Saturday, July 19, 2014

Another Life-Affirming Cancer While Pregnant Story

I am always happy when there is another article discussing cancer while pregnant and that abortion is not an option. When I was diagnosed in 2009, I'd never heard of any one having cancer while pregnant. If I'd strained my brain, I probably could have speculated that it happened, but it was not something on the my radar. I think that's true of most people -- cancer happens and women get pregnant, but those are separate entities. So any awareness of cancer while pregnant is good. Awareness of treatment choices for cancer while pregnant being better than abortion is excellent

Awareness does not always lead to the broadcast of correct medical information about all the viable options - surgery, chemotherapy, or surveillance until the natural end of pregnancy. Many articles give hero status to women who refuse any treatment (including abortion) during pregnancy. It is obviously an excellent decision to continue the pregnancy despite a cancer diagnosis. However, the awareness of chemotherapy's safety while pregnant suffers when pregnant women are quoted as refusing chemotherapy due to its 'risk' to the baby. Obviously, these women are brave for continuing the pregnancy and they are also brave for making the decision to wait until after their baby's birth to begin treatment. I have no issue with women who choose this option. It is equally brave and heroic to continue the pregnancy while choosing to receive chemotherapy. My issue stems from the implied or blatant dismissal of this latter choice. 

Statements like, 

"chemo is safe during pregnancy but “any time you place chemicals into your body you are placing your child at risk and even possible miscarriage.”" (From this article: http://www.lifenews.com/2014/07/18/mother-pregnant-with-her-10th-child-refuses-cancer-treatment-and-abortion/ )
                         are misleading at best and derogatory at worst. Many people will completely miss the admission that chemotherapy is safe during pregnancy due to the wording of the rest of the statement. These people will only remember that this woman was a brave hero for refusing to 'risk' her baby's life to save her own. They'll take her opinion* that chemicals (chemotherapy) increase the risk of miscarriage and other harm to heart. This particular woman had surgery while pregnant -- most likely with chemicals (sedatives and anesthetics) given during the operation -- apparently without problem or risk of her child. Little or no thought will be given to the actual medical facts of chemotherapy while pregnant. That lack of thought can be dangerous and discouraging for women who choose chemotherapy while pregnant based on their doctor's advice and their situation. 

Every pregnancy is most vulnerable during the first trimester. Women have a higher risk of miscarriage in the first trimester. Once the second trimester begins, the miscarriage risk decreases significantly and continues to decrease as pregnancy progresses. The risk of birth defects is also most significant in the first trimester. Most of the vital forming of the baby happens in the first trimester - differentiating a single cell into various organs and putting all body parts in the right anatomical place. Various chemicals, whether in abundance (alcohol) or not enough (folic acid), can create life-long errors in formation during this trimester.  For that reason, to my knowledge, chemotherapy will only be initiated after the vulnerable first trimester of pregnancy. 



I was pretty high risk for miscarriage without addition problems (I miscarried 4 times prior to my last pregnancy), but when I was given the option of chemotherapy while pregnant, I was reassured that doing so would not increase my risk. Both my Oncologist and the Maternal-Fetal OB were asked a bazillion questions about that aspect intentionally. An increased likelihood of early contractions were one of the biggest 'risks' associated with chemotherapy during pregnancy according to the Maternal-Fetal OB that I saw in Houston, TX. She actually didn't bring it up until I told her I'd been noticing contractions ever since my diagnosis. However, she again assured me that a) any time you stress a pregnant woman she's likely to have contractions and b) those contractions are rarely 'productive' and therefore not a true risk to the baby. All other risks during chemotherapy pregnancy were similar whether chemotherapy was used or not. My increased risk of miscarriage remained whether I had chemotherapy or not.

