By: Patty Murray, Chairwoman and Co-founder of Hope for Two…The Pregnant with Cancer Network
A year or so ago my 20 year old son Patrick, who I was pregnant with when diagnosed with advanced stage breast cancer, gave me the idea for this article. He asked, “Was your pregnancy a great incentive to fight even harder than you might have otherwise?” I have tangentially touched upon this topic, when I shared with you my mantra, “I have no option but to live.” Each time one of those fearful thoughts would creep into my mind, I would repeat that phrase over and over again. In the middle of the night, I would peer into my two little children’s bedrooms, stare at them while they were sleeping, and know that I just had to be around to be their mom. But I have never really attacked the question that Patrick posed. The answer is a resounding, “Yes, I fought all the fiercer because I was pregnant!-” Each time I rubbed my belly I said, “I have to make it because I so want to be his mom forever!”
Once I got over the initial shock of being diagnosed with cancer while pregnant and processed the fact that what should have been one the happiest times in my life became a virtual nightmare, I began to view it as a blessing. This realization then became a source of strength. I heard similar views from many Hope for Two members. They say, “If it wasn’t for my pregnancy, perhaps I wouldn’t have listened to my symptoms and been diagnosed so early.” Or, “Thank God I was pregnant because the pregnancy hormones speed up the cancer’s growth and it may have been left unnoticed for years.” Some may think that this is a Pollyanna-like approach- wearing rose colored glasses, but I think not. When given a choice between thinking positively or negatively, I always choose the positive option. If you are wrong, then you lose nothing. But if you choose the negative option and then are wrong, all the damaging effects of negativity-higher blood pressure, depression, mental fog, increased pulse rate- have unnecessarily harmed you.
Also, being diagnosed with cancer while pregnant only heightens what all mothers wish for themselves and their children- to dream of their child going to school, graduating from high school, and other wonderful milestones. When my son was five months old, a nurse tried to rob me of those dreams, but I wouldn’t let her. When I was done with my last chemotherapy, I marched into my surgeon’s office to have my port removed. That nurse said that I would have to keep it in for at least a year, because with my grade and stage of cancer I probably will have a metastasis within the year. I told my husband, “This thing is coming out today!” It was the will to be there for my children that gave me the strength to fight and to be so convicted that day.
Two years ago, when I was diagnosed with my second breast cancer, my daughter Molly shared with me the following saying on a card that I carried with me for over a year.
“If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together, there is something you must always remember-
You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
-Christopher Robin to Winnie to Pooh
I hung onto those words during the initial dark days and I turn to them today as I once again defeat cancer.
May we keep on tapping into that strength that breaks through during times of struggle; and when we find we have some extra, may we share it with others and bolster those that are running a bit low. Until next time, be strong, and always remember to hope! ✿