This week is cancer and pregnancy awareness week. To be told you have cancer is devastating enough, let alone being diagnosed when your pregnant. Cancer and pregnancy are both major life events. To deal with both at the same time is extremely hard and they are both different ends of the spectrum, cancer being devastating and distressing but pregnancy being a happy and positive time.
Carl and I were overjoyed when we found out we were expecting our 2nd child. It took us longer to fall pregnant than it did the first time which was stressful in itself, there’s no better feeling than seeing a positive pregnancy test after many negative ones. I hardly had any pregnancy symptoms when I was carrying Sienna but I seemed to have even less this time round. It was hard to believe I was pregnant at times. Then the unimaginable happened.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 22 weeks pregnant, I’m now approaching 36 weeks. To say the diagnosis has took the shine of my pregnancy would be an understatement. I haven’t been able to enjoy it as much as I wanted to, especially knowing it’s my last time. I only ever wanted 2 children. Also, its an extra special time as my sister is pregnant with her second and due 2 weeks before me. A time that we should be able to embrace and enjoy together.
Although cancer during pregnancy is rare, unfortunately it happens. One of my main worries was whether the baby would be at risk from me having cancer. Although anything is a risk to the baby after being diagnosed with cancer, cancer cells would have to pass through the natural barrier of the placenta. However, this is very rare and it is even rarer for cancer cells to spread to the baby.
Being pregnant when diagnosed with cancer complicates things but from the second trimester it is a lot safer to have an operation or start chemotherapy as the baby is developing quickly and has all its vital organs. If I was in the first trimester I would have had a hard decision to make to terminate my pregnancy so that treatment could start. Luckily, I was in the second trimester and due to having a Grade 3 cancer (fast growing) I was able to be operated on straight away and start chemotherapy once I had healed from my 2 operations. The thought of going through 2 operations being pregnant was bad enough but the thought of having chemotherapy was even worse. The drugs kill cancer cells but also affect healthy ones. Its hard to believe that chemotherapy doesn’t have an affect on the baby and it does not develop any differently to someone carrying a baby who hasn’t had chemotherapy.
I started chemotherapy when I had just turned 30 weeks pregnant. I’ve coped quite well so far but I am only on a 75% dose rather than 100% due to being pregnant, but once I’ve had the baby I will be going onto the full dose. Being in the third trimester is exhausting in itself let alone having the side effects of chemotherapy. After my second dose I was physically exhausted for a week and a half. From the minute I opened my eyes in the morning the day was a struggle to get through without having a sleep in the afternoon. Then you have the emotional aspect. Being pregnant your hormones are all over the place but chemotherapy puts an even bigger strain on the emotional side. I have my third does of chemotherapy this Saturday, which I’m dreading as I’ve heard from a few people this one takes it out of you even more than the first 2. Once I have given birth I will be starting the next lot of chemotherapy 2 weeks after.
Since being diagnosed I have been under the Silver Star at the John Radcliffe Hospital which is for high risk pregnancies. I see a consultant and have an ultrasound scan every 3 weeks to check the baby is growing as it should be. Today I had my 36 week scan and baby is perfect, growing as it should be and showing no signs of distress which was a huge relief. It was so lovely to see on the screen even though we had seen it 3 weeks previous. Sienna came along to this scan and she loved seeing her little brother or sister, she was waving at the screen saying ‘come out now baby, that’s my brother or sister’.
I can not wait to hold my miracle baby in my arms in around 4 weeks time. Its going to be a big relief knowing our baby has arrived and is perfectly healthy after going through everything with me the last few months. The whole way through its never just been about me, its me and the baby. It will be a strange feeling carrying on with treatment once the baby is born by myself. It has been a big comfort to me having bump to hold onto and feeling it kicking away but it will be a lot easier on my body to go through chemotherapy without being pregnant. The further I get in my pregnancy the harder its becoming to cope with both things going on in my body. But on the flip side I have been able to enjoy my pregnancy a lot more since recovering from the operations and getting my head around the diagnosis, if that’s ever possible.