Pregnant with Cancer {I Am Strong}

{by Heather Wascak}

I am strong because I had a natural, 44 hour home birth with my son in 2011.

I am strong because when I found out I was pregnant with my second child, I decided to have another home birth.

I am strong because I was running throughout my entire second pregnancy, up until the end of the 8th month.  I took amazing care of myself with exercise and proper nutrition.

I am strong because I listened to my body, and I just KNEW something was wrong.

I am strong because I was diagnosed with stage 3c fallopian tube cancer at 34 weeks pregnant.

I am strong because I had to abandon my birth plan completely.  I wanted another natural, drug-free vaginal birth at home with a midwife.  I wanted immediate skin-to-skin, delayed cord clamping and to breastfeed right away.  I wanted my placenta encapsulated.

I am strong because on March 10, 2014, at 35w6d pregnant, I underwent an emergency c-section, complete hysterectomy, and cancer debulking surgery.  The doctors wanted to wait until I was 37 weeks, but my health was deteriorating fast.

I am strong because I didn’t get to meet my daughter, Lucia, until the next day.  The surgery was done under general anesthesia.  I was placed in the ICU due to my vitals and blood loss.  Although she was almost a month premature, Lucia came out weighing a whopping 7#4oz!

I am strong because despite having major surgery, I climbed out of my hospital bed the next day and was wheeled upstairs to meet my daughter.

Meeting baby in the NICU

Meeting baby in NICU{Unless otherwise noted, images copyright of BWF LLC}

I am strong because they told me she would need to be transferred to another hospital with a NICU, but I had to stay where I was.

I am strong because I fought like hell to recover so I could be discharged.

I am strong because I was told I would need 18 weeks of aggressive chemotherapy, to begin less than 2 weeks after the birth of my daughter.  I was told I could absolutely not breastfeed on these drugs.  This was the most devastating part of the cancer diagnosis.  I nursed my son for 27 months, up until he weaned when I was 19 weeks pregnant.  Breastfeeding is SO important to me.

I am strong because I started pumping as soon as I could,  so she could at least get my milk for a few weeks.  My husband went back and forth from both hospitals to be with both of us and to bring my breast milk to Lucia.

I am strong because less than a week after my surgery, I was discharged.  I immediately went to the other hospital to see Lucia, but I was still unable to hold or nurse her.  She was intubated due to breathing troubles, but she was receiving my milk via tube feeding.

I am strong because I didn’t get to hold or nurse my daughter for over a week.  My surgery was on a Monday.  I came home that Saturday, and Lucia came home the following Tuesday.  She was in the NICU just over a week due to breathing difficulties.

I am strong because I spent the first few months postpartum in and out of the hospital.  I had severe ascites from the cancer and needed multiple paracentesis procedures to drain the fluid out of my abdomen.  At one point, I had over 4L of fluid drained from my abdomen.

I am strong because I began chemotherapy less than 2 weeks after giving birth to my beautiful daughter.  I had to stop breastfeeding the morning of my first treatment.  I had a photographer capture our last day of nursing.

nursing after cesarean birth

I am strong because I pumped and dumped for 3 months.  I planned to nurse Lucia again after I was done with chemo.  Unfortunately, my oncologist informed me that I would need over a year of maintenance chemo after the initial 18 weeks.  My cancer is so aggressive that there is a 75% chance of recurrence.

I am strong because I chose to secure donor breast milk.  Lucia is almost 5 months old, and to this day, she hasn’t had any formula.  Our freezer is overflowing with thousands of ounces of milk from generous mamas.  She is thriving and weighed almost 16# at her 4 month visit.

I am strong because I had to endure recovery from major surgery, undergo chemotherapy, and care for a newborn and a toddler.

mom with cancer
shaving head chemotherapy{Lindsey Robinson Photography ©}

I am strong because I was told I’m technically in remission several weeks ago.  I am still undergoing chemotherapy and will have a CT scan done soon to see if all the cancer is gone.

