Receiving the news that you have breast cancer is difficult and life-changing information. But, what happens if you're pregnant and receive this news?
Being diagnosed with breast cancer is the last thing you want to deal with, let alone when you have the happy news that you're pregnant. There is still such a stigma connected to breast cancer that it only happens later in life, and after menopause. But, as we've mentioned in previous blogs, breast cancer doesn't discriminate. It doesn't pay attention to age or sex. Women and men at all stages of life are vulnerable and susceptible to breast cancer, and that includes pregnant mothers. Being pregnant and expecting a child should always be a time of joy and happiness, but a diagnosis of breast cancer changes all of that. What does this mean for you and the baby? How will this change your treatments? What will the next nine months of pregnancy look like? This will be a delicate and complicated journey, one you need to plan very carefully with your obstetrician and your oncologist. You need to be very well informed about your choices and options, and to choose what path is best for you and your baby. These decisions and the treatments need to focus on not just getting rid of or treating your cancer. They also need to be chosen to keep your baby safe and healthy as well. This limits and changes what kind of treatment options are available to you and when exactly you can receive them throughout your three trimesters.
The positive news is that yes, as a pregnant woman, you treat your breast cancer. The tricky part is deciding what route you can safely go to protect your baby and still conquer your cancer. This all depends on a handful of factors. They include how healthy you are overall, how far along you are in your pregnancy if the cancer has started to spread and if it has where it has spread to, the size of your cancerous tumor, and where that tumor is located. For a pregnant woman, two of the safest options are surgery and chemotherapy, while radiation and other hormonal therapy treatments are recommended to be avoided until after you've delivered.
This treatment is safe for babies in the second or third trimester, but not in the first. In the first trimester, some of the most important development and growth occurs, and chemo can seriously interfere in that process. It also runs a higher risk of losing the baby if chemo is used during this time as well. Many of you might be skeptical that chemo is safe at any stage of pregnancy, but studies have shown that when using certain chemo drugs like cyclophosphamide and doxorubicin during the last two trimesters of pregnancy is safe. They don't have the risk of birth defects, health problems, or loss of the baby. The only risk studies have found is the risk of an early delivery. If you do decide or need to have surgery during this time, you will be deciding between a mastectomy or a lumpectomy, with follow up treatments of chemo recommended for the second trimester or later. If your diagnosis comes during your final trimester of pregnancy, chemo is usually recommended after the birth of your child. After week 35 of your pregnancy (out of a total of 40) chemo is no longer recommended. Chemo at this point can bring on early delivery, and it also lowers the mother's blood cell count. This lowered cell count can lead to dangerous issues during birth including infection and serious bleeding. Deciding to delay chemo until after the birth allows the mother's blood cell count to return to a healthy level, so the birth can be as safe as possible.
This is one of the safest routes for a pregnant woman to take while battling a cancer diagnosis. It is the safest to do at any trimester, and you don't have to delay it unless your obstetrician recommends otherwise. Mastectomies are generally the most preferred surgery for a pregnant woman. You can have a lumpectomy, removing just the breast tissue that contains cancer, but it does come with a few risks. A lumpectomy generally requires radiation to follow up that surgery, and radiation is not safe for the baby. But, putting off radiation for the mother, if it is needed, is very dangerous and could increase the risk in cancer returning. The only time a lumpectomy is usually recommended with radiation is if the cancer is found during the third trimester. If the surgery is performed close to the due date of the baby or very shortly after, very small wait time or no wait time at all is placed on the recommended radiation treatments. The removal of a lymph node, or possibly a few, are also needed during surgery. There are two different types of lymph node surgeries, one, in particular, being safer than the other. The removal of lymph nodes under your arm called an auxiliary lymph node dissection, which removes multiple lymph nodes, is the first choice. The second is called a sentinel lymph node biopsy. This uses a small amount of blue dye and radioactive tracers that pick out the nodes that could contain cancer. The blue dye and radioactive tracers come with heavy concerns since radiation is very bad for the baby. This treatment, although it may help with removing fewer lymph nodes, is not recommended during pregnancy. It is recommended to happen after pregnancy or late in your trimesters and without the use of the dye.
