Tag Archives: Cancer

Life is Good, But Different

I’ve been meaning to write an update, but have waited until I found a good topic to write about. Also, now that I’m no longer pregnant and in remission, I’m figuring out how to transition this blog to be more about survivorship. And then being a mom of two makes it hard to have much free time!

Three Months Out

It’s been three months since my last chemo and life has been changing so much. I’ve been back at work for 2 months and getting used to the working mom life. Roberto’s at home on paternity leave which has been a great transition for our family with one parent still at home to help take care of the household. Kudos to companies that offer dads paid paternity leave! Roberto has gotten to spend some precious time bonding with Joel.

My miracle baby

Most importantly, I had my first follow-up scan. I’m still in remission! For my type of cancer, primary mediastinal large B cell lymphoma, the risk of recurrence is generally pretty low, but if it does happen the risk is greatest the first year. After the first year, the risk of recurrence drops significantly (less than 10%, my doctors say).

We had a big celebration earlier this month to celebrate me finishing cancer treatment and being in remission. It was also a way to thank the many people who supported us the last few months.

Celebrating life!

Just Like Everyone Said, My Hair Would Come Back

My hair is growing back so fast! It’s in an awkward stage right now where it’s very full on the sides and back, and not so full on the top. I credit my quick hair grown to eating lots of eggs and almonds which are rich in biotin.

My hair regrowth over the last 3 months

When I was going through treatment, it was winter time and cold so I had a collection of wool hats in neutral colors to wear and keep my head warm. I was working from home anyway, so no one really saw me. As the season changed to spring, I started wearing scarves and baseball caps instead since it was getting warmer. I was at home on maternity leave, so I could dress casually each day. But then I went back to work, where the dress code is business casual. It was a lot of effort to get dressed each day with a coordinating scarf. And then summer in Houston happened and it’s insanely hot to have anything on your head. So at the end of June, I got a hair trim to even out my hair length and then stopped wearing any sort of head cover.

It’s been so much easier getting dressed everyday and not having to worry about coordinating a scarf. It’s also way less hot being without a head cover. My hair is still growing in and I’m thinking that in August I’ll be able to have a more shaped haircut!

I wonder if people look at me funny or stare when they see me now with my current hair. It’s a hairstyle that really no woman would voluntarily have. There was an occasion at work recently when I met someone new. They only saw me as the person that appeared in front of them at that moment and knew nothing about my last 6 months. As I left the meeting, I wondered if they thought I had a weird haircut or thought I looked unattractive. I felt a little ashamed.

I know I shouldn’t feel ashamed. I should be proud of everything I went through and that I’m still standing. There are so many people who go through cancer and aren’t ‘still standing’ in the end. I had that chance and I think most people would easily choose a bad haircut in order to get a second chance at life. I always have the remind myself that these temporary things are a small blip in the grand scheme.

A New Me

I had written before how cancer had changed me as a person on the inside. Now I am starting to understand how I’m also a different person now physically. I was a little naive to think that after cancer, I’d physically go back to being the same healthy young adult. While I still consider myself healthy, my body isn’t the same anymore.

I’ve got chemo brain and have become a little forgetful. I had an amazing, sharp memory before. Now, I catch myself being a little more absent minded. I’ve tried to help this by keeping to do lists (I never really had to do this before – I used to remember everything!).

I also got a cold twice since finishing chemo. My first cold I ended up with congestion for over 2 weeks. My second cold hit me hard. I had a fever up to 104 and lots of coughing and congestion. Roberto reminds me that I had crazy drugs in me (chemo) that nearly wiped out my immune system, so I can’t expect my immune system to be the same as it was before.

Sharing My Story

It’s been important for me to share my story. I hope it gives hope to others going through something similar. I’ve had the honor of having my story shared recently on a few websites:

When you stand and share your story in an empowering way, your story will heal you and your story will heal somebody else.” – Iyanla Vanzant

Radiation, Here We Go!

On Thursday, May 3, I start radiation. I have 17 rounds of radiation which takes place everyday, Monday through Friday. This is the last of my cancer treatment and I should finish on May 25. This is perfect timing because my maternity leave ends then and I go back to work on May 29!

Radiation Treatment 

In preparation for radiation, I had several appointments. My radiation oncologist needed to know the health of my lungs and heart, so I had a pulmonary function test and an echocardiogram. I also had another PET scan. My mass has shrunk down from 4.0 x 4.6 cm (in March after four chemo treatments) to 2.9 x 3.2 cm (after all six chemo treatments). It’s crazy to think when I was diagnosed, my mass was 16 cm! And most importantly, the PET scan shows that I continue to be in remission.

My radiation treatment is customized just for me and my body. To do this, the radiation oncology team does a simulation to prepare everything. I have a face mask custom molded to the shape of my face and head and a bean bag-like cushion that’s vacuum sealed to the shape of my upper body. My body has to sit precisely in line for the radiation to hit the right spot (and not hit other spots). To additionally ensure this precision, I had three dots tattooed on me so they know exactly where to line me up. My body has also been marked up with markers and covered with tape to prevent the marks from being rubbed off. So for the next 3 weeks I’m going to walk around with funny looking fake tattoos! I feel kinda gangsta. I’m so ready to be done with cancer treatment that I’ll do anything they tell me to do.

Me with some of my radiation markings. There are more on chest and other arm!

Typically when you get diagnosed with a blood cancer, a bone marrow biopsy is ordered to determine if the cancer has spread to the bone marrow. I never got a bone marrow biopsy because I urgently needed to start chemo immediately due to how aggressive my cancer was. Also the procedure requires you to lay on your stomach and I couldn’t do that because I was pregnant. So after all six chemo treatments, I finally had the bone marrow biopsy. It was negative for cancer cells! The actual biopsy procedure was really painful though, even with lidocaine. They use a needle the size of a meat thermometer and insert it into your bone! I hope I never have to do that again.

Maternity Leave Ending

I’m down to my last month of maternity leave! Even with all my medical appointments, I’ve enjoyed my maternity leave with Joel. Maybe because this time I know what the hell I’m doing and am more relaxed. In actuality, it’s also because I have my mom helping me regularly, I’m getting more sleep (night nanny = amazing), and I’m not breastfeeding. Plus, Joel has been an easy baby. I’m trying to be more productive with my time by exercising, cooking and reading more.

Everything Happens for a Reason

When I got diagnosed, everything happened so fast. I didn’t have time to research oncologists or high risk obstetricians experienced with pregnant cancer patients. They were more or less assigned to me and I had to trust them.

