Pregnant with Cancer @ 16 September 2010 02:52 PM

My name is Sandi. I am a 34 year old mother of four beautiful little girls ages 13, 10, 8 and 2. They keep me on my toes. My life right now is going great. I am a full time nursing student and finally accomplishing all that I dreamed of. It wasn't easy getting here though.

Around 2004 I had begun to feel "off". I won't say I felt sick. For the most part I felt fine. There were small little things that I noticed that were different. I attributed them to getting old. Yes I was just about 28 years old but I still told myself it was age. First I noticed a tightness in my chest. It was very very subtle. I told myself I was silly. Then I noticed what seemed to be allergies I didn't used to have. Dust would make my throat itchy and I would wheeze. I had never done that before. I began to feel a slight pressure on my lower neck. It was more annoying than anything.

One day when seeing my regular doctor they felt a thyroid nodule in my neck. I immediately told myself that is what it was! That is what the pressure and tightness was. It explained it all. So they sent me in for a sonogram. They said I had 4 nodules but they weren't big enough to be a problem so I should come back in 3 months. They would monitor the growth.

Fast forward to 2005. The pressure in my neck was becoming very unbearable. It worsened a lot. It felt as though someone was pressing their thumbs into the sides of my neck 24/7. I felt like I had a golf ball lodged in my throat. I still thought it was thyroid. I went in every 3 months praying they would say it was growing and then just take it out. It was that bad. I also noticed that whenever I had any pressure on my chest I would cough and gag. It was getting harder to breathe. I felt just slightly short of breath. I ran out of breath doing things that never used to bother me. My husband couldn't hug me without causing me to choke. I don't know why I just accepted that it was my thyroid but I did. I figured the doctors must know.

I saw an endocrinologist finally and they did a fine needle biopsy on my nodules. I had a thyroid scan and many blood draws checking the thyroid levels. I saw an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist who made me swallow a camera to look inside my throat. I was prescribed Singular and Allegra. I was told I had allergies and may be developing asthma. I had a CT of my sinuses. (Still no idea why they did that) I would wheeze often now and at night it was always harder to breathe.

There are many details but long story short I saw many more doctors, the symptoms continued to worsen to the point that I couldn't even hold a conversation on the phone without running out of breath. In 2007 we moved. During that move I became much worse. I had to sleep with 5 pillows behind my back. Secretly I was coughing up the occasional bit of blood. I didn't want to admit it. I didn't want to tell anyone. I thought something was so wrong but no one could find it. I couldn't put my hair up in a ponytail because it strangled me. My face turned red, and my neck veins bulged out.

Then I found out I was pregnant. I didn't plan it. It was a shock to be sure. I didn't know what to make of it because I felt so sick. I didn't know how I would give birth. Two weeks after the positive pregnancy test the doctors finally figured out what was wrong with me. I had Hodgkin's Lymphoma. I was diagnosed with cancer and I was about 7 weeks pregnant. I couldn't comprehend how I could possibly have a healthy baby while cancer was growing inside of me as well. I had a major biopsy surgery on May 4, 2007. I had to have the surgery sitting up. I couldn't lie flat at all. On May 22, 2007 I sat in a chair and had the first of 12 chemo treatments. I had seen a specialist. I had talked to my doctor. I had talked to my OB. I was seeing a high risk OB. I was given anesthesia for my surgery that they use on a child. All precautions were taken to protect my baby. But ultimately we didn't know. I had no idea how it would affect her, nor did the doctors really. You can't exactly get a study of pregnant women together and try to find out how chemotherapy might affect their babies. I found great information online from the Hope For Two Network though. It happens more often than you think. Cancer can coincide with pregnancy.

I just put all the faith I had in God and pressed on. I sat in that chair and watched the medicine that would potentially save my life and hopefully my babies too, go into my body. My final chemotherapy was on October 23, 2007. I did go into the hospital with preterm contractions twice. During my final two chemotherapy treatments they did cause some Braxton Hicks type of contractions that really wouldn't stop. I had to go in the first time and they gave me steroid injections for her lungs. That was a real reality check. Then they gave me meds to stop the contractions. Finally on day 5 I got out of the hospital. The day of my last chemo I felt the contractions again. I had a little chemo graduation ceremony right after. I hit a gong as a symbol to start my new life in a survivor. Then I went to the hospital and had to be given medicine to stop my contractions again. This time it was only over night.

On November 17th 2007 I delivered a beautiful, perfectly healthy baby girl. We named her Gabriella which means strong, by faith in God. And her middle name Faith for obvious reasons. She's my little miracle baby. She made it through all of that and is here with us today, as much a survivor as I am. On December 3, 2007 I began radiation treatments with her in tow. I had 17 treatments almost every single day (minus weekends and holidays). Then on February 8, 2008 I was declared cancer free. I was officially a survivor. 2 years later I am still in remission and went back to school again. I had already been in school taking prerequisites since 2005. I did all of that feeling sick. I had to take a break after diagnosis of course. I applied for the nursing school of my dreams and was literally accepted in a few months time. I rushed to get the remaining required courses done and now I am in my second semester of Nursing School. I have come a long way. Gabbi will celebrate her 3rd birthday in November. We both overcame great odds to be here today. I am thankful for how this experience has made me grow and appreciate life. I am thankful for my family who got me through all of this. They gave me the strength to fight and to believe!


September is Lymphoma Awareness Month. Learn more about this disease on Sandi's website.

Article Posted by Gary Petrie (Co-owner of

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