My name is Marisela Flores Corona, and this is my story. I was diagnosed at eight weeks pregnant, January of 2020, with Stage 2 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, Triple Negative. We had just announced our pregnancy on New Years Day, and just like that! Seven days later, everything seemed to crash down when I got my diagnosis. I remember feeling numb and in disbelief that I had cancer again, and this time while pregnant. I have been in remission from Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia for eight years now. The first few years after remission, I feared having a reoccurrence, but I never thought I would have to deal with another type of cancer years later. I worried about my two-year-old son the most.
I asked myself, would I make it through this time? Can I get treatment during my pregnancy? So many thoughts ran through my head. Right away, I started looking up information on Pregnancy Associated Breast Cancer and found support groups on social media. I found out that many women were able to get treatment during their pregnancy. I even found Hope for Two and submitted my information right away. Weeks later, I connected to a support woman who was diagnosed with the same type of cancer. I asked her a lot of questions, and her answers were a lot of help. She helped me get an idea of how my journey would go and what to expect. When I had my first appointment with my Oncologist, it did not go so well. After explaining to me the details of my biopsy and what my treatment would consist of, he recommended an abortion to start treatment right away. Because I did some research of my own, I told him I could not make that decision just yet, not until we can find out if I can get treatment while pregnant as many women have. So he decided to refer me for a second opinion, to see a Medical Oncologist at a higher level of care facility (Stanford Healthcare in California).
I was devastated when my husband and I discussed this recommendation. We had been planning to have a second child for a while and to abort; it was not a decision we wanted to make. We prayed that we would not have to wait so long to get answers. We wanted to know if we could keep our pregnancy and get the treatment I needed right away. Luckily, three weeks later, I got the call for my consultation. Our drive to my appointment was 4 hours, but well worth it. The Oncologist I saw was very thorough, compassionate, and very knowledgeable with my diagnosis and situation. She explained everything and answered all of my questions. She told us with confidence that I CAN get treatment while pregnant and that our baby would be completely healthy. After this appointment, I met with my Oncologist again, and he agreed to treat me locally and would be in close contact with my Oncologist at Stanford. When I met my OB/GYN, he disagreed with my Oncologist’s recommendation to abort. He was glad I got a second opinion, and he was determined to care for me the best he could. I left his office with an appointment with Maternal Fetal, who also said I could get treated during my pregnancy. After this, both my husband and I had nothing but HOPE. We were both excited that everything would be okay and that we would be able to meet our bundle of joy.
I started chemo in April of 2020, at 22 weeks pregnant. I had my port placed two days before under general anesthesia, and I was glad that was a success. I remember feeling excited to start this journey and to fight. I know many women might not relate and may not have felt the same way as I did when I started chemo, but I felt excited and confident that my little one and I could get through this. I was monitored very closely during my chemo treatment by Maternal-Fetal, and during one of these visits, I found out we were having a boy. Because the COVID-19 pandemic caused our State of California to go into lockdown, my husband was no longer allowed to join me during my visits. For me, this part was challenging because I wanted him to be with me during my visits. Even though he could not, his support was always there. I completed chemo on May 20th. I was happy that I finished and that our boy did well during my treatment. It was a relief knowing that he would no longer have to go through anything risky, except for one more thing. After I completed chemo, my surgeon ordered a follow-up Mammogram, along with a Breast MRI, before planning my surgery date. To our surprise, my tumor had shrunk almost to nothing with treatment. It felt like a blessing; I was glad I had a positive response to chemo. I was scheduled for a Lumpectomy with Axillary Lymph Node Dissection on July 20th, right at 36 weeks. I was nervous about undergoing surgery and anesthesia again. My Maternal-Fetal doctor and surgeon explained the risks of Premature Labor because I was having surgery late in my pregnancy. My husband and I prayed for surgery to go well and prepped ourselves for the possible early arrival of our son. Luckily, surgery was fast, and it went great. I stayed overnight so the nurses can monitor my baby, any contractions, and my pain. Recovery at home went smooth. I took it easy as possible and had plenty of help from my husband and mother.
August 3rd was my scheduled induction, precisely at 38 weeks pregnant. It felt weird and different going into the hospital without having contractions or have had my water break. I did not know what to expect. I only hoped for labor and delivery to go fast and smooth like my first pregnancy. I took medication at 2:30 pm. When 5:00 pm came along, I had only dilated to 2 cm and had minimal contractions. At 7:30 pm, my OB decided to break my water so I could start active labor. After 90 minutes, I was in intense pain. I did not ask for any medication for pain with my first pregnancy, so I had planned to try to do the same with this pregnancy. But the pain was too much. I decided to go ahead and ask for something to help with the pain. Unfortunately, by that time, I had already dilated to 7 cm and was in active labor, so I could not get anything for the pain. My OB rushed in, and I prepped for delivery. Two hours later, we welcomed our baby boy Dante Ezra Corona. He was born at 10:13 pm and as healthy as can be. His birth lifted a massive weight off my shoulders. I was thrilled that our son was born and that he would no longer have to fight with mommy. This was the moment we had hoped for and why I fought so hard. Our little miracle fought alongside me; to me, he is a warrior. Words cannot fully describe the feeling of having to fight cancer while pregnant and reaching the point when you get to meet that blessing you miraculously carried for nine months.
Our Dante Ezra is currently ten months now, and every day is a blessing. It has been amazing watching him grow, as well as my three-year-old son. Every day when I see Dante, I remember why I remain strong and why I continue to fight. Both my boys give me the strength I need every day as I continue with treatment. I am currently halfway through my radiation treatment, and I am looking forward to the day I am officially done. My boys are still young, and they need their momma to be strong and finish this battle. I believe I can and will for my boys.