My primary care doctor knew a general oncologist at MD Anderson Sugar Land. I saw that oncologist a few hours after I was diagnosed. Then the general oncologist wanted me to see a lymphoma oncologist at the MD Anderson main campus where there’s an entire lymphoma department. When the lymphoma department scheduler called me, she knew she needed to get me in the next day. She asked if I could come in at 10:30am. As silly as it sounds, I had a prenatal massage scheduled at that time and didn’t want to miss it (I had back pain and needed to relax with everything going on!). I asked if they had an appointment in the afternoon. She said they had an opening at 1pm so I took it. I asked who the doctor was and they gave me the doctor’s name. It turned out that doctor was the oncologist in the lymphoma department that was one of the most experienced with pregnant patients.

When I met with the lymphoma oncologist, she advised me to consider changing obstetricians to one who was experienced with cancer patients. Roberto had tried to Google high risk obstetricians that had experience with cancer patients and could only find two in Houston, but there wasn’t much information. We asked the lymphoma oncologist if she had had one she could recommend. She ended up recommending one of the high risk obstetricians that Roberto found. My lymphoma oncologist contacted the high risk obstetrician so I could be seen by her in time to start chemo right after that. We were able to meet her two days later and I transferred my prenatal care to her.

I bring up these stories because at my recent checkups with both my lymphoma oncologist and my high risk obstetrician, I learned that both will no longer be seeing patients in clinic. Additionally, my lymphoma oncologist is leaving MD Anderson and moving to another city. I was likely one of their last pregnant cancer patients and they both became my doctors almost entirely by chance. I never sought out these two doctors who saved my life and Joel’s life. They came into my life at just the right time.

Things come into our life and happen all for a reason. It seems unexplainable in the beginning, but when the journey’s over it all starts to make sense. I never asked for cancer to rudely disrupt my life and my pregnancy. But perhaps if it didn’t happen when it did, I would have never been saved by my doctors.

I trust the universe to bring the right people and circumstances into my life at the right time.

What Cancer Did to My Life

“There are two types of pain in this world: Pain that hurts you, and pain that changes you.”

The type of pain that cancer brings to one’s life (and their loved ones) is indescribable. Until you go through it or have someone intimately close to you go through it, It’s hard to understand. Sometimes we focus so much on the negativity associated with pain that we miss the meaning of why things happen and how it changes your life. What surprised me the most is what I learned from having cancer.

Appreciating the Little Things in Life

Before cancer happened, I used to think to myself how being a mom was sometimes so draining. When would I have time to do things for myself? Can I just use the restroom in peace? Can I eat my food while it’s hot without having to scarf it down? Would my house ever be clean for longer than 15 minutes? And this was just with one kid. How drained would I feel when we have our second child? Of course being a mom is rewarding, but it’s nonstop! I think other moms out there get exhausted from it all, too.

Then I got diagnosed and in a sad, cruel way, I got what I asked for. I couldn’t take care of my daughter the same way before and relied on others to help. I spent hours in the hospital by myself and had more than enough “me” time. I had all the time now to use the restroom or eat my meal slowly. I vowed to myself that when I was healthy again, I would never complain again about being too busy being a mom. I would take a crazy life juggling two kids over cancer any day. Cancer gave me a new perspective on motherhood; I’d embrace the daily chaos instead of resent it.

Acts of Kindness

So many people reached out to us offering to help or asking how they can help. I learned from the beginning I would have to be okay with accepting help. As hard as it was for me to accept (I always feel like I’m inconveniencing people), I knew I couldn’t get through this alone.

We had a meal train set up for us by the YMCA and by my coworkers at DE. We never had to cook once in the last four months and this greatly alleviated our to do list. We had delicious food delivered to us. My friends are really great cooks! Sometimes I was surprised by the people who signed up to bring a meal for us. I didn’t know they had cared enough about me and my family to spend their time and money to provide us a meal. I was taken aback by their act of kindness and generosity. I may never be able to equally reciprocate back to them, but I want to pay it forward to someone else to keep the kindness chain going.

Hot pot provided by my brother

It wasn’t just meals provided to us. I had family and friends also provide care baskets to me, toys for Camila, and play dates with Camila. I’m so grateful for these kind gestures.

Unconditional Love

Almost unconsciously, we know there are people in our lives who love us unconditionally. Our parents, significant others, extended family, best friends, etc. But to experience someone’s unconditional love for you is an awe inspiring feeling.

This unconditional love is something I saw firsthand daily for the last four months. When I was unable, Roberto took care of me, our household, and our daughter. He did it without hesitation and with pleasure. My parents prioritized taking care of Camila and Joel to help us balance all of my medical appointments, household chores, and giving Roberto a break. Even at 33 years old, I see my parents selflessly never wanting to stop taking care of me. They are my best teachers on how to be a good parent to my own children.

My parents with Joel

Everyone Has Their Journey

When I was younger and got out of a bad relationship, I asked myself “why me?”. It was difficult for me to understand why I couldn’t have a happy relationship while many others around me did. What was I doing wrong? What did I lack? I longingly wanted the same happiness.

It wasn’t until I became a mother that I realized everyone has their journey in life. Camila was a fussy newborn that didn’t sleep well at night, I had a questionable breastmilk supply, and I was sleep deprived. I looked at my other mom friends and it seemed like everyone had it together (and social media does not help this). It took awhile for me to realize that no two people have the same experience. Everyone has their ups and downs that they deal with. Comparing myself to others or longing for a life that appeared perfect was unrealistic. Once I accepted and understood this, it made it easier for me to enjoy motherhood rather than constantly question it.

I’m glad I learned this lesson before I was diagnosed. Throughout my cancer journey, I never asked “why me?”. This was my life journey. I was handed these cards and it was for me to own. What may be bad in my life may pale in comparison to someone else’s life. It isn’t my place to ask “why me?”.

Whenever I go to MD Anderson and see all the people there, I always wonder what is there journey. Were they there for the first time, feeling scared and anxious? Or perhaps they have been in remission for years and just doing a follow-up. Maybe they are in the middle of their treatment and feeling emotionally drained. They all have their own story.

While cancer robbed me of so many things—my hair, my time with my family and friends, my health, just to name a few—it changed my outlook in life for the better. I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore. I stop and try to appreciate the simple things in life. I’m more certain than ever that I married the best man in the world. I appreciate my parents even more. I would have never learned this if it wasn’t for cancer.

REMISSION!, Chemo #5 & Radiation

I mentioned in my previous post that because I’m no longer pregnant, my doctors would be able to fully treat me without holding back. I finally had my first PET scan on Monday and I went in expecting the worst so I wouldn’t be disappointed. I thought I would have progress on my mass shrinking, but I expected my oncologist to change my regimen to something more intense. To my complete shock, it came up negative for cancer cells. This means after four chemo treatments, I am in REMISSION!

