Becoming a mom after sarcoma treatment has been my greatest gift
When my husband and I got married in July 2014, we were looking forward to our honeymoon to celebrate the beginning of our lives together. On the trip, I started feeling pain in my right hip. By the time we returned home to Nashville, the pain was so intense that I couldn’t put weight on my right leg. My local physician diagnosed me with an aneurysmal bone cyst, a benign bone lesion that can cause pain, swelling and fractures.
One month later, I had surgery to remove the cyst and surrounding bone, which was replaced with a bone graft. Although I couldn’t walk for 12 weeks, I slowly recovered and began to feel better.
However, nine months after surgery, I started having pain again. Scans indicated that the bone graft had failed, so I had a total hip replacement in October 2015. Once again, I recovered well, but nine months later, I noticed a knot in the bone next to the replaced hip. I tried everything -- acupuncture, cryotherapy and physical therapy -- but nothing relieved the pain and diminished the knot. I had a biopsy and the results were inconclusive. My doctor referred me to MD Anderson to get some answers.
My sarcoma diagnosis and treatment
In September 2016, I met with Dr. Valerae O. Lewis. After evaluating my scans, she was concerned that the knot in my bone was a sarcoma that could render my leg useless. Because of the location of the tumor and the extent of my previous surgeries, Dr. Lewis recommended an external hemipelvectomy, a complex procedure that includes removing part of the patient’s pelvis and the affected leg. Surgery was required to get an accurate biopsy of the mass, which we still did not have as my previous tests were inconclusive. I decided to lean on my faith and put my trust in Dr. Lewis and plastic surgeon Dr. David Adelman.
Following surgery, I spent two weeks in the hospital to recover. During that time, I learned that examination of the tumor revealed that I had 19-centimeter high-grade bone sarcoma, which would require chemotherapy.
Because I was only 30 years old and we had not yet started our family, my husband and I met with Dr. Terri Woodard, who explained how chemotherapy could affect my fertility. She explained my options for fulfilling my dreams of having a family. My husband and I were relieved to know that we had options when it came to having children of our own.
My medical team allowed me to return to Nashville to undergo fertility treatment close to home before beginning chemotherapy under the care of Dr. Dejka Araujo. My eggs were retrieved and then fertilized, creating embryos. The process was quick. Knowing that the embryos were back home gave me something to focus on and look forward to during my cancer treatment.
When it was time to start chemotherapy in December 2016, my husband and I temporarily moved to Houston. Dr. Araujo prescribed a combination of cisplatin, doxorubicin, ifosfamide and methotrexate. I underwent 17 rounds of chemotherapy administered through an IV, which made traveling for treatment difficult. It wasn’t easy putting our lives in Nashville on hold and moving to Houston, but it was the best decision for my health and treatment plan. My husband was my best nurse, and we were so thankful to have family fly in to help us.
Becoming a mom after sarcoma treatment
After 14 months of chemotherapy, we moved back to Nashville. I now come to Houston every three months for follow-up visits.
In August 2017, I had an MRI. During it, I prayed for three things: a clear scan, that insurance would cover the cost of my prosthetic leg, and to find a person willing to be a surrogate for our child. Because of my rigorous chemotherapy regiment and surgery, my doctors advised that I should not try to become pregnant for five years.
Later that day, my husband and I found out that my scans were clear, insurance agreed to cover the cost and we received a message from my husband’s high school friend. She had three children of her own and offered to be a surrogate for our baby. All of my prayers were answered.
Our son, William, was born in January 2019 – almost one year to the day of when I completed chemotherapy. Two years ago, I couldn’t imagine being here. But becoming a mom has given me a purpose and helped me not think about myself and my limitations. I fully recommend fertility treatment to anyone faced with the possibility of chemotherapy. It’s absolutely worth it.
During my February check-up, my newborn son got to meet the doctors who saved my life. My husband and I call MD Anderson the Disney World of hospitals. They think of every aspect of the patient experience and truly want to make things as smooth and seamless as possible. I could not speak more highly of it or my care team. They gave me time with my husband and the chance to become a mom to our son, and for that I am so grateful.