This is me and my precious daughters at our Christmas Eve service, roughly 36 hours before my husband would be taking me to the Emergency Room to begin a journey we could have never imagined.
Two weeks prior to this, I was on an early morning run with a friend. We had planned to run 5 miles and about 1 mile in, I had to stop. I was feeling more winded than normal and that my heart was beating incredibly fast. I had no idea why. At this time I had these 2 beautiful daughters and a 7 month old son, born the previous May. We walked for a while and then finished out the run. Later that day at work, I continued to feel “off”. I determined to take a pregnancy test on the off chance as I couldn’t figure out another reason I was feeling this way. I was still nursing as well, so maybe I was just dehydrated, I thought. Pregnancy test – positive. 3 more pregnancy tests – still positive. SHOCKED. 2 weeks passed in which we had an appointment at my OB who also confirmed the pregnancy. My husband and I finally got around to being excited about being pregnant with a 4th child while also having a 7 month old. So, we told my sister and brother in law of the news on Christmas Eve night after the service you see above. They were shocked as well, but excited.
Christmas morning was wonderful…..but as the day continued, I felt worse and worse. Simply going up the stairs caused me to need to sit down and catch my breath. That evening I was unable to feed my son sufficiently. Again, I thought this was due to being pregnant and still nursing.
I woke up around 4 am on December 26th to the cry of my son. I fed him enough to get him back to sleep. I walked upstairs to the fridge to get some orange juice, as I still just felt depleted. I opened the fridge and the next thing I remember is feeling cold. I woke up on the hardwood kitchen floor, next to the fridge, with quite a bump, having hit the dining table on the way down. I moved myself to the couch and lay there for an hour asking the Lord what to do. I awoke my husband and sister, we prayed and the Lord made it clear as it then appeared that I had some level of a GI bleed going on. So to the Emergency Room at St. Thomas Rutherford, we went.
To spare all of the details, after 6 days at St. Thomas Rutherford, 2 days at St. Thomas Midtown, numerous ultrasounds, CT scans, every GI test available, and a brain MRI, I was transferred to Vanderbilt. At Vanderbilt, a wonderful Dr. took the reigns and had me in surgery the next day, to find out the cause of this GI bleed and confirm the diagnosis of choriocarcinoma, that she suspected. There was no pregnancy. This was all caused by a cancer that began when cells from the placenta of my most recent pregnancy (7 months ago), mutated and became cancerous, thus forming a tumor in my GI tract causing a GI bleed that had depleted nearly a third of my blood supply. The other scans showed 2 small spots on the brain, 1 on the kidney and 1 on my lungs. Thus I was given a diagnosis of stage 4 choriocarcinoma, a cancer I had never heard of.
By this point, we had been in the hospital nearly 2 weeks. We finally had a confirmed diagnosis, but weren’t going home anytime soon. I started whole brain radiation 2 days after my small bowel resection and started chemo the day after that. I was ordered 15 whole brain radiation treatments, that would require us coming to Vanderbilt every week day after discharge until they were complete. Additionally, we learned that each round of my chemo regimen consisted of 4 days inpatient stay and 1 outpatient day in 2 week rotations to continue until my tumor marker (beta Hcg) was back to normal…..and then 3 rounds on top of that, just to make sure. We had no idea how long this was going to take, but they told us to expect about 6-8 months of treatment and 6-12 months for full recovery afterward. Wow. So it began…