Jade Devis, 36, was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer in her first trimester of pregnancy. Here, Devis shares with Glamour how she dealt with the devastating news—and how she thinks the joy of having a baby helped save her life.
I went to the doctor because I had a lump on my left breast. It was protruding and it was very hard and painful. My eventual diagnosis: stage II triple-negative breast cancer, which can be more aggressive and more difficult to treat than other forms of breast cancer. (Triple-negative breast cancer doesn’t respond to some common breast-cancer treatments, such as hormone therapy.)
“I’d have to go through chemotherapy with my baby still in my belly. I was terrified.”
My first thought: This is the worst thing that could happen at the best time of my life. I was pregnant for the first time, and still in my first trimester, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was so confusing to be so very happy and so very sad at the same time.
I had a lumpectomy and thought that was the end of it and the baby and I were saved. But a month later I was told I’d have to go through chemotherapy with my baby still in my belly. I was terrified.
The doctor explained to me that chemotherapy was necessary to fight my cancer. Radiation—one of the potentially effective treatments for triple-negative breast cancer—generally isn’t advisable at any point in a pregnancy, but a pregnant woman can undergo some types of chemotherapy in the second and third trimesters without apparent risk to the baby. The hospital would have high-risk doctors on hand to monitor my pregnancy, but there were no guarantees that he would survive.
Chemotherapy was horrible. My “cocktail” included two types of chemo. Common side effects of the first, doxorubicin, are nausea and vomiting—“may be severe”—diarrhea, loss of appetite, weakness, and tiredness. The list goes on. Doxorubicin is informally known as the red devil, in part because of its bright red color and in part because of that list. It really felt as though the devil was sitting on my bed with me the entire time.
But still, I hadn’t even been sure that I could get pregnant until I did. So I wouldn’t let the “devil” take over when the baby I was so excited to meet was there with me too. If the baby wasn’t going to give up, I wasn’t going to give up either.
If I hadn’t been pregnant when I got my diagnosis, I would have found it much harder to put up a fight. But fortunately—and unfortunately—I was pregnant, and that gave me something positive to cling to. And eventually, someone.
Bradley was born on July 25. He was healthy and happy, and that changed everything for me. It was finally real. This was us. I hadn’t known for sure that he would be born healthy—that there would even be an us. I got through my pregnancy by hoping for the best but expecting the worst. I thought that if the worst happened, that would make it easier to cope.
I’m still on chemotherapy. I have three more months left, and then I’ll move on to one month of radiation therapy. At that point, I could go into remission. I’m ready for that clean slate.
Originally Appeared on Glamour