I am strong because at 28 years of age, I am infertile.  I wanted more children.  The thought of never being pregnant again, feeling those baby kicks, or hearing the heartbeat, is just too much to handle on most days.

I am strong because I’ve been through more these past 5 months than most people will ever have to endure, but I fight every single day to be here for my children and my husband.  I have no other choice but to be strong for them.  Each day I am here with my family is a huge gift.  I won’t waste a second of it.

mom with cancer in remission
family{Lindsey Robinson Photography ©}


  • jessica

    Thinking of you. Sending love and good thoughts to your beautiful family and praying for you. you are an inspiration!! one tough momma!

  • Erica M.

    Thank you for sharing your story. You are an amazing woman. The lengths you have gone to, to do the best for your daughter is so inspiring. The picture of you breastfeeding your daughter for the last time brought tears to my eyes, it was so beautiful.
    My husband was recently diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. We have a 3 year old and an 8 month old. I am learning first hand how horrible this disease is, especially for a young family. You will be in my thoughts. I pray that you remain in remission forever. Thank you for inspiring me and showing me that there is life despite cancer.

  • Becka

    Heartwrenching story! Beautiful! I am overblown by your strength! Try to research medicinal cannabis oils. It has been curing people of all kinds of cancers, as well as sustaining them through chemo. You are so strong, mama. I wish you all the health and happiness in the world!

  • Dee

    You are a wonderful mother for been quite selfless in your journey and fight against cancer. I hope you have a full recovery so that you can live your life happily with your family. You’re an inspiration

  • kate

    Tears are flowing. My heart aches for you for so many reasons. I am in awe of your strength and bravery. Thank you for being such an amazing, inspiring example of womanhood.

  • Leslie

    To say you are strong is such an understatement. You are a beautiful warrior of a mama, and I thank you for sharing your story. I wish you and your sweet little family health and happiness.

  • Lynn Ebert

    You are strong! I don’t know you, but heard of your story through another strong Mama I know and you are amazing! You have a beautiful family! May God bless you and them always!

  • Tiare

    Heather, I love you so much. This article is absolutely amazing!! And you are the strongest woman I know! Keep kicking this things ass

  • Camden Hoyt

    What an inspiration you are! Keep on kicking cancers butt! I rarley read these stories but yours caught my attention. I’m 30 and just now trying to concieve for the first time. We just found out I have pcos and a 10% chance of conceiving with out fertility treatment. It was hard at first but with stories like yours I know it is possible. Thank you for sharing and giving me hope!

  • Bianca

    God bless you and your family!!!! You are one strong woman!! May the future be filled with lots of joy & happiness for you and your beautiful family!

  • Sandra

    You are amazing! I am in awe of your strength and pray for your continued recovery and forever remission. May God bless you and your family with continued strength and grace.

  • Lauren

    What a heart wrenching story. I don’t cry easy but your story has me weeping tears. You and strong mumma and your husband and two wonderful children are so lucky to have you. Sending prayers and love to you for a fast and full recovery.

  • Catherine

    This is absolutely beautiful. You ARE strong but you are also courageous, determined, and a wonderful mother. I am wishing you the best of luck and sending lots of good thoughts your way.

  • Amanda

    That picture with you and your husband before he shaved your head is so filled with emotion. I wish your nothing but the best of health and joy with your beautiful family

  • Hollye

    Such an inspirational story! Keep up the good fight. My sweet momma had ovarian cancer, so I understand just how difficult the side effects from the cancer & the chemo can be. She had to have fluid drained from her abdomen every 3 weeks or so. Fight every day for those precious babies!

  • Karen

    Wow what a moving story, sitting here blubbing as I write this. You are an absolutely amazing and inspirational mumma. I wish you the very best outcome possible. No need to say “keep fighting” as you will and have such a beautiful family to fight for. Lots of love xxoo

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