This is not the end of my cancer journey though. I still have to finish my remaining chemo treatments (had treatment #5 on Wednesday and the the sixth and last one is the first week of April) and as well as have radiation. This will help reduce the chances of the cancer returning. But knowing I’m in remission is amazing, motivating news that a huge milestone has been met. Roberto and I wept when we received the news and are still in complete shock.

Chemo #5 (Singing this to the tune of Mambo #5)

My oncologist informed me we will not be changing my chemo regimen. There wasn’t enough information to know if changing the regimen would prove to be beneficial, so we would continue with R-CHOP. I’m finally able to have chemo done outpatient now, so I can get the whole infusion in a day and sleep in my own bed at night! Leading up to this, I feared changing my regimen as it would have been 5 day regimen done inpatient that would keep me away from my newborn and family.

I had my treatment on Wednesday. Overall, getting R-CHOP done post pregnancy and outpatient was fortunately uneventful. I had no reactions to the drugs and I was done in 6.5 hours. It’s hard to believe I only have one more chemo treatment to go after this. Last treatment is April 5!

My mass has shrunk from 16cm down to 4cm after 4 chemo treatments. The remaining 4cm is assumed to be dead cells since the PET scan came up negative for cancer cells. One of the doctors showed me my CT scan from when I was initially diagnosed. The mass was huge, taking up space between my heart and lungs, wrapping itself around airways and blood vessels. It grew aggressively and quickly. I’m fortunate I did not pass out or have something worse happen due to lack of oxygen or blood to my body.


After I’m done with all 6 chemo treatments, I will start radiation. This is probably set to start around the end of April and finish sometime in May. have a consultation with radiation oncology once I’m done with chemo to learn more. I hope to be done before my maternity leave is over at the end of May.

Family Life

Joel has been a very easy baby. He sleeps a lot and eats well. This has made the transition to 2 kids easier because he doesn’t demand too much attention (yet). Maybe I’m more relaxed because he’s not the first baby. Camila is still warming up to him. She likes to touch his feet and bring him toys. She’s okay with me holding Joel but got jealous when Roberto held him.

Top row is Camila and bottom row is Joel.

Prayers Answered

There have been dozens, if not hundreds, of people praying, thinking, rooting and sending their positive vibes to me and Joel. People I don’t even know and have never met were hoping for Joel’s healthy birth and that I overcome cancer. I’m so grateful for all this support. There was a moment last week when Roberto and I felt defeated. We wanted all this to be over. Although we are not done, some of our prayers have been answered and it gives us hope to continue. I want to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart. My cancer journey isn’t over yet but I have a healthy baby and the wonderful news that I’m in remission!

Happy Birthday, Joel!

One of our biggest anticipations has been the hope and prayers that baby boy would be healthy despite all the treatment I’m going through. After four rounds of chemo with me, Joel Lucas Moreno came into the world on March 6, 2018 at 8:04am! He weighed 6 lbs 13 oz and was 19” long. Most importantly, he’s healthy!

Skin to skin with mommy after delivery

Labor & Delivery

Disclaimer: For those that like to know the details of labor and delivery, read on. For those that don’t care for it, you can skip this section!

I was scheduled to be induced at 36 weeks. It was important to my OB that I was at least 3 weeks out from my last chemo treatment so my white blood cell counts had enough time to recover, but also she wanted me at least 36 weeks to allow the baby to develop more. I also couldn’t be too full term as there is already a risk of me delivering early. So we scheduled my delivery at 36 weeks and 2 days. The plan is to have a vaginal birth, as this has a decreased risk of infection and quicker recovery time.

The induction plan meant being admitted to the hospital the night before and starting the induction process to deliver the next day. Three days before induction, I was already 1cm dilated. I went for some walks that weekend hoping it would help naturally prepare my body more for labor. When I got admitted to the hospital, I was 2-3cm dilated and 60% effaced so it helped some.

They started me on pitocin at 12:30am. It was going to be nearly impossible for me to get any sleep if contractions were going to eventually start, so I asked for Ambien. It didn’t really help because as soon as I’d doze off, a contraction would wake me up. I asked for some IV pain meds which helped for a bit, but by 3:30am I was ready for the epidural since the pain became too much for me. I got the epidural at 4am and immediately after it, I laid back down and my water broke! The nurse said it was good timing. At this point, I was 5cm dilated so the nurse said things could now progress pretty fast. I was able to get some sleep thanks to the magical powers of the epidural.

Around 6:30am I woke up and started to feel pressure when a contraction came. I told the nurse and she checked me—I was now 10cm dilated! The baby was ready to go! They called my doctor who had to come in during Houston morning rush hour. The contractions had pressure but I didn’t feel a strong urge to push yet, so I was able to wait for my doctor to arrive. After 3 quick pushes, Joel came into the world at 8:04am!

He’s Finally Here

Anyone who has become a parent has probably experienced the unbelievably surreal feeling of your baby coming into the world. Roberto and I have been waiting for Joel since the moment we knew we were expecting—and that anticipation exponentially increased when we initially thought he had Down syndrome and again when I was diagnosed with cancer. Hearing his first cry and seeing him for the first time was an overwhelming moment of relief and happiness I will never forget.

After being reviewed by the neonatologist and multiple pediatricians and taking several tests, Joel is healthy. He passed his glucose tests, bilirubin test, and hearing test. His CBC blood counts are in a normal range. He’s eating well, pooping, peeing, and sleeping a ton—all the things you want a baby to do! We really feel that everyone’s thoughts and prayers for us and Joel have been answered. There is a chance his B cell counts are low due to my diagnosis, but it will catch up by the time he is 6 months old. Until then, we have to be extra careful he does not get sick.

A New Life

After two night at the hospital, we were discharged. We came home and are adjusting to our new life as a family of four (five if you count Luna). Not only am I trying to figure out balancing being a mom of two, but in a few days I’ll resume and eventually complete my cancer treatment.

Now that I’m not pregnant, my doctors will really be able to treat me. This means I can finally have a PET scan to determine what cancer cells remain and what treatment changes should be made, if any. Roberto said that the rest of this journey is all about me now. We now know that Joel is healthy. Now the focus is on me completing my treatment so I can be in remission. We dream of the day where the four of us can finally go somewhere together as a family. It’s not too far away.

Through this, my mom is helping us a ton with Joel and Camila. It’s helped me get extra rest time and also allows us to give Camila attention. Thank goodness for grandmas!

About Joel

Joel isn’t even a week old yet, but so far he’s a pretty easy baby. He’s eating well, sleeping a ton, and laid back. He cries only when he is cold and during diaper changes. He’s trying to establish himself as the man of the house because he’s peed on Roberto probably once a day, but hasn’t yet peed on me (knocking on wood).

