A little over 11 years ago, I was buying my first home, with my then boyfriend, soon to be husband,(now ex-husband)Scott. It was a very exciting time in our lives, we were somewhat young and happy to be in a position to live in a house instead of renting an apartment. We were planning a wedding in the near future but there was no firm date set.
When we were least expecting it, I became pregnant! It did come as quite a shock to us, but as I always say, never question God’s master plan……things happen for a reason. We decided to get a jump on the wedding because we both wanted to be married before our child was born. My Mom and I planned a wedding in less than 3 months and we were married in Sept of 1997.
Both of us were extremely excited about being in a new home, a new marriage and having a brand new baby on the way……no one could have prepared us for the life changing circumstances that we were about to be face.
A week after our wedding, I had an ultrasound and found out I was having a baby boy…..we were so excited………we got a glowing report from the doctor that said he was a very healthy little boy with 10 fingers and 10 toes! I breathed a huge sigh of relief to know that everything was moving according to schedule! As soon as we let our family know we were about to give birth to a beautiful little boy, the major shopping began…..our first child, my parents first grandchild….enough said!!
Shortly after we found out that we were having a boy we painfully played the name game…..it took maybe two weeks and then we both agreed…..Nicolas Anthony!
A couple weeks later I went in for a routine check up…..they saw a spot on my cervix and ran some tests…..no one said too much, but I do remember the look on the doctor’s face as I left the office.
The following week I got a phone call……”The Phone Call”…..I will never forget this day as long as I live….I was home alone and my Mom was on her way over to have dinner with me, it was the week of Thanksgiving and my husband was hunting up at his families cabin, 1 hour North of us with no cell phone service…….The nurse called and asked me to hold on the line for the doc, he told me that I had Cervical Cancer……they had arranged for me to meet with an Oncologist, and a Neonatologist. My head was spinning at this point and the only thing I heard was “CANCER” honestly I hung up the phone and had two dates written on a piece of paper but I had no idea what it meant…..I paced back and forth for what seemed like hours, but it was only minutes. I kept looking out the front door for my Mom to pull up……I finally saw her car coming down the street and I went running down the drive way….I was half screaming half crying trying to explain to her what I had just been told!
The next couple of weeks were a complete blur to me, but the outcome was that I could not be treated for the cancer until I gave birth to my son, so collectively, my OBGYN, Oncologist, and Neonatologist had to decide what was in the best interest for me and my unborn child!
Everyone was in total agreement that I would not deliver naturally, it was too risky, I needed to have a C-Section. They also decided that it was too risky to let me go full term because they had no idea how invasive the cancer was at this point. So the next question was, “How early do we schedule her C-Section”
At 30 weeks I started going for a weekly Amniocentesis. Through this test, they could tell how developed Nick’s lungs were……I went through this test three weeks in a row and they finally said, we can’t wait any longer……you need to have this child and prepare yourself that he will be in the NICU until his lungs are ready!
They scheduled me for my C-section at 8am on January 19th, 1998. I was scared to death, with all that was circling my life at the moment the only thing I could worry about was this little baby boy…..he just had to be healthy…..I was so worried that my being sick was going to affect his life! The surgery went extremely well, they let both my Mom and my husband in the room so they could see Nick as he took his very first breath……it was so special to me to have my Mom with me…..she has always been my rock and I knew if she was there, I would be OK.
Nick entered the world at 8:38am….all 6lbs 4ozs, and 19 1/2 inches of him! To our amazement his lungs were not as bad as the doctors had anticipated. As soon as I got a quick glimpse of his little red face and head full of dark hair they whisked him away to the NICU to be hooked up to Oxygen…..although not horrible, he did still need some breathing assistance. He remained in the NICU for approximately 20 hours. My husband and family members could go in to see him, unfortunately I did not get to hold my son until the next day….I had some bad reactions to the Epidural and was very ill, so they gave me anti-nausea medicine that made me a little loopy so they would not let me get out of bed or go down to visit him….it was torture to know I had just given birth to this little boy and could not hold him in my own arms.
My time did come and it was so special…..early that very next morning, the nurses brought him to me, at this hour there was no one in my room except me, they said that he was doing great and off the oxygen so if I felt strong enough, I could keep him in my room.