TREATMENTS AND THINGS TO AVOID
During your pregnancy, there are some treatments and situations you will need to keep you and your baby safe. Keep these in mind as you move forward. Also listed are a few difficult situations that you might have to face, too.
THINGS TO REMEMBER
During this time, you already have a lot on your plate and a lot on your mind. We wanted to leave you with some closing thoughts to remember as you begin this process.
We know and understand the difficulties you are facing during this time. It is unique, scary, and full of unknowns. We want to help you celebrate the joy of your pregnancy, all while helping you conquer your cancer. If you have any concerns or worries, please don't hesitate to reach out to us. We are here to answer your questions, guide you through this process, and discuss any concerns you might have. Know you are never alone, and there is always hope.
Feeling alone, lost, and disconnected from the rest of the world are common feelings while dealing with your breast cancer diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. Feeling like this while raising a family will make it even harder. There are so many resources out there available for those going through the treatments and for those affected by it. Take advantage of them all, they're out there for a reason!
Being a mother with breast cancer is still a surprising topic. Even after the three blogs we've dedicated to the subject, you'll still find people balking at the idea. One of the hardest things is the fact that breast cancer diagnosis usually hit a family when life is already in full swing, and you're already overwhelmed with everything as it is. The treatment will automatically demand your attention when all you want to do as a mother is giving that attention to your children. The battle with giving time and fighting for both survival and your children's livelihood becomes a very tactile one. An exhausting one. A frustrating one. The idea that you have to face the reality of death a lot sooner than you could ever have imagined becomes a daily thought. Even if you do win your battle, recurrence tends to take over the worries in the back of your mind. The battle and worry will never truly be over. Even though you are fighting to beat this disease constantly, your first thought will always be that of your children.
As you fight your diagnosis every day, there are resources out there specifically designed and created to help your children cope. Similar to the resources we mentioned in our last blog, you might need to do some research about what you need and what your community offers. Help is out there, you just need to look for it and welcome it in with open arms.
For the Kids
Summer Camp might sound like the last thing you and your family want to do together or decide to send your children off to during your cancer treatment. But think about it this way - giving them another tool to deal with everything, continue to educate them during the whole process, and introducing them to kids their age going through exactly what they are, can be very empowering. That's exactly what these camps were designed to do. There are many free, low cost, and inexpensive options for summer camps that specialize in helping and connecting children who have been impacted by cancer diagnoses. Again, you just have to do a little research to find what is a good fit for your family. Check out these options below.
For more information visit their website below:
For more information, visit their website below:
Outside of these amazing opportunities to give to your children and yourself, there are still more resources available. Remember that feeling of being alone and lost? I hope these past two blogs have discouraged that feeling. Remember too that these are just the tip of the iceberg. There are more out there than you might realize.
We have talked about what you can do for yourself to make this process as a mother just a little easier on you and your family. Sometimes you need a helping hand, and that's okay. You're fighting a hard enough battle as it is, take advantage of what's out there for you. Please note that there are resources out there like:
We are here to support and guide you, but it is your choice to make this difficult time hurt a little bit less. Step up to the challenge and be willing to say "yes" to these options and more. If you ask for it, the help will come. For even more resources and information, please follow the links below. We will see you next time. Until then, be brave, keep fighting, and know you are not alone.
In this blog, we are going to be discussing the many resources out there for mothers and families dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis. As we move into this new year and you recognize that you might need more help, let go of any embarrassment or shame attached to it. These resources are here for a reason, we urge you to take advantage of them!
