Facing sinonasal undifferentiated carcinoma during pregnancy
I was working as a physician assistant in California when my husband’s job moved us to Singapore. About a year after we got there, I started to experience pressure in my face, a watery eye, frequent sneezing and an occasional headache behind my right eye. I had these symptoms for two months before I decided to see a doctor. An ENT specialist scoped my nose, saw a mass and proceeded with a biopsy.
This was unexpected and unsettling news, but what made it even harder was that I was 18 weeks pregnant.
Keeping the baby and starting chemotherapy
Within a week, we returned home to California. Four days later, I was in an exam room with my OB/GYN when I had a seizure due to the swelling in my brain from the tumor.
After being rushed to the emergency room, I had another seizure. I was taken to the ICU, then admitted to the oncology unit. I decided to keep the pregnancy and started three rounds of chemotherapy during weeks 19 to 29 of my pregnancy. The tumor responded well to the chemotherapy, but I developed a cerebrospinal fluid leak due to a hole that the tumor left between my brain and sinuses.
Dr. Ferrarotto spent a lot of time answering my questions with compassion. She was great at coordinating my care with my other physicians, including the OB/GYN who would deliver my baby. All of my doctors did a phenomenal job working together to care for me and my son.
A healthy baby, then proton therapy
My care team decided to not start my proton therapy until after the baby was born. I did a fourth round of chemotherapy to give the baby three more weeks to develop.
My son, Bennion (“Benny”), was born on Jan. 14, 2020, through a scheduled caesarean delivery. We scheduled the delivery at 31 weeks to give him a good chance of doing well while also ensuring we didn’t have to push back my proton therapy too much. After spending a few weeks in NICU, Benny had no identifiable issues.
I started proton therapy 10 days after I delivered Benny. Every time I saw Dr. Frank, he asked about our son. I felt very taken care of.
I completed my 35 proton therapy treatments on March 13, 2020, which happened to be my 28th birthday. Dr. Frank bought me a birthday cake to celebrate these two milestones.
Social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic
Just as I finished proton therapy, COVID-19 began spreading in our area. We flew to Utah to be with our family, which was the scariest part. But we self-isolated and enjoyed the time with our newborn baby.
I received strength from my baby in utero. He is my first child, and I was motivated to go through treatment to be his mom.
As I learned, I can handle a lot more than I thought, thanks to the incredible people who love, care for and support me – including Benny, who doesn’t yet know how he gave me strength at a time when I needed it most.