I ran into people online and in real life that told me I made a selfish decision to have chemo while I was pregnant based on this thought. It made my reality even more difficult as people questioned my respect and love for my unborn baby. In fact, at one point I had (a few) someone(s) baldly tell me that my decision was *not* pro-life or even Catholic based on their perceived risk(s) posed to the unborn child during chemotherapy. To them, it did not matter that I had an oncologist who specialized in pregnant patients receiving chemotherapy. Her reassurances and research in this area was dismissed based on their ignorance and perception of what was 'healthy' for me and my unborn child. My referral to a Maternal-Fetal OB specialist and her advice was also dismissed. Constant monitoring, measuring, and visualizations ordered by this specialist amounted to nothing in the eyes of my detractors. Life-long respect for life, adherence to the teachings of the Catholic Church, and my own bio-medical education meant nothing to these detractors as they were obviously more pro-life and Catholic than I. I could go on and on, but suffice it to say that while I knew I'd made the best decision for me and my baby, these words of detraction resulted in increased fear, stress, doubts, depression, and anxiety. These derogatory words were probably more detrimental to my pregnancy than the actual chemotherapy was. 

I'm all for awareness of cancer while pregnant and chemotherapy while pregnant. While I hate that women face such struggles, I'm always happy to read an article giving the true life-affirming options of continuing the pregnancy with or without chemotherapy. Such articles will hopefully educate people about this devastating situation and give these women hope for their baby's and their own lives. However, I am saddened when opting for chemotherapy while pregnant is indirectly implied to be as bad a choice as abortion. Nothing could be further from the truth. While everyone is entitled to their opinions, it is crucial that medical realities aren't supplanted by emotional opinions. A devastating cancer diagnosis while pregnant is difficult and stressful enough without adding further confusion to the matter based on erroneous opinions. Let everyone know that a diagnosis of cancer while pregnant isn't a death sentence to either the woman or her child - both can live through chemotherapy, surgery, or the natural end of pregnancy. 

Moral of the story: Abortion is *never* in the baby's best interest. Cancer during pregnancy can be survived by both. Viable options include chemotherapy, surgery, and surveillance until the natural end of pregnancy. Mother and baby can survive and thrive despite a cancer diagnosis regardless of which of these treatment options is chosen. 

*I am in no means trying to denigrate this woman for her opinion or choice. Nor am I trying to lay guilt on her doorstep for her choice or opinion. She is a brave and heroic woman for resisting the oft-repeated option of aborting her child. I give her great kudos for that decision alone. I also give her and her family my prayers as they continue through this struggle. She has as my full sympathy and support during this time of difficulty. May God bless her and keep her healthy. 

Medical and Media References to Chemotherapy During Pregnancy

http://breastcancer.theoncologist.com/article/case-control-study-women-treated-chemotherapy-breast-cancer-during-pregnancy-compared - I'm more than likely included in the number of pregnant women treated with chemotherapy in this journal article by my Breast Oncologist, JK Litton. This one also shows that there is improved outcomes in pregnant patients verses non-pregnant patients.

http://www2.mdanderson.org/depts/oncolog/articles/11/10-oct/10-11-1.html - My Breast Oncologist at MD Anderson is in this one too.

http://connection.asco.org/magazine/article/id/2857/active-cancer-treatment-during-pregnancytwo-perspectives-on-timing-and-drug-choice.aspx - Another article by my Breast Oncologist. The second half of the 'debate' on this page, to me, displays someone desperate to find an excuse to worry. Note the large number of references used by my Breast Oncologist verses the solitary reference used by her 'opponent'. 

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2753540/ - Another article by my Breast Oncologist in full text presentation.

http://www.mdanderson.org/transcripts/Breast_Cancer_and_Pregnancy_Transcript.html - Another interview with my Breast Oncologist. This is a terrible transcript with numerous typos, but the gist is the same as the others.

http://www.news-medical.net/news/20120822/Chemotherapy-during-pregnancy-an-interview-with-Professor-Sibylle-Loibl.aspx - The doctor interviewed here said that she hopes no more "unnecessary terminations" are carried out on pregnant women with cancer. 

http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/05/16/pregnant.with.cancer/index.html - Another one with my Breast Oncologist in it.