Welcome to 2020, friends. We are glad to be here with you, and we are glad that you are reading this blog today. We hope that at this time you are finding solace in your loved ones, fighting hard in your battle, or learning every day from your recovery. In this blog, we are going to be continuing our discussion on how to deal with a breast cancer diagnosis as a mother. We mentioned in our last blog that at times it seems impossible to be a parent and deal with a cancer diagnosis, treatment, and recovery all at the same time. It might feel that way, but we stress that it's not impossible. One of the first steps you have to take is to throw out any idea of doing it perfectly or like anyone else. You are figuring out a plan that is tailored to your family and your treatment. Just like life and parenthood, this process will be a little messy, hectic, planned by the seat of your pants, and filled with love and dedication.
We focused a lot on surrounding yourself with your tribe in our last blog, the strength to say "no" when you need to and to learn to ask for help when you need it. This blog is going to be about the outside resources that can help you and your family and giving you a break on a lot of things out of your control during diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. Choosing to use these resources does take an act of commitment and being confident in using them. There is nothing wrong with utilizing any of them, and no ounce of shame or embarrassment should be placed on you by anyone or yourself if you choose to use these resources. If there is anyone who is giving you a hard time (including yourself!) it might be time to remove those negative people and those negative thoughts out of your life.
There are so many resources out there for you, and what we will be sharing is just the tip of the iceberg. If you require anything during your treatment, there is someone out there who can offer that help to you. Even though this is just a partial list, we are splitting this blog into two parts as not to overwhelm our readers and so you can take in this information as best you can!
Let's start with cleaning. After a particularly long journey of treatment, or even just one very difficult round of chemo, keeping house may be the last thing you want to do or have the energy for. It might be difficult to have a stranger come into your home to clean up. But it can be a huge help and weight off your shoulders during treatment and recovery. Your family will continue to throw toys, dirty laundry, dishes, and clutter around your home, even at the height of your health that can be annoying and exhausting. Let someone else come in and help you deal with that. Plus, a clean and organized home is proven to be relaxing, calming, and guaranteed to provide peace of mind. There are many ways to hire someone or a service to clean your home. If you're in any kind of financial need or want to take advantage of any incredible services available to you, they are out there.
This is where companies like Cleaning For A Reason comes into the picture. They are a nonprofit organization that partners with over 1200 maid services across the country to provide free home cleaning to cancer patients. Their services are open to anyone actively having cancer treatments. It is a highly sought after service, and sadly not every location has partnered with maid services that are connected to this company. But if you can get connected with them, you are eligible for two free cleanings once a month.
For more information, visit their website below:
Next, let's talk about dinner. Grocery shopping, prepping, and making three meals a day for your family 365 days a year is a lot for anyone. This shouldn't be an added stress during your treatment, and with all the resources out there, it doesn't have to be. If you need a service to do your grocery shopping and have them delivered, plenty of grocery stores offer that option. You can also have them delivered through Amazon and Google, along with a plethora of other apps like Shipt, Instacart, Peapod, Fresh Direct, and more! You can also get already prepared meals delivered to your home that you have to assemble or warm up and enjoy. Companies like Blue Apron, Home Chef, Hello Fresh, and Freshly are just a click away if you are looking for something like that.
There are also numerous and wonderful companies and foundations out there who deliver home-cooked healthy meals for free for families dealing with cancer diagnosis and treatment. We recommend looking locally for these resources, as most of them are not nationally based. Start looking at local churches, Meals on Wheels, and other similar foundations. But to start, check out the resources below.
We hope this helped open up your mind to some of the amazing resources out there available to you. They might be the hardest to say "yes" to since they interfere and intervene on some of the most basic and personal household duties. But these are also some of the most important duties that affect both you and your children. Keep that in mind when deciding if they are the right choice for you or not.
In our next blog, we will be discussing some of the resources available specifically for your children during your diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. Keep in mind that there are a lot of resources just for them, so please take comfort in that. Until next time stay positive, fight hard, and remember that you are not alone.