Birth Story: ‘I had surgery and 14 rounds of chemo while pregnant’

Posted in Birth Stories.

Alana holds her newborn baby.

On January 9th, 2022, Alana and her partner were so excited to announce their one-year-old son was going to become a big brother. They were expecting a baby girl. But just one week later, her world was turned upside down when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at 13 weeks pregnant.

Sharing her inspiring and emotional story with members of the Mum’s Grapevine Winter 2022 group, Alana went on to kick cancer’s butt and deliver a beautiful little daughter in July, who she named Skye.

“When I was in my first trimester, my one-year-old pretty much weaned himself from breastfeeding, and then I found a lump in my left breast. I thought this was a blocked duct from ceasing breastfeeding but after trying multiple things to clear it, my fiancé convinced me to go to the doctor,” she says.

“I was 13 weeks pregnant, we had just announced our pregnancy to all our friends and family and I had to go for an urgent ultrasound and biopsy, later that week I was diagnosed with breast cancer. No family history, and I was 37 years old. Surgery was organised for a couple weeks later and then chemotherapy.

“Being told you have cancer when you are pregnant is the most terrifying thing in the world, I was so scared for my little girl, I had to do everything I could to fight this battle so she would be okay. I tried to remain positive but I was so scared for Skye. The chemo I was given was safe during pregnancy and I joined a Facebook page with multiple positive stories, even seeing teenagers who were thriving after their mums had had chemo while pregnant. There were obviously risks, like in everything, but the alternative of not having the chemo was too grim to think about, as the cancer was aggressive Grade 3 and later we found out stage 3.”

A pregnant Alana gets chemotherapy

Not only was Alana facing a tough pregnancy with cancer, but she was also caring for her active toddler as well – a bit challenging, to say the least!

“But I kept myself as healthy as I could as I was battling this for more than myself (it didn’t hit me until after Skye was born that in fact, it was me who had cancer).

“I finished round 14 of chemo on the Friday, I had two more sessions to go, and three weeks until Skye was born. But at 5am on the Sunday morning my waters broke. I rang the hospital and because of my situation, they told me to come in urgently. I was 36.5 weeks, and because of the risk factors with everything going on, the obstetrician on call (my obstetrician was away on annual leave) decided it was safest for us to have meds to start my contractions and deliver Skye safely.

“I was given some meds and an epidural, VERY shortly after I was in a huge amount of pain and holding onto the side of the bed telling them baby was coming, the obstetrician had checked a few moments earlier and I was only 2cm dilated but I knew I needed to push, the midwife checked and I was 10cm and ready to go.

A pregnancy photoshoot, Alana shows off her belly with a bald head from chemotherapy

A fast birth

“I knew I had to give the first pushes everything I had or I would get too fatigued, my energy levels were about a 2/10 but I knew there were extra risks with my condition for infections if I had to have an emergency c-section. I honestly still to this day a year on don’t know how I had the strength to push her out in a few pushes, days after having chemotherapy.

“Skye was born 2430 grams at 11:54am, so she was little but she was absolutely fine. I obviously couldn’t breastfeed because of the chemo and I was booked in for more surgery after she was born as they couldn’t get clear margins at my first surgery. But this meant she was straight on the baby bottle and formula and put weight on quickly.

“I was so fortunate to have the most amazing midwife with us. She was so caring, knowledgeable, and thoughtful. She stayed with us the whole labour and then stayed after her shift to take me to the ward just to make sure I was okay.

“I was relaxed in the room giving birth and it was a beautiful experience, but I was terrified that she might not be okay. When Skye was in my arms both Adam and Melissa both confirmed she was fine. I have never felt such relief and happiness in my life that my baby was now safe.”

Alana with her newborn baby and husband

Alana holds her baby girl in a chair

Skye eats cake for her 1st birthday

Breast cancer recovery

After giving birth, Alana underwent two single mastectomies and reconstruction surgery.

“I can confirm my spark is back, I feel amazing (there are still tough days but every mum has them) I’m absolutely loving my new body and hair, and I feel better than I have in years. It’s so crazy to look back at the pics from last year to see what I overcame but so glad I took all these pics to constantly remind myself!”

She is now busy chasing after two little ones and planning a wedding! We wish Alana all the best with her recovery and future.

Got your own birth story you’re itching to tell? We’re always on the lookout for new stories to feature. Submit your birth story.

More birth stories from the Grapeviner community

About to (or just had) a baby?

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