2 comments:

  1. THE APOSTLE PAUL'S CONVERSION BY STEVE FINNELL

    Before discussing Saul's conversion we need to establish a point of fact. You cannot become a Christian and have unforgiven sins. If your sins have been forgiven you are a Christian. If you are a Christian then your sins have been forgiven. It is impossible to separate forgiveness, from being in Christ. How could you say I became a Christian last night but my sins were not forgiven? By the same reasoning you could not assert that I had my sins forgiven last night but I am not a Christian.

    What is true for us, was true for the apostle Paul.

    Acts 9:3-6 As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; 4 and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" 5 And he said, "Who are You Lord?" And He said, "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, 6 but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what to do."

    Saul obviously believed in Jesus at this point, yet he was still not forgiven of his sins; therefore he was not a Christian. Paul was not saved by "FAITH ONLY."

    Acts 9:9-11 And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank. 10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, "Ananias." And he said, "Here I am Lord." 11 And the Lord said to him, "Get up and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying,

    Saul believed that Jesus was Lord.
    Saul repented.
    Saul fasted and prayed for three days.
    After three days on the road to Damascus Saul was still not forgiven of his sins. Saul was not saved by faith alone, Saul was not saved by repenting alone. Saul was not saved by praying and fasting. SAUL WAS NOT SAVED ON THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS.

    Acts 22:12-16 "A certain Ananias....13 came to me....16 Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.'

    Saul's sins were forgiven after he was baptized in water, not before.

    Galatians 3:27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

    Saul was not a Christian until he was baptized into Christ.

    Mark 16:16 He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved......

    Saul was not saved until he was immersed in water.

    Acts 2:38...and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of you sins....

    Saul sins where not forgiven until he was baptized in water.

    Paul was saved the way all men are saved. FAITH John 3:16---REPENTANCE Acts 3:19---CONFESSION Romans 10:9-19---WATER BAPTISM Acts 2:38

    YOU CANNOT SEPARATE BECOMING A CHRISTIAN AND FORGIVENESS OF SINS!

    PAUL WAS NOT SAVED ON THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS----PAUL WAS SAVED IN DAMASCUS.


    YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY BLOG. http//:steve-finnell.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. maggie.danhakl@healthline.com7/31/2014

    Hello Erika,

    I hope all is well. Healthline just published these inspiring quotes about breast cancer from celebrities who battled the disease. Our audience really enjoyed them and gave us great feedback on how powerful and inspirational they are. You can see them here: http://www.healthline.com/health/breast-cancer/quotes

    I thought they would be of interest to your followers as well, and I wanted to see if you would include it as a resource on your page: http://erikasmiraclejourney.blogspot.com/

    Please let me know if this would be possible. I’m happy to answer any other questions as well.

    Thanks so much!
    Maggie Danhakl • Assistant Marketing Manager
    p: 415-281-3124 f: 415-281-3199

    Healthline • The Power of Intelligent Health
    660 Third Street, San Francisco, CA 94107
    www.healthline.com | @Healthline | @HealthlineCorp

    About Us: corp.healthline.com

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My Chemo-Jane hair-style

My Chemo-Jane hair-style
I just had to have my mom buzz my hair because it was falling out so badly.

Pre-op wearing my hand-crocheted cap with my prayer shawl.

Pre-op wearing my hand-crocheted cap with my prayer shawl.
My loving husband is watching me distract myself with a game on his iPhone.

2 days after my BMX w/ 100ccs in the TEs

2 days after my BMX w/ 100ccs in the TEs
I even have a fashionable belt to hold up my drains.

3 weeks post-op w/ 400ccs in each TE

3 weeks post-op w/ 400ccs in each TE
The smile is fake because the TEs were irritating!