What’s in a name? Joel is also Roberto’s middle name. His middle name, Lucas, means light or illumination. We picked it because he is the light to this otherwise dark journey we’re going through.

Someone More in Need

Shortly after I was diagnosed, I learned I was not going to be able to breastfeed as the chemotherapy drugs could pass on to Joel through my breastmilk (when he was in my womb, we had the placenta to help filter it). Although I’m not against formula feeding, this was probably the most disappointing part of being diagnosed. I breastfed Camila until she turned one and felt she has reaped the benefits of breastfeeding. I wanted Joel to have the same benefits. I accepted early on that Joel would be formula fed.

I did hope that we could possibly get donor breastmilk for Joel so at least he could get some breastmilk. Because of Joel’s possible low B cell count, we couldn’t accept just any donated milk. Donor milk from a milk bank was pasteurized and screened. I learned I could ask for donor milk while still in the hospital after delivery. However, I also learned I was not going to be able to get insurance to cover donor milk once we got home. After talking to pediatricians and a milk bank, I learned that I wouldn’t qualify for donor milk because Joel was able to have formula. If I wanted donor milk, I could pay for it out of pocket which could cost thousands of dollars a month.

My initial reaction was how unfair this was. I thought I had a good case of needing donor milk. I thought to myself, “I can’t give this to my child, why can’t they help me?” The milk bank informed me because the need for donor milk was because of the mother and not because of the baby. If the mother is unable to breastfeed, but the baby can have formula, insurance wasn’t going to approve it. Insurance would only approve it if the baby had a sole need for breastmilk.

It opened my eyes to a realization. There was someone out there that needs the donor milk more than Joel and I do. I have a healthy baby that is able to have formula. There are babies out there with health issues that are unable to have formula and their moms are unable to produce breastmilk. They need the donor milk more. No matter how bad of a situation you think you’re in, there’s someone else out there going through something harder that’s more in need than you.

Happy Birthday, Joel. Please know that your dad and I are amazed by your strength and will do anything for you.

Seven Long Nights

Just when I posted my last post on how great things were going after my fourth chemo cycle… I got b!tch slapped upside the head with neutropenic fever. After spending seven nights in the hospital, with most of those having zero energy and sleeping less than 4 hours a night, I am so glad to be home.

What is Neutropenic Fever?

To put it simply, neutropenic fever is when a person (in this case, me) with abnormally low count of a type of white blood cell (neutrophils) gets a fever. Cancer patients can become neutropenic as part of the side effects of chemotherapy and thus lack the immune system to fight viruses and infections healthy person could typically overcome. Because of this, I have been extremely cautious about trying to not get sick. I have probably given this little spiel a dozen times now. I’m sure a lot of people are like “yeah, uh huh, can’t get you sick, got it”.

We are making personal sacrifices to avoid getting sick. I work from home, don’t go to public places except the doctor, wash and sanitize my hands constantly, wear a face mask, change Camila’s clothes everyday before she comes home from school, sanitize our dishes in the dishwasher, use Clorox and Lysol on everything in our house, anyone entering my house must remove their shoes and wash their hands, the list could go on. I didn’t know if we were going overboard with these precautions or not, but last week we found out we were doing the best we could.

Small Cold, Big Impact

Both Roberto and Camila caught a very minor cold. They had runny noses and a bit of a cough, but no fever. Eventually, I caught this from them on a Friday. It seemed like a minor cold to me too. I had a clear runny nose and no fever. I hoped that I could fight it as my recent lab work showed my white blood cell counts to still be okay. By Monday, I had a fever and my lab work showed i was severely neutropenic. I needed to get to the ER right away because with my neutrophils that low, there was no way I could fight it on my own.

To get my neutrophil counts up, I got Neupogen injections daily until my counts were high enough. In a regular chemo cycle, I get 2 days of Neupogen injections to help me improve my neutrophil counts prior to my next chemo treatment. Usually these 2 days do tire me out and give me a low grade fever. I just need to sleep and rest and I’ll be okay in a day.

This time, I needed 6 days of Neupogen and at a higher dose. This is very taxing on the body as my bone marrow is working overtime to create more white blood cells. I had no energy for a good 5 days, accompanied with fever, chills, night sweats, and just overall lethargy. Add that in with well meaning hospital staff coming into your room every other hour for just a few hours of sleep a night. Maybe this is preparing me for a newborn. But after 7 long nights at the hospital, my counts were finally back up and I was fever free.

Stay Healthy!

I hate to sound preachy, but the point of my story is… if you are feeling sick, stay home. I am responsible for my own health, but don’t go out and spread your germs. Protect yourself by washing your hands and using good hygiene like covering your cough. Don’t expect people to go to work or do things if they are sick. Let them rest. It’s not about just my health, but for everyone out there, even healthy people. Everyone knows how dangerous this flu season is. Healthy people are dying from the flu. Let’s let each other prioritize our health!

Also, this is what I originally pictured cancer to be like. I thought I was going to be feeling sick, no energy, and in bed all day. It’s actually been quite the opposite for me and days like this are extreme and rare. So I’m happy that most of my days are pretty normal and I’ve only ran into a handful of these rough days.

What’s Ahead

I only have ONE week until I am scheduled to deliver the baby at 36 weeks. From now until then, I’m trying to stay as healthy as possible to be ready for delivery. Even though I am delivering a month early, baby boy is growing and stretching by belly skin to no end. I’ve only gained 15 lbs with this pregnancy (granted it could be more, since my mass shrunk), but this baby is in the 82nd percentile in growth and already over 6 lbs at 35 weeks pregnant! One more week to go!

Four Down and Baby Comes Next!

I had my fourth chemo treatment on February 8th. This is my last chemo treatment before delivering! After I deliver, I will then complete 2 more chemo treatments. There are a lot of changes coming up for my family and I.

Treatment #4

Things went pretty smoothly for my fourth treatment. I had no immediate side effects from the chemo and I felt like back to ‘normal’ after I left the hospital. In a way, each treatment is kind of unknown how I’ll be. Maybe I’ll be tired, maybe not. So far I’ve made it this far with only a handful of days feeling fatigued, so I’m grateful for this success. You really wouldn’t know I had cancer if it wasn’t for my bald head!

I think what I hate the most about chemo treatment is getting poked with the huge IV needles. Even though I’ve done it a bunch of times, I still cringe at the thought of it each time the needle goes in. This really isn’t much to be upset about in the grand scheme of things.

