lumpectomy 4 weeks later. My lumpectomy did show margins that were not clear, so I would have to go back for a 2nd lumpectomy.  

My daughter had her own plan to come early, before my second surgery. In some ways, I think that girl has always been looking out for me. She knew she was strong enough and that my mind and body needed a breather. She was born at 33 weeks. She was beautiful and overall healthy, but she did spend about 2 weeks in the NICU and during that time I was able to have my 2nd surgery. After surgery I completed radiation, and currently I am taking a chemotherapy pill.

I am sharing my story because being diagnosed with breast cancer while being pregnant isn’t talked about enough, and I hope my story encourages other women to advocate for themselves. I didn’t even know this was a possibility for me. I was so fortunate to have doctors looking out for me and my daughter during this difficult journey, but so many times I hear about women feeling a lump and it being dismissed, especially during pregnancy. During all of my treatment I was constantly followed and checked on by my high-risk OB, surgeon, oncologist, and radiation oncologist, but I also made it a point to make sure they were all communicating with each other. It was important to make sure that the members of my medical team were all on the same page for me and for my daughter, and they were doing what would give us both the best outcome possible.

Our journey is not something I would wish for anyone to have to go through, but I think it is important to share so other women who are diagnosed with breast cancer while pregnant know it is possible to get through this and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It is so important to advocate for yourself and know your body. Now, I will always encourage someone to talk to their doctor if something doesn’t feel right. Don’t just assume it’s nothing or chalk it up to body changes from pregnancy like I did.

I’ll share my story with my daughter someday, and I hope I can adequately tell her how much strength, joy, and hope she gave me during some of my darkest days navigating cancer. — Katey Boldt

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