All in one day, I found out both that I was pregnant and that I had cancer.
In December 2018, I had a few very large and dark purple bruises on my legs that weren’t going away. Since my husband of 7 months and I were actively trying to conceive, I asked my doctor to order some blood tests. I got a phone call at 9pm that night with both concerning and happy news. My blood wasn’t clotting. Also, I was pregnant (for the first time). I was admitted to the hospital the next day for chemotherapy to begin; I was in so much shock that I barely remember what the doctors were telling me. My husband remembers that we were told I have a rare form of leukemia so critical that we had to start treatment right away. Also, the treatment that I required is extremely toxic to a fetus; I would likely miscarry very soon.
I was admitted to the hospital for 3 weeks and during that time, my chemotherapy proceeded as planned. The maternal-fetal medicine specialist was tracking my pregnancy and it was continuing. I was advised that pregnancy termination was all but necessary since my therapies would definitely cause horrible birth defects to the growing fetus, which had already been exposed to these drugs starting at 4 weeks. However, because I was admitted at a catholic hospital, they wouldn’t do my abortion despite my doctors telling the ethics board that a spontaneous miscarriage could be life-threatening due to bleeding and that being pregnant was making my cancer treatment more difficult.
For the next 4 weeks, I experienced terrible morning sickness (which lasts all day) until I could finally have the procedure done at a non-Catholic institution because they decided that it was in fact life threatening.
Those weeks were so difficult for me; having to experience the side effects of being pregnant was a constant reminder. All the while knowing that I wouldn’t have the wonderful baby at the end to make it all worth it.
Now I am still in treatment and it’s going much better. With help from my husband and my therapist, I have learned to thank that fetus for saving my life but I am still in mourning. I mourn the loss because I wanted and still want to have a family so badly. I mourn the year and maybe more time that was stolen from us.
I am so lucky in many ways to having amazing support from family and friends but I can’t help thinking back over the timeline of everything. Just by pure coincidence, my story took place before the ‘heartbeat bill’ was signed in Ohio. Who knows if I would even have been able to travel to another state during that time to have my pregnancy terminated safely in a hospital. Why did one hospital decide that my life was at risk and another said it wasn’t? They were both working with the same information. Maybe the next woman won’t be so lucky.