Here Comes Baby

As of now, the plan is to deliver the baby at 36 weeks, on or around the week of March 4th. It’s hard to believe we only have a couple more weeks as a family of three. Once the new baby is here, our family dynamics and routines will definitely change. I’m certain I’ve totally forgotten how to take care of a newborn and I’ll have to figure it out all over again. I’m currently in full on nesting mode and making Roberto move furniture and get things out of storage.

I’m hoping I’ll be able to maintain my same energy level I’ve had throughout my cancer treatment and I won’t be hit with fatigue or other side effects with the upcoming chemo treatments. My doctor is considering changing my chemotherapy regimen after I deliver (from R-CHOP to R-EPOCH). This is the preferred regimen for my diagnosis and is more intense. It wasn’t an option for me to do while I was pregnant. I’ll find out once I do a PET scan after I deliver.

The CDC recommends for expecting mothers to get the Tdap vaccine during the third trimester of each pregnancy to help protect the against whooping cough. The mother is able to pass on the antibodies to the baby. I wasn’t sure if the Tdap was okay for me to get because I’m immunocompromised. I learned that the Tdap can be given to cancer patients, but wasn’t sure about pregnant cancer patients, if it made a difference. After consulting with my doctors, I learned that there isn’t enough research out there to show that the Tdap will act the same way for me and pass antibodies on to the baby like it would for a healthy pregnant mother. However, they said getting the Tdap wouldn’t hurt me. So I decided to move forward and get the Tdap in hopes it will benefit the baby.

Unexpected News

My doctor gave me some unexpected news that I will likely need radiation after the 6 chemo cycles are done. I don’t view this as a bad thing, but yes, it does make my cancer “to do” list longer. I’m hoping the radiation can all be done while I’m on maternity leave. Although I heard radiation can be painful and leave you fatigued, I am looking forward to not dealing with chemo side effects anymore. Hopefully, my hair can start to grow back and I won’t have to worry so much about a weakened immune system.

Cold & Flu Season

Everyone knows how bad the flu is this year. This is the worst time of year when it comes to getting sick. I’m continuing to have to be extra cautious not to get sick from being around people or touching things in public. I wash or use hand sanitizer on my hands probably well over 20 times a day. I wear a face mask when around people. I don’t know if I’m being super paranoid, but I can’t risk getting sick with a weakened immune system. I can’t wait for the cold and flu season to be over already! And as a PSA: please wash you hands, cover your cough, and stay home if you feel sick symptoms!

Ongoing Support

My coworkers extended my meal train so we have food through the month of March. I’m so grateful for this because it makes things way less stressful each day when we’re done with work and don’t have to worry about cooking or meal planning.

I’ve also gotten so many supportive cards from people, ranging from friends, family, acquaintances, to even total strangers. It’s very kind of people to think of me during this time and I’m still so humbled by all the support. Here’s a giant card my family made me:

My next update will be as a mama of two! Stay tuned for the much anticipated announcement of baby boy’s birth! He’s estimated to be about 6 lbs when I deliver at 36 weeks so he will he will be a decent size!

My Caregiver

Behind every cancer patient is a caregiver that is supporting them throughout the entire journey. To me, this role is just as challenging as going through cancer! The caregiver has several responsibilities ranging from medical, financial, legal and household.

My caregiver is my husband, Roberto. For those that know Roberto, he is more reserved and doesn’t like to be in the spotlight. He would probably not even want me writing a post entirely dedicated to him! He is one of the reasons why I’m able to remain strong through all this. He cheers me up when I’m feeling sad and reminds me of all the progress I have made.

About Roberto

Roberto came to the US by himself from El Salvador when he was 16 years old, not knowing any English. He learned English, got a job, got his own car and place to live, put himself through college with no student loans while working full-time, and constantly works hard to achieve his dreams for a better life for him and our family.

Roberto and I have been together for 9 years, married for 4 years. When we made our marriage vows, I never thought just a few years later I would witness him by my side living up to those vows, caring for me while I fight a serious health condition. He has selflessly put his needs aside to make sure Camila and I are his priorities.

Being Mom and Dad

Roberto has shouldered much of the parenting since my diagnosis. He has taken on a lot of the parenting responsibilities I used to do because I temporarily cannot do them. He does every diaper change, day care drop off and pickup, and bath time, and chases after her. I know there are days he’s physically tired and mentally overloaded, but he doesn’t complain. In turn, Camila is deeply attached to her papá. She loves him so much and enjoys all the time they spend together.

The Other Unsung Heroes

Roberto isn’t doing it all alone. We have several friends and family members who have stepped in to help Roberto and I during this time. We’ve had countless delicious meals sent to us so we don’t have to worry about cooking, offers to babysit Camila, and just an outpouring of love and prayers.

My parents have, without hesitation, continuously helped us with Camila. They take care of her when I’m getting my treatment so Roberto can stay with me in the hospital. They watch her if I’m not feeling well or if she’s sick and we need to isolate her from me. They’ve made sacrifices in their lives to accommodate Camila and I. I’m so grateful to have them nearby. Camila loves to spend time with her grandparents too.

My Caregiver, My Hero

People tell me I’m strong and positive. I feel weird accepting that compliment because I’m able to be strong and positive because of all the people that surround me with love and support. Roberto is by my side everyday, reassuring me that everything will be okay, telling me I’m beautiful while I stare at my patchy hair in the mirror, and helping make sure Camila is happy. I owe him big time and have promised him he can get recessed lighting installed and we can go on a cruise when this is all over! 😉

Before Cancer… We Had Another Scare

Before my cancer diagnosis, Roberto and I went through another scare related to this pregnancy. We had a non-invasive pregnancy test (NIPT) that came back with a positive result for Down syndrome. We have now learned that this result was actually related to my cancer diagnosis. I am sharing this experience in hopes that it helps other families affected, as there is minimal information out there linking cancer and NIPT results.

Disclaimer: no personal beliefs regarding Down syndrome or pregnancy termination are expressed in this post.

Yay! We’re Pregnant!

I was very fortunate to have a healthy pregnancy with Camila. I taught group exercise classes, lifted weights, and did Zumba until I was 38 weeks pregnant! I had no pregnancy issues. I figured since I was still in pretty good health and fitness and delivered a healthy baby, my second pregnancy should be smooth too. I was hoping to be active through my pregnancy to have a strong body ready for labor and delivery. Surely these things would lead to a healthy baby.

