Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Pregnant with Cancer

I never thought these words would ever come out of my mouth.

I have leukemia.

That's a hard thing to truly say and know that it's not a dream, or a lie, or a bad joke. It's true. It's real. It's hard.

On top of that, I found out about my diagnosis while 29 weeks pregnant with my second child--a little boy--named Beckham Laine.

These past 12 days have been crazy and full of ups and downs. There were days I cried for a while. Times I had huge breakdowns in tears. Many things racing through my head...

"Why me?"
"Is this real? This has to be a nightmare."
"I want to wake up."
"I feel like I knew this was coming."
"Why does it have to be both? Why can't I just have cancer and why did it have to be while I was pregnant?"
"I'm scared."
"I have to be here for my kids. I have to be here for Klay."
"I can't leave them."
"I want to go home."
"I want to go home."
"I want to go home."


It all started off while I was pregnant and showing signs of severe anemia. When my blood work came back worse at 28 weeks than when I was 24 weeks gestation, that alarmed my OBGYN, who is incredible by the way...

The day I found out (it was the day of my baby shower--Nov. 9) my blood work was worse than before with no explanation as to why (because I had been taking iron). So my OB said go see a hematologist the next day.

I did. And the hematologist seemed to think that it was the blood pressure med I was on. I had stopped taking it that weekend due to the alarming call from my doctor, but it hadn't been long enough to be able to tell what was causing this. So I was ordered to take steroids and come back in a week.

That was on Monday, Nov. 10. On Wednesday, I started having some severe pain in my lower back. It felt like back spasms and would come in waves and be very uncomfortable. I hadn't done anything all day but relax. My mom had even come over and cooked and watched Brody, so I literally napped and just watched TV.

Eventually the pain became a constant dull ache (which was a lot less painful) and I was able to get some sleep.

The next day I decided to call my OB and tell her what was going on. They wanted me to come in and make sure everything was OK. After a sonogram and monitoring everything appeared to be fine. But they wanted me to stay overnight.

I just thought it was to be precautionary, but after my doctor came up to talk to me about the possibilities of what this could be, it became unreal.

My blood work had shown some immature cell blasts, which is most likely cancer at least I think that's what they said, and so I had to do a bone marrow biopsy the next day.

There were three possibilities:

1) It could be the blood pressure med I was on
2) It could be toxemia or the HELP syndrome, though I wasn't showing any signs of that
3) It could be leukemia

Not exactly something you want to hear.

I think I knew deep down, it was going to be the latter. But through the night I kept telling Klay that it had to be the BP med. It just didn't make sense and honestly it didn't make sense to any of my doctors either. They seemed baffled.

Monday, just three days earlier, there was no signs of leukemia and Thursday there were these immature cell blasts? It just seemed so sudden.

But no one was worried about the back pain. It wasn't premature labor and it was never brought up again.

Then Friday, they came in and said, "It's AML. Acute Myeloid Leukemia."

A wave of questions about the future and our options were being tossed our way.

Now, what to do with baby?

My team of doctors researched, discussed and talked about options.

Was Chemo with baby a safe, viable option?

I'm a rare case. It's more common to get breast cancer and be pregnant, but leukemia was whole-other-ballgame.

Then came the longest weekend from hell.

Decisions were changing constantly and we were still waiting on bone marrow results. Nothing was going to happen til Monday, Nov. 17.

Monday, the doctors decided they would wait because my blood levels were still pretty stable, but not five minutes later, they changed their minds and opted for an induction to get Beckham out, so I could get treatment ASAP.

Then the decision arose about if an epidural was an option.

Pretty much only one person was comfortable putting it in. But before that became an option, I was told no epidural. And I was OK with that. I had an epidural with Brody, so I was very PRO-epidural gal. But once it was being talked about being a possibility, I instantly got nervous and my gut was telling me to reject that idea.

The chances that something could go wrong and a red blood cell could be sent up my spine and into my brain spreading this cancer, was slim according to people, but it seemed to me to be too much of a selfish risk to take. Yes, it'd be nice to have one, but I didn't feel right about it. I needed to do this on my own. I've already got so much at stake here.

Monday around 5 p.m., I was wheeled down to Labor and Delivery in tears. This just all seemed to be unreal. As much as I wanted my little guy here and this part of this journey over with, I had just finished a NICU tour the day prior and that was tough. Seeing these tiny babies with all of these machines hooked up for whatever circumstance led them to be born before their little bodies were ready was sad and unfair. And that was going to be my little guy in there next. I know that babies are born premature all the time, but seeing it in person and not just in photos seemed to really make me realize every moment Beckham was in my tummy was precious and crucial time for him to grow and have an easier first few months of life.

Luckily on Thursday and Friday, when we found out I had cancer, I was given my doses of steroids to help the baby's lungs progress faster while he was still in the womb.

Anyway, back to Nov. 17.... they started cytotec and placed those in my cervix to soften it and get the process started. With the first one, I started contracting. By the early morning, they started pitocin. That's when the fun starts. I was having stronger contractions, but I didn't feel like it was too bad. This continued for the next several hours and by Tuesday at around 5 pm or so, I was only dilated to a 2 and long. If you don't know what that means, look it up. But basically the softer your cervix is the better and quicker you dilate.

So my doc decided to stop the induction, send me back upstairs to get some rest. Then we could start again on Thursday.

I had labored for over 24 hours. It wasn't extremely painful... felt mostly like bad menstrual cramps. But my contractions continued over the next day or so even though I was off pitocin. They just weren't happening regular.

Wednesday I took the day off and relaxed. When I got back to my room, I instantly relaxed.

Don't get me wrong, I was disappointed he didn't come that first day, but my body was worn out. I was exhausted had minimal sleep and hadn't eaten in over 24 hours. I needed a break. And it was the right option.

More to come soon...