MY CANCER JOURNEY
I was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) at 27 years old. I was not just a young diagnosed with AML, but I was 29 pregnant with my second child when we found out.
Honestly, if I hadn’t been pregnant I probably would have never found out. And if I had, it would have been too late. Acute Myeloid Leukemia is an aggressive cancer, therefore, it spreads very quickly. There is another form of leukemia that is Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML) that spreads slowly.
This diagnosis hit me like a wrecking ball, as Miley would say. I’d honestly never thought of anyone being pregnant and having cancer. The idea had never crossed my mind.
My pregnancy had already been a rough one. I threw up every day, several times a day until I was about 23 weeks. The nausea finally slowed down to about once a day, but I noticed I was overwhelmingly tired and would get winded walking from the living room to the bathroom, which was about 10-15 feet or so. Since I’d been pregnant once before, I knew my second trimester shouldn’t be so tiring.
I was already seeing a high-risk pregnancy doctor, because my blood pressure was high (and I had pre-eclampsia with my first-born) and I had a placenta protein issue that would be concerning as I progressed in the pregnancy. They were pretty much worried that my placenta may give out before the baby was born.
So about mid-pregnancy, I’d walk a few feet, feel a little lightheaded, sit down and could hear my heart beating in my ears. Along with night sweats, not being able to walk around the house without feeling like I ran a marathon and a plethora of bruises that were popping up all over my body, I knew something was wrong.
At 24 weeks, I told my OB/GYN that I was having these issues so she took some blood for labs. Things were low, but not alarming low and so we agreed to check back on it in a month; or if I felt things had worsened.
At 28 weeks pregnant, I completed my gestational diabetes test, as every pregnant woman does at that stage. As soon as my doctor got the results she called me–on a Sunday. That wasn’t a good sign. And on top of that, I was heading out the door on my way to my baby shower.
“I’ve scheduled you an appointment to see a hematologist tomorrow at Texas Oncology,” she said. “Your bloodwork came back, and it’s worse.”
“Could it be cancer?” I asked.
“I don’t know. This is out of my realm. I’m a vagina doctor; vaginas are my thing, but this I know nothing about. You just need to go to the hematologist and get checked out.”
The next day I went. The hematologist said things looked normal. I was producing healthy cells from my bone marrow. I needed to come back in a week to keep monitoring it, but things were OK.
By Wednesday, I was having back spasms that were so painful they would paralyze me. I’d done nothing to all day, mainly sitting on the couch because I’d pretty much been put on bed rest at that point. The next morning, with all the issues I’d been having, I knew I needed to call the doctor.
We went to the hospital and the high-risk doctor assured us I wasn’t in pre-mature labor and my cervix was closed. The back spasms had stopped by then, but they still wanted to run a few tests. Then, I was sent up to a room to stay overnight, well I thought for precautions.
My OB/GYN walked in and told my mom and I what was going on. It could be one of three things, she said:
- Blood Pressure Medication I was taking (which I’d been off of for two weeks already)
- The HELP Syndrome (a more dangerous form of pre-eclampsia; which I wasn’t showing any symptoms of)
The next day, my doctor came in with the winning answer. My body had went from showing no leukemic blasts on a Monday to 80% leukemia blasts in my system by Thursday.
It all happened so fast–the diagnosis, the cancer spreading–and we still had a baby to think about. That was only the beginning.
Read all my cancer-related posts here. And, always let me know if you have questions.