I went ahead and scheduled my prenatal care for the first trimester. We had two ultrasounds done and both looked good. We elected to do optional first trimester genetic screening testing, known as Non-Invasive Prenatal Test (NIPT). For those unfamiliar with this test, it screens if there is missing or extra chromosomes 13, 18, 21, or sex chromosome. It is a screening test, meaning it gives you a risk of having one of the above conditions; it is not a diagnostic test. Well known companies that offer this test include Natera, Progenity, Harmony, and MaternT21. It is also a way to find out the gender of the baby early on in pregnancy. Roberto and I agreed it was important to do the NIPT test before we made our pregnancy announcement to be sure we had a healthy baby on the way.

Third Time’s a Charm

At 12 weeks pregnant, it was time to do the bloodwork for the NIPT. Because my insurance provider had changed since my first pregnancy, I was directed to use Natera’s Panorama test as that was the in-network NIPT for my insurance provider. 

The day prior to having my NIPT test, I got a bad bout of food poisoning. I didn’t want to delay the NIPT test any longer, so I ate some crackers and drank some gatorade, headed to the lab, and got my blood drawn.

It took 10 days to get our results. The nurse called me and said the Natera Panorama test came back and it said “No Results”. What could this mean? It said there was some sort of laboratory error and they needed me to provide another blood sample. UGH! I figured it was because I had food poisoning. I felt like I wasted 2 weeks and we wanted to make our pregnancy announcement soon since I was starting to show. During this time, I also found out my insurance would not be covering the NIPT costs since I was not considered a high-risk pregnancy, so the cost would be out of pocket. 

At 14 weeks pregnant, I went back to the lab and did a redraw to have my blood sample sent in again. We waited another 10 days for the results. One morning, as Roberto and I were driving to work, I checked the Natera portal and saw the results were ready. We had been wavering back and forth if we would do a gender reveal party when his family comes to visit. If I open the results, I would see the gender of the baby. I was so eager that I told Roberto I didn’t want to wait and begged him to let me go ahead and open the results instead of waiting for the doctor to call. He obliged and we opened the results together.

The results said… NO RESULTS. Again. How could this be? Two inconclusive test results in a row. This time, the results said that there was a DNA pattern that could not be interpreted. What does this mean? Does this mean there is actually an issue with the baby or is it a lab error? I had also started to get sick recently with a bad cough (hint: the start of my cancer symptoms). Maybe it couldn’t read my DNA because I was sick and on various medications?

We had a checkup with our OB the following day. He said it was very unusual to get no result twice. However, he assured me for my age, I had less than a 1% chance of having a baby with a genetic disorder. He said it was up to us if we wanted to try another NIPT test. We still wanted to, even if it meant paying more out of pocket. We opted to go with Progenity, the same test I used with Camila.

So now at 16 weeks pregnant, I got my third NIPT test. We were hoping this would be the final one. I was also very much showing at this point and several people at work were suspicious. I told Roberto I wanted to go ahead and start sharing with people that I was pregnant because I really couldn’t hide it much longer. We both originally wanted to keep our pregnancy news private until we received the NIPT results, but since it was taking so long, I felt like I needed to go ahead and tell people. Roberto discouraged me from doing it, but I went ahead and shared the news with more friends and my coworkers. Prior to this, only close family and friends knew.

The Results

In just 5 days, my obstetrician called me on a Friday I was off work. He said my Progenity test results came back with a high risk of the baby having Down syndrome (extra copy of chromosome 21). The world completely stopped moving. How could this be? I’m healthy and only 33 years old; I have less than a 1% chance of having a baby with a genetic disorder. How could this happen? I asked my doctor how accurate this test is. He said they are usually pretty accurate, though it is a screening test to assess risk and not a diagnostic test to confirm a result. Is it possible the test is a false positive? Very unlikely, he said. My OB explained my options on what I could do next if I wanted to do additional diagnostic testing to confirm the NIPT test.

I tried to process it, but a million different thoughts raced through my mind. Was I fit to be a mother to a special needs child? Would it be hard on Camila to live a life with a sibling with Down syndrome? I already feel like I’m struggling now with a healthy child. How can I do it with a child that needs more? Other thoughts crossed my mind. Should we have a special needs baby knowing that we are not prepared? Could I live with myself if I terminated this pregnancy? What would I tell everyone when they ask what happened? They all know I’m pregnant now.

I called Roberto at work to tell him the news. I could not keep myself together. He came home from work and we cried together. We only wanted a healthy baby and now nothing was guaranteed for our family. We looked at the Progenity test results together and that’s when we learned the baby’s gender in the least exciting or joyous way. It’s a boy. It was hard to be excited knowing the challenges our family would face.

We shared the news with my parents. It was extremely difficult to look at my parents and tell them that there could be something wrong with the baby. My mom told me exactly what we needed to hear–that she would support us no matter what we chose to do. Our joy was their joy, and our sadness is their sadness. My dad prayed to his mother that everything would actually be fine and he said that his mom has never let him down we he needed her. Roberto also shared the news with his parents, but very lightly as he did not want to worry them. They said they would pray for us.

At this point, praying was all we could do. The reality is if the baby has Down syndrome, that already developed long ago in the beginning of pregnancy. There was nothing we could do to reverse it. For those not familiar with Down syndrome, it occurs randomly. It’s neither the mother’s nor the father’s fault and there is nothing you can do environmentally or behaviorally do to prevent it.

We had several plans that weekend and had to put on our best poker faces. We got asked by well-meaning friends if we were excited for baby #2. I had to avoid taking pictures because I didn’t even know if I was going to be pregnant much longer. We felt so helpless because there was nothing we could do but wait until the week to start to see specialists for our situation. We both did our fair share of Googling to read all sorts of stories that made our imaginations run wild. And there were lots of tears over the weekend. The one thing that kept us together was our shining light, Camila. She is so happy and full of life. We are so blessed to have her. Maybe she’d be our only child, because I don’t know if I could go through this again.

More Testing 

The following Monday morning, I get to work and start calling the maternal fetal medicine specialists that my OB’s office referred me to. I am desperate to get an appointment as soon as possible. I am 17 weeks pregnant at this point and I feel like time is running out for us to make a decision on what to do next if we were to consider other options (we never said what we going to decide on what to do until we were faced with a confirmed diagnosis). I am able to get an appointment the following day at the High Risk Pregnancy Center at Memorial Hermann Sugar Land. They explained to me that they would do a level 2 ultrasound, we would talk to the a genetic counselor, and if I decided to proceed, I could even do an amniocentesis that day. An amniocentesis is an invasive prenatal diagnostic test that uses amniotic fluid to test for chromosomal abnormalities. It is a highly accurate way to confirm if the baby does have Down syndrome or other genetic disorders.

