‘I’m sure it’s nothing.’ She had a look on her face I’ll never forget. I got the call the next day. ‘It’s not what we thought it was.’: Mom diagnosed with breast cancer while pregnant, ‘I found what’s important’

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“I knew my new husband and I wanted a baby, but something in my heart was rushing me. Three months into our marriage we were pregnant, we were so blessed. This was my third baby and his first. My two children, 11 and 8, couldn’t be more excited! But quickly we realized something was wrong. I had morning sickness more so bad I couldn’t lift my head, drive, or work. We even had to fly home early from a trip to Denver because I couldn’t be upright. It was awful. My family was supportive. My job was even supportive, and I worked from home for a month.

I told my doctors something was wrong but at the time we just thought it was horrible morning sickness. I went to all of my first doctor’s appointments and the baby looked great! The heartbeat was there and strong! Our heart we’re happy and full!

At my first appointment I showed the nurse practitioner a lump in my right breast. I said I’m sure it’s nothing but there is this. She assured me it was nothing stating, ‘it’s pregnancy changes.’ Boy did I want her to be right! Still, I couldn’t get this out of my head. It was consuming my days – this lump was scary. I made an appointment with my primary doctor and showed her the lump. She said, ‘yes, I think pregnancy changes as well.’ As she was walking out and shutting the door I spoke up. ‘Can we just do an ultrasound to make me feel better?’

I had an ultrasound that afternoon. The tech had a look I’ll never forget. She suggested I call my doctor in about 30 minutes for the results. I cried. I mean cried harder than I’ve ever cried before. I knew something was very wrong. My doctor called. She assured me 80% of things that need to be biopsied are benign. Sounds good!

Woman stands with elbows on desk as she looks over at sonogram picture her husband holds
Courtesy Abigail Valletta

The biopsy. I had to go to a breast surgeon for the biopsy. I was scared out of my mind, no really! She was the sweetest doctor, to this day, the kindness doctor I’ve seen. The biopsy however was painful. I’m not going to lie – it hurt, bad! The surgeon said ‘we’re pretty sure it’s benign, but we have to make sure, and no matter what, we’ll be here along the way with you.’ My mom held my hand and I cried. What if it wasn’t benign? What about the baby?!

The call the next day. ‘Abigail, it’s not what we thought it was, it’s cancer.’ I still cry thinking about that phone call. It was the most surreal and scariest thing to hear. This can’t be, I’m 31. My only words I could muster up were, ‘the baby?’ And the surgeon who called said, ‘Your baby is going to be ok.’

I’m a nurse and a lactation consultant. How could my breasts betray me this way? It sounds silly looking back at the different emotions you feel but they’re necessary and in all the chaos that comes crashing in around you, you find grace and count your blessings.

Nine days after that phone call, I met my team and was going into surgery to lose my breast. I wasn’t as sad as you’d think. I was begging them – ‘please take both! Get this cancer out of me.’ They couldn’t take both at that time because I was pregnant. They wanted to reduce the amount of time I was in surgery. The baby was checked before and after all procedures and that heartbeat stayed steady through each one. That heartbeat kept me going. I laid in bed and I talked with God often. God knew that heartbeat was my savior.

Chemotherapy was the scariest thing to ever happen to me. I had a picture in my head of how awful it would be, and I would cry thinking about it. It was not as awful as I imagined it would be. Although not fun, it what was going to save my life.

Woman with breast cancer stands holding her stomach in floral dress
Courtesy Abigail Valletta

Did you know you could go through chemotherapy pregnant? Neither did I. But you can, and certain kinds have a very low risk of harming the baby. We talked to God, literally had conversations about what we should do about chemotherapy during pregnancy. After talking to other moms that had been through it pregnant, and countless doctors who assured us our baby would not be negatively affected, we started the process. It was hard. I had 4 treatments of some of the toughest chemo – 14 weeks of complete exhaustion, but I never threw up. I took a lot of nausea medicine, but I never threw up. We made a plan for induction around chemotherapy and we got through it with our family and friends help.

37 weeks and 1 day pregnant, we met the most perfect 5lb 4oz baby who came flying into this world, in 4 minutes to be exact. She was stunning. She had hair! Something I did not have. And she had every finger and every toe. We are so blessed to have our miracle daughter who fought her momma’s battle and won!

Woman with breast cancer holds newborn daughter with husband sitting beside her kissing her head
Courtesy Abigail Valletta

I’m still in chemotherapy until after Christmas but now I get to stare at this beautiful blessing and watch my children and my husband love her too. Sometimes in the hardest moments in our lives is when we find who we are and who is behind us. I found ways to let go of unnecessary control over things like household chores and grocery shopping. I found out what’s important and we found God in our family.

I’m not sure many realize that 1 in 3,000 pregnant women are diagnosed with breast cancer, I surely didn’t know. I’d like to help educate other young women.”

Husband and wife with breast cancer stand smiling with their two older children while wife holds newborn
Courtesy Abigail Valletta

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Abigail Valletta, 32, Clayton, North Carolina. Submit your story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here

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