At age 26, I had already been through two surgeries to remove benign ovarian cysts so I was very familiar with the symptoms to look for. My husband and I decided it was time to have a baby. I thought I may have had a cyst when I got pregnant because I was having the same symptoms as before, so being the realist that I am, I was hopeful but knew the likelihood of losing the baby early in my pregnancy. My OB didn’t want my first visit to be until my eleventh week (which was late to me because I thought I needed to be seen NOW!), but I agreed and scheduled the appointment. When I was 8 weeks pregnant, I started having mild abdominal pain which quickly turned to sharp shooting pains and nausea. I was sure I was having a miscarriage, but my husband, in an attempt to comfort me, told me it was nothing and to try to “sleep it off.” When I woke up the next morning, my stomach was so sore, I felt as if I had done 1000 crunches; I couldn’t even get up on my own. We went to the emergency room and the investigation began. They ran blood tests and did sonograms. The results were puzzling to me. According to the first sonogram, the baby was fine but there was a lot of free fluid in my abdomen which indicated that I may have had a cyst rupture but there was no way to tell. They were able to tell from the blood tests that I was RH Negative and needed a shot to prevent (in worse case scenarios) a miscarriage. During the second sonogram, it was discovered that I had a 9cm cyst on my left ovary. The OB decided that we could safely do surgery at 16 weeks to remove the cyst if it didn’t go away on its own and that the baby would be fine. This is how my cancer saved my baby; if I didn’t have the cyst, I wouldn’t have gone to the ER that night and received the shot to counter the RH negative factor. I would have gone in at 11 weeks like originally planned and may have had a miscarriage before then.
I went for my first OB visit a few weeks later and received all of the different blood tests that they run on the first visit. When the test results came back, the CA125, which is an ovarian cancer tumor maker, was elevated. My doctor told me not to worry, that pregnancy and cysts can cause this and since I had both, it was likely that it wasn’t cancer, but she would refer me to an oncologist “just to be safe.” According to frequent sonograms, the cyst was growing at a rate of a cm per week. The cyst ruptured yet again before I went to see the oncologist. When the appointment finally came, she told me that the cyst needed to be removed and that it wouldn’t be as detrimental to the baby as it would be to leave it alone. On the first day of my 2nd trimester, I went into surgery to have the cyst and my left ovary removed. I recovered well from this and thought I was in the clear. I thought it was strange that when the doctor called to check on me, she would remind me that the pathology results had not come back yet, but since I had been through surgery before with no other issues, I just let it go. Three weeks after surgery, the oncologist called at 8 o’clock in the evening and left a voicemail. When I listened to it, I heard the words that changed my life forever: “The pathology reports are complicated and we need to speak to you and your husband in person.” The cyst and ovary that had been removed, along with the extra fluid that my body was absorbing, was malignant. ‘Adenocarcinoma of the ovary’ is what they called it. There wasn’t much research on ovarian cancer during pregnancy, much less treatment and survival rates. The plan was to deliver the baby early and start chemotherapy after that. Never once did anyone suggest aborting the pregnancy, but my realistic-self expected it to happen. It was terrifying to be told that, “Yes, you have cancer, but we’re going to wait 6 months to treat it.” All I focused on was the baby. Getting him here healthy was the only option I had.
Because radiation during pregnancy can be dangerous to the fetus, after I delivered a full-term, healthy baby boy, I went back for more blood tests and CT scans. The tests showed no cancer, anywhere! I couldn’t believe the miracle that had happened. I opted for a full hysterectomy 8 months after my son was born and I still go every 3-4 months for check-ups. This experience made me realize that I’m not invincible. Had I not been pregnant, the cancer may not have been found as early as it was, and had I not had the cyst, I wouldn’t have had the shot to counter the antibodies from being RH negative. I keep wondering if God gave me cancer so my little man would be okay, or if he gave me my little man so I would be okay. Either way, my son’s existence is nothing short of a miracle!
Amber & Easton Boney, Colbert, OK
Share your personal story by visiting our story submission page.