We get to our appointment at the High Risk Pregnancy Center. There are so many emotions running through us. We’re scared, hopeful, nervous, sad, confused. The first thing we do is the level 2 ultrasound. This is similar to the anatomy ultrasound normally done at 20 weeks. We look at the entire baby and the ultrasound technician takes measurements and close-ups to identify any soft markers for Down syndrome. The high risk pregnancy OB reviews our ultrasound and confidently says the baby looks healthy! There are no soft markers showing up for Down syndrome! However, we can’t fully celebrate yet. About 50% of babies that do have Down syndrome don’t show any soft markers in their ultrasound. We are at least going in the right direction of good news though.

Next, we speak with the genetic counselor. She starts from the basics of genetics and we go over all three of my NIPT results. She explains that an NIPT test only tests for a limited set of genetic issues–specifically trisomy 13, 18, 21 (Down syndrome), and sex chromosomes. We have 23 sets of chromosomes, so it does not test for the others. NIPT test also reads placenta DNA, which is not necessarily the same as the baby’s actual DNA. She explains to us that since the second NIPT test I took had a result of DNA not being able to be read, it presents another situation to us. It is possible that my second NIPT test could not be read because perhaps there is an issue with a chromosome outside of what an NIPT test would pick up. So now, not only are we worried about the possibility of the baby having Down syndrome, but the baby could actually have another genetic issue due to another chromosome having an issue.

Both Roberto and I are in agreement that we do want to have more diagnostic testing done in order to confirm the baby’s state. The genetic counselor suggests in order to do this, we do an amniocentesis and then order three tests:

  1. The FISH test is a rapid result test that can accurately diagnose if the baby does or does not have trisomy 13, 18, 21, and any sex chromosome issues. It will basically confirm the NIPT results. The turnaround time on this test is 1-2 days, which would be a great way for us to get some quick preliminary results.
  2. A chromosome microarray (CMA) can look for extra (duplicated) or missing (deleted) chromosomal segments for all chromosomes as well as mosaicism in the chromosomes. This test can confirm if there are any issues with all chromosomes as it relates extra or missing segments. It takes 7-10 days for this test result to come in.
  3. A karyotype will review of all the chromosomes to make sure we only have a pair of all 23 chromosomes (no extra or missing chromosomes). This test takes the longest to be completed at 10-14 days. These three tests would give us high assurance and accuracy if there are any genetic issues with the baby.

The genetic counselor noted that nothing is guaranteed when it comes to testing a fetus. There could be other health issues that these genetic tests do not cover. The only way we would ever know if we truly have a healthy baby is on delivery day.

We asked the genetic counselor what was the chance the NIPT is a false positive. We thought this was the only way we could ever get the positive outcome we longed for. She said it can happen, but it’s not common. When it comes down to it, I think it’s a 1% chance of there being a false positive. The odds aren’t in our favor.

The genetic counselor never pressured us to go with one option or another. She laid out all of our options and let us decide what was right for us. We decided to immediately move forward with the amniocentesis and the three tests she recommended. They outlined the risks associated with having an amniocentesis which included a very small chance of miscarriage. In fact, several moms decline having an amniocentesis because they don’t want to risk miscarriage. We accepted the risks and moved forward.

The amniocentesis procedure itself took less than 15 minutes in entirety. They did another ultrasound to identify the baby’s position and then stuck a long needle into my abdomen to pull a small sample of amniotic fluid. It hurt but was over quickly. We went home feeling sad thinking about how in a couple of weeks we may be faced with a difficult situation ahead for our future as a family. We were also hopeful that there was a small chance of a miracle happening with a false positive.

Waiting for Results

My cousin Julie’s wedding was that weekend and we agonized about how tons of family and friends would be asking about my pregnancy. We’d have to pretend and say everything is fine, when in reality we were dealing with a devastating situation.

Here we are at Julie’s wedding trying to have fun despite a lot on our mind. I was also in a lot of physical pain since my cancer symptoms were so bad at this point, but I had no idea it was cancer.

We got a call from our genetic counselor two days after the amniocentesis, the Thursday before Julie’s wedding. She shared that our FISH results were in and they were normal! This confirmed that the baby does not have Down Syndrome nor any issues with chromosomes 13, 18 and the sex chromosomes. This was amazing news! Our prayers were being answered. We were on the right path to the NIPT being a false positive. This calmed our nerves and we now felt like we could begin to feel more excited about the pregnancy.

A few days later, Roberto and I were both home from work because we were both sick, including Camila. We got another call from our genetic counselor and our chromosome microarray (second test) results were in. They were normal! This meant that there were no chromosome micro additions or deletions, including mosaicism. It meant that we had more assurance that the other chromosomes didn’t have issues. We continued to move in the direction of getting the false positive we prayed for.

We had one last final test result to wait for–the karyotype. This test result takes the longest to get back, but would give us the final reassurance if the baby had any major genetic issues. We finally got the call two weeks after the amniocentesis. The results were normal! All three of our tests came back with normal results and the healthy baby we prayed for was closer to a reality.

At the time, the genetic counselor and obstetrician can’t explain why I got the NIPT results I did. They want to continue to monitor my pregnancy closely and we’d continue to pray for a healthy baby.

The Link to Cancer

It wasn’t until my cancer diagnosis that my high risk obstetrician stated that the NIPT scare was likely due to me having cancer. She said that cancers that affect the blood, like leukemia and lymphoma, often make it hard for NIPT tests to be properly read. We’re sharing our experience because there’s not much out there on false positive NIPT results, much less how cancer can be linked to it.

I have since shared my diagnoses with our genetic counselor and she’s working with a third party laboratory so I can participate in additional research with them. Hopefully, more will be known and advancements in genetic testing and cancer can be made.

We continue to pray for a healthy baby for the remainder of my pregnancy and chemo treatments. So far, he is doing great and growing well.

Chemo Treatment #1 – DONE!

I have 6 chemo treatments total and I’m proud to say that the first treatment is completed and went very well! I already feel a significant improvement in my symptoms. Normally, the chemo treatment I’m prescribed (R-CHOP) is done outpatient and in a day, but due to my pregnancy, my doctor wanted my first two treatments to be inpatient and administered slowly so they could better monitor me and limit any adverse side effects.

Prior being admitted for my first treatment, both Roberto and I felt incredibly pumped to start. I was tired of feeling like crap all the time and ready to start feeling better! My doctors had said that even after the first treatment, I’d start to notice a difference. I didn’t care if chemo was going to possibly have bad side effects, I was weirdly excited about feeling better.

Before every treatment, I meet with my high risk obstetrician and she checks the baby through ultrasound to make sure everything is going well. She signs off that the baby and I are ready to go through chemo. The R-CHOP chemo regimen has been used on pregnant patients in the past and the outcomes have been positive.