At the very moment they put him in my arms, I did not have a worry in the world…..he was the most beautiful boy I had ever laid eyes on…..he was so tiny and I could not believe that I had produced such an amazing little baby!
I immediately called my Mom, who I knew I woke up, but knew that she wouldn’t mind…..I remember her answering the phone and me just crying that I couldn’t believe what a miracle this child was….at the time of my diagnosis, the doctors told me that if they had found the cancer any earlier in the pregnancy they would have recommended termination….something I could not fathom, especially as I held this perfectly healthy child and looked into those beautiful big eyes!
We had our short little stay in the hospital and then we were both released to head home! We had many visitors and it seemed like the house was constantly filled with family, friends, food, and laughter, but underneath all of the joy, there was still worry in everyone’s eyes…….
The next couple months we strapped ourselves in for the beginnings of a huge roller coaster ride. I had a partial hysterectomy 4 months after Nick was born, they were convinced that they had removed all of the cancer, it was not in any lymph nodes and had contained itself in one area….they said that there was no need for Chemo or radiation……this was terrific news and my family was thrilled that we could finally put this behind us and I could concentrate on the true joys of Motherhood. As positive as this news was, there was such sadness in my heart knowing that I would never be able to conceive another child.
Caring for a little one and having been in and out of the hospital for surgery is no easy task, I am so thankful that my family rallied around us and helped in whatever way they could. My Mom practically lived with us and played a huge role in taking care of this precious little baby while I recuperated.
The next few months were filled with fun and laughter and many firsts for Nick…..he was such a cute and mild mannered baby…..he slept through the night like clockwork at 8 weeks! We could take him anywhere with us without worry, he was very well adjusted! I slowly went back to work and he would stay at Grandma’s until I picked him up……we were back to a so called normal family life.
We celebrated his first Christmas, Birthday, and Easter….such wonderful memories. Shortly after Easter we started planning our first real summer vacation…..we had a boat so we rented a place up on a Lake for the week and had planned to go with 2 other families that boated with us during the summer months.
I had been going for my scheduled check ups every three months to make sure that I was still in the clear. My next checkup fell the same week we had scheduled our vacation so I called and pushed it back a week.
When I showed up for that check up I was about to hear the very words that every cancer patient dreads……”Your Cancer Might Be Back”
This time it was scarier than ever….I had a huge mass the size of a softball sitting on my left ovary, they could not confirm it was cancerous until I was on the operating table. I was scheduled in a matter of days and it was confirmed…….Stage III Ovarian Cancer.
I am not going to go into detail at the moment, but I was not so lucky this time around…..I was in and out of the hospital for the next year with surgeries, chemo treatments and illnesses as a result. I know that this was not easy on my beautiful boy, but he was one strong kid….he bounced from family member to family member while I got well…..coming to visit me in the hospital even though he was extremely scared to see his mommy so sick.
A good part of this year was spent in our home as I was too sick to go anywhere, we had home healthcare services in and out for a couple of months when needed….I was tired and weak, but Nick didn’t care…..he was happy just to sit with his Mommy on the couch and play board games or watch his favorite movies….I think we watched 101Dalmatians so many times we ruined the VHS tape that very year!
Nick has flourished into such a little gentleman, a compassionate friend, and a wonderful big brother. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t Thank God for this child……..there are many people that wish to have children and for one reason or another,they cannot, I consider myself extremely blessed to have him in my life and could not imagine a single day without his beautiful smiling face!
I debated all day whether or not to post this picture, but if Robin Roberts can go on live TV and share her story along with her bald head, than I can post this picture! There were many days spent on this couch…..my friends and family got very use to seeing me without my hair…..wigs are very uncomfortable and itchy….so this was the look, I had lost my hair, eyebrows, an even some of my eyelashes, but I still had this little boy to cheer me up and give me the will to pull through!
As you may or may not know, September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month…..I was digging through the archives of old printed photos to accompany this post and came across the journal that I kept while undergoing chemotherapy. In honor of this month, I will be sharing the details of my cancer with some of the passages from my journal…..it is such an important issue that is close to my heart and if I can help just one person, that will mean so much to me! I will also include all of the warning signs and symptoms to help catch early detection.