'Will My Baby Be OK?'
Two-thousand fifteen was going to be a good year.
I was a newlywed. I had just returned from my honeymoon and had found out I was pregnant. I had looked forward to pregnancy my whole life, and as a music teacher for infants and toddlers, I definitely had a case of baby fever.
I dreamed of cute maternity dresses, prenatal yoga, baby bump pictures, and eating all the food I desired. I wasted no time Googling fetal development and pregnancy symptoms. I pulled all-nighters designing the nursery on Pinterest. I was too excited to mind any of the first trimester annoyances like needing to pee every hour or having sore boobs.
While massaging those sore boobs one night, I was surprised to feel a small hard lump in my left breast. A sinking feeling stayed with me as I made an appointment for an ultrasound and a biopsy. The doctors assured me it was probably nothing, so I put the lump out of my mind and focused on my baby bump.
At 8 weeks I finally had a visit with my OB/GYN, and my husband and I got to see our raspberry-sized baby for the first time! It seemed things were going perfectly, until our happiness was cut short when 2 hours later I got the phone call that I had breast cancer — stage IIA triple-negative invasive ductal carcinoma.
The only question I was able to form was, “Will my baby be OK?”
The doctor hesitated and replied, “I don’t know.”
I was prepared for morning sickness. I was prepared for stretch marks. I was not prepared for cancer. I still shudder when I think about that phone call and the hours and days that followed. I sobbed as I wondered what would happen to the tiny baby I had already grown so attached to.
I screamed that it wasn’t fair. I was a vegetarian, in great shape and thought I had been doing everything right. I exhausted myself trying to figure out what I did to cause this. I was 33, healthy and pregnant. This wasn’t supposed to happen to people like me.
But it did.
Since my diagnosis, I have met dozens of women who were diagnosed with cancer during pregnancy. And from all these other moms, I found hope. I realized that I wasn’t alone. My cancer mama friends are what got me through some of the hardest moments of my diagnosis. They answered the scary questions that kept me up at night. They gave me the courage I needed to finally shave my head when I couldn’t take the clumps of hair coming out in my brush from the chemotherapy.
I believe I might have drowned in darkness that first weekend after my diagnosis if it hadn’t been for the help of these brave women. They gave me hope that my baby and I could fight cancer together and come out stronger on the other side.
My miracle baby, Nico, made his appearance at 35 weeks, on Sept. 15, 2015. He was tiny, but otherwise absolutely perfect, with a full head of hair.
Words cannot describe our bond, or the love and pride I feel when I look at his sweet face.
But with that love comes more worry. I finished up treatment on Christmas Eve, and the cancer appears to be gone, but for how long? What if it comes back? How much time do I have with him? These are questions I just can’t dwell on. Nico needs his mommy to be strong. My goal this year is to cherish every single second I have with my little warrior baby.
Lauren Smoke was photographed for, and contributed to, the content of the newest title in our Breast Cancer inFocus Series, Breast Cancer During Pregnancy.