When I was diagnosed with my primary mediastinal large b-cell lymphoma diagnosis in November 2017, I was in the second trimester of my pregnancy. I couldn’t find a lot of advice for pregnant cancer patients, so now I’m doing my part to help others going through a similar experience.
Here are five lessons I learned while undergoing cancer treatment during my pregnancy.
Accept all of the help you are offered
People will probably offer to bring you a meal, babysit, clean your house, mow your lawn, accompany you to the hospital, buy you something. Accept their offers. Don’t have pride and think you can do it all, because you can’t. Don’t think you’re inconveniencing people, because you aren’t. People want to help you. It takes a village to beat cancer! You don’t have to do it alone. The gym I taught fitness classes at and my employer set up meal trains for us. My husband and I received probably over 30 meals in the span of four months. I never had to worry about cooking, and that greatly helped.
Count your good days and write off the bad days
Every day that you are not nauseous, fatigued, or sick is a good day. If you have a bad day, that’s OK. Chances are you’ll survive the bad day. I got neutropenia just two weeks before I was planning to deliver my son, Joel. I was in the hospital for seven days, away from my family and too weak to work. I had to remind myself that I have had so many good days before, that a week is just a small blip in the scheme of things. Cancer is just a chapter in our lives and not the whole story.
Your feelings are normal
A few days prior to my last chemotherapy session, a sudden rush of anxiety came over me. I’d been enthusiastically looking forward to the end of treatment, so this caught me by surprise. I spoke to one of my nurses and an MD Anderson social work counselor, who told me it’s normal for cancer patients to feel anxious or worried toward the end of treatment. We cancer patients are often so focused on our treatment that we put aside our emotions, so all those ignored emotions finally hit us when treatment finally ends. They both stressed that it’s better to acknowledge the negative emotions than feel ashamed or embarrassed by them, and it’s OK to feel negative emotions. We are human.
Connect with other patients
Sometimes when I’m at MD Anderson, I make small talk with another cancer patient in the waiting room or talk to the phlebotomist or other staff person. I share my story with them and they’re always in complete shock that I was pregnant, had a baby and received treatment through it all. The best part now is that I share the story with a smile since I have a healthy baby and am in remission. So share your story. Become the face of hope for others, or let them bring hope to you.
Find a new perspective
Cancer robbed me of so many things: my hair, time with my family and friends, my health – the list goes on. But it’s also helped me improve my outlook on life. I don’t worry about the little things anymore, and I try to appreciate even the simplest things. I’m more certain than ever that I married the best man in the world, and I appreciate my parents even more. I may never have learned those things if it weren’t for cancer.
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