Chemo – Day 1

I was pretty ignorant about cancer before my diagnosis. Admittedly, I didn’t even know chemotherapy was administered through IV. I have a tremendous amount of respect for anyone in the medical field and especially the staff at MD Anderson who openly educated me over the last few weeks. I’ve learned a lot!

I was admitted for treatment on December 4th, less than a week after my diagnosis because I needed to start immediately. Aside from when I had Camila, this was my first time staying in a hospital. And for anyone who has stayed in a hospital, you know that a lot of it is waiting. By no means am I saying the hospital is inefficient, but there’s lots of checks and due diligence required before they can start giving you drugs. Because I have so much downtime, I’ve been able to continue working during my treatment

Roberto and Maggie (my best friend, who is conveniently also a clinical pharmacist at MD Anderson) stayed with me throughout my chemo treatment. I really couldn’t have been in better hands! Having them there really made me feel more at ease.

My chemo treatment, called R-CHOP, was started in the evening around dinner time. They gave me the CHOP portion of it. The C, H, and O were administered over IV and took about 3 hours total. The P was prednisone, a steroid pill that I take daily for 5 days. They gave it to me at night, so I was super hyper that evening. Roberto said he had never seen me so chatty at night in a long time, because lately I’ve been so exhausted.

We were done with the CHOP portion by bedtime and immediately that evening I already noticed my symptoms subsiding. I was coughing much less and way less itchy. Maggie said that this is probably from the immediate effects of the prednisone, but this was really exciting to see I was already feeling better! I didn’t fall asleep until 2am because of the prednisone side effects.

Chemo – Day 2

The next day, I was going to be administered the R portion (rituximab), which is the largest dose of chemo and most likely to have side effects. The doctor wanted to administer it very slowly to minimize my side effects… so slow that it was going to take over 13 hours to do it. We started around 11am and it completely finished at almost 2am! The only adverse side effect I had was a brief period of feeling lightheaded and low blood pressure at the very beginning. It’s very possible it was caused by the Benadryl they gave me though, to help with the possible itchy skin side effect. Overall, it wasn’t too bad as I expected it to be. I was still able to get up and walk around with my IV while it was being administered.

I was fortunate to have several people come visit me at the hospital that day to keep me entertained during the long infusion. My cousins Brian and Julie, aunt Thu, and friends Alice and Jeff came by to keep me company.

My symptoms continued to improve that evening. It was really motivating to see such immediate results. Also, I started to finally have more of an appetite and eat like a pregnant woman. The hospital food at MD Anderson is actually pretty decent and the portions are huge! I was laughing with the nurses because the fried shrimp platter contains 8 pieces of shrimp, each the size of a baby’s fist. What other restaurant serves that much shrimp and that big?!

Day 3 – Ready to Go Home

By the third day, I was ready to be discharged because we were done with treatment and I had no adverse reactions that required additional monitoring. However, I needed a blood transfusion to increase my hemoglobin count before going home. This is a pretty simple procedure with minimal risk. (Side note: thanks to anyone who has ever donated blood in the past!) Being pregnant, doctors wanted me to have sufficient hemoglobin so enough oxygen could be carried in my blood to the baby. I had to get two blood transfusions that day which took over 7 hours to do. I was finally discharged at 9:30pm that night and it felt so good to be home!

A New Routine

As soon as I got home, I realized my home life was not going to be the same. I had to focus on my health. That meant making sure I didn’t get sick because my weakened immune system may not be strong enough to fight it. Inconveniently, Camila had a cold this week so I had to stay away from her.

There are a lot of things I have to avoid doing now to prevent getting sick or infections. This includes not going to crowded, public places, working from home, washing my hands constantly (they are so dry now), wearing a face mask, not doing certain household chores, avoiding raw fruits/veggies, and the hardest of them all, relying on others to care for my child. Since Camila goes to daycare, it’s potentially exposing me to a whole lot of germs. And it’s cold and flu season. For now, Roberto and my parents are the one helping take care of her (as well as many other things around the house) while I sit wearing a face mask. I know she’s in good hands with them, but it’s hard to sit back and not be mom. (More on this topic in a future post.)

All these things are temporary though. Eventually, my life will be back to normal and I realize this is a temporary sacrifice for my overall health.

Until the Next Chemo Treatment

I have three weeks between chemo treatments. I’m still working during this time (willingly and happily, as I enjoy my job and my employer has been very understanding). I’m able to work from home. It helps me feel safer since I’m less likely to get sick, and I also feel productive and engaged everyday.

My priorities each day are to get lots of rest and sleep, drink lots of water, and exercise/walk. So far, I’ve been feeling great. My energy levels have been pretty good. The doctor is happy with my progress. To reduce daily stress, we’ve outsourced some of our household chores. Several gracious friends and family members have provided food for us and that has taken the relief off from cooking.  I’ve even succumbed to using the <gasp> dishwasher daily!

My symptoms have dramatically improved just after one treatment. I went in with a terrible cough caused by the mass in my chest. The mass was so large that I couldn’t even lay in a reclined position without coughing uncontrollably and feeling like I was suffocating. The cough is nearly gone now! I can finally lay in reclined positions comfortably (my back is so happy). I no longer get winded from walking up a flight of stairs! My fractured rib is nearly completely healed. I still have itchy skin and unfortunately this keeps me up at night at times, but I’m optimistic it’ll improve with the next treatment.

All the Support

I want to thank everyone for the outpouring of support. Whether this is praying for me, texting to see how I’m doing, sending food, helping with Camila, or just sending positive vibes, please know all of this is helping me!

I know a lot of people feel sad when they hear my situation, but please don’t feel this way. Instead, find comfort and hope knowing that my treatment is going well and I feel so much better.

Notable Progress From This Round

  • Coughing is almost completely gone!
  • No longer winded from walking up a flight up stairs. I even went on a 30 minute walk and started doing light resistance training at home.
  • Huge appetite increase – finally eating like a pregnant woman and having cravings!
  • Increased lung capacity – spirometer (breathing tool) readings have gone up 500 mL since I left the hospital.
  • Improved energy level – I have more energy now than before. There are some days I am fatigued, but it is completely manageable.
  • As of the publish date of this post, I still have my hair and have not yet noticed any hair loss. I’m crossing my fingers those prenatal vitamins pull through, but I know it’s a long shot.
  • I had an MRI after the first chemo treatment to check if the cancer ever spread to my pelvic and abdominal and it did not! So this means I do not have stage 3 or 4 lymphoma, likely stage 1 or 2.
  • Most importantly, baby is healthy and growing at the right pace. As of the date of this post, I’m 25 weeks pregnant.

Next chemo treatment is December 27th. I’m ready! I’ll be 1/3 done by the end of 2017!