I Have Cancer? Part 1: The Journey of a New Mother and her Mesothelioma Diagnosis logo

August 4th, 2005, 3:00 a.m. I sat up to get out of bed to walk around after a couple of hours of fitful sleep. We had already gone to the hospital earlier that day thinking THIS IS IT! THEY ARE ON THEIR WAY!! Sadly, my contractions stopped once we got there and we were sent back home. As I stood up from the bed that night, all of the sudden, I felt a “pop” and a “whoosh”! My water broke! This was it! I yelled out to my husband, Cameron to hurry because our baby was coming.

Once we finally arrived at the hospital things began to move quickly. They checked me to make sure everything was okay and to make sure the baby was in the right position for delivery. Unfortunately, it was determined that they were frank breech. Delivering a baby who is a frank breech is extremely dangerous, not only for the child, but for the mother as well. Due to this, I was immediately scheduled to have cesarean section. I remember saying in my happy, but drugged up stupor that I was glad because now I knew our baby would have a nice round head. This is how I think when I hear bad news. I have to remember that things could be much worse. I always find the bright side no matter what the situation may be! Our baby came into the world at 5:18 a.m. Out they came squawking like crazy, letting us know that they were here, and, dammit we would know it.

Our child was pink, chubby, and yes, his head was round. They let Cameron hold him, while I stroked his little, downy head. After I saw and touched my baby for the first time they took him to the nursery, in order to finish my surgery. Everything went wonderfully. I was the proud parent to a beautiful baby. I healed well from the c-section, my baby took to nursing like a pro, and 4 days later we were sent home. At the time I was told I was a little anemic, but to eat some protein and all would be well. I had no idea that anemia was one symptom to my fate.

The first few weeks of parenthood flew by. I was getting used to having a baby around the house. I healed from surgery and was left to figuring out all the snaps of baby clothes in the middle of the night. All things considered, I was learning and living like any other new parent. However, I did this with even less sleep than most new moms. I spent many nights sleeping in the recliner with the baby, both of us falling asleep as I nursed him. I was exhausted, but what new parent isn’t? Before I knew it maternity leave was up and I had to go back to work.

I worked full-time behind the chair of the salon I was partial owner of and managed. Most people get 12 weeks off for maternity leave. However, not in my industry, I took 4 weeks off, yes only 4. I had a full book of clients waiting for me and although I only worked part time the first month, it was still challenging.

The great thing about working and breast-feeding was I started losing weight. Not only was I losing weight, I was shedding the baby pounds fast. Actually, I was dropping a couple of pounds a week. I was not a small girl when I got pregnant; I am 5’10” and weighed 225 pounds when I delivered my child. During my pregnancy I only gained 5 pounds. Looking back I should have known that that was not normal!

At any rate, the doctor chalked up my weight loss to healthy eating. My doctor was not concerned, so naturally neither was I. My weight continued to literally fall off over the next few weeks, but instead of feeling better, I felt progressively worse. I had no energy, I was short of breath, and I had a low grade fever every night. In addition to these symptoms I was rather pale. I just continued to blame all of this on being a new mom.

Could it be postpartum symptoms? I changed my hair color thinking that would help me to feel better not only physically but emotionally as well. It did nothing for me. I just looked ghostly. Sometime in mid October I noticed heaviness on my chest. It felt like I had a truck parked on it. I would get winded walking up stairs or standing for long periods of time. I had little energy, so little that I could barely stand through an entire haircut without having to sit down.

Then one morning in early November I got up, got the baby up, and walked downstairs to the living room. I fed them, burped them, and put them in their swing. I had to get some laundry out of the basement so I went down, grabbed the full laundry basket and started walking upstairs. I was so short of breath I had to stop halfway up to catch it. I made it to the top of the stairs, stopped again to catch my breath, and went back into the living room. The baby was in their swing starting to doze off, I put the laundry on the couch, sat down, and put my head back. I was extremely tired. I had never felt fatigue in this way before. I closed my eyes for a minute and woke up 2 hours later. My baby was quietly cooing at me from their swing as I woke. I looked at the clock and panicked! I was late for work.

I ended up calling into work sick that day. I called my child’s daycare to let them know I would not be dropping him off. From there I called the doctor. Something was seriously wrong. It was something more than postpartum symptoms. I could feel it in my heart of hearts that something was seriously wrong with me.

November 21st, 2005, 1:45 p.m. I found out why I was exhausted and weak. It was way more than the baby blues. I was told those three words “You have Cancer.” Not only did I learn that I had cancer, but I was diagnosed with Mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure.

I was told the words that strike fear into everyone’s heart that learns that they have cancer. Those are three words I never thought I would hear; yet I did. There I was 36 years old, a new mom barely adjusting to the changes of pregnancy, caring for a baby, and now a cancer victim.