Lymphoma survivor becomes mother again five years after cancer treatment
At 44 years old -- five years after successful treatment for large b-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma -- Molly Allen gave birth to her fifth child, a son named Max.
"After my lymphoma treatment, the doctors warned me I probably wouldn't be able to get pregnant, but I felt like we were meant to have another child," she says. As time passed though, I had almost given up on having another biological child and was thinking about adopting."
Parenting during proton therapy treatment
Molly's cancer saga began in 2008. She was a busy mom with four kids, ages 13, 10, 7 and 4. She simply didn't have time for cancer. After chemotherapy at a hospital close to her home in Richmond, Texas she decided to begin proton therapy treatment at MD Anderson.
"Going to the Proton Therapy Center was so easy," she says. "It was actually a peaceful and relaxing experience for me. My kids were taken care of, and I had some quiet time just for me, to tie up the end of the cancer experience."
Although she managed to stay positive for the most part, Molly hit a low when a cousin died of cancer. She began to worry more, but she found strength in her faith.
"God assured me I was going to survive and that I would have another child," she says.
Being a mom after lymphoma
With her lymphoma treatment behind her, Molly's life returned to the hectic norm she knew.
"I was so happy to be able to do mundane things, to not be in pain or have to worry about doctor's visits," she says.
Molly had faith she would get pregnant soon after treatment, but after a while she began to doubt it would happen. Then, at a yearly routine PET scan at MD Anderson, she found out she was five weeks pregnant.
It had been nine years -- and cancer -- since her last baby. This pregnancy was more difficult, but fortunately, Molly didn't experience any major problems.
"After Max was born, my doctor said, 'I've never been happier for any couple than when I delivered your baby'," Molly says. "Max wasn't just miraculous for us; he touched a lot of lives."
As the apple of his siblings' eyes, Max leads a charmed life.
"It's everyone's goal in life to make him happy," Molly says.
Growing stronger together after cancer The family's been through a lot, but Molly says they've learned and grown.
"You can't know how strong you are until you've faced a challenge and survived," she says. "We're grateful for all we've been given."
Parenting this time around is a little different, but Molly's not sure whether that's because she has more experience or because she stared down cancer.
"I'm probably more lenient now," she says. "The older kids give me a hard time. I was stricter with them."
Turning negative into positive
Molly comes back to MD Anderson once a year. Although she's a little worried a few days before each visit, she takes an out-of-sight, out-of-mind approach most of the time.
"You only have so much control," she says. "The best thing you can do is take care of yourself and try to stay healthy."
When she was going through a difficult time, Molly started a blog to pass the time and connect with other mothers.
"One of the mothers shared her prayer: 'God, don't let me waste this. Whatever happens, let me learn from it,'" Molly says. "You can dwell on your problems and have a pity party, or you can turn it around and use your experience to help others."