Young moms open up about cancer battle, raising kids

The fight against cancer is a hard road for anyone. But it can be even harder to navigate for young and expectant mothers
November 12, 2013 8:14:07 PM PST
The fight against cancer is a hard road for anyone diagnosed with the disease. But the road can be even harder to navigate for young and expectant mothers who must seek treatment while caring for their families.

"June 6, I will never forget that day," Kristal Sheaves said.

Sheaves, 31, was 18 weeks pregnant when she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. Doctors found an orange-sized tumor in her hip.

"My first thought was, can I keep the baby?" she said.

Doctor Concepcion Arrastia at Texas Children's Pavilion For Women says it's safe for expecting moms to start cancer treatment after their first trimester.

"You don't have to choose between your cancer treatment and your child," she said. "During that phase when they're just growing, and not really getting organs formed, it is safe to give many of the different chemotherapies."

Sheaves, already a mom to 3-year-old Aiden, says she took a chance and started chemo. Technology now allows women in their 20s and 30s who want children but are at high risk for cancer to preserve their fertility before the age they would likely be diagnosed.

"We can harvest some eggs or fertilize the eggs and freeze the embryo," Arrastia said.

Brittany Wendell, 24, is mom to 5-year-old Angela. Her mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at age 39 and died at 43.

Genetic tests show there is a significant chance she could develop ovarian cancer as well. So doctor Arrastia will remove her fallopian tubes and ovaries by age 30, roughly 10 years before her mom was diagnosed.

"Brittany's mom was my patient," Dr. Arrastia said. "It is the safest alternative in our opinion."

"Dr. Arrastia gave me until I'm 30 which, good timing for me. Good six years," Wendell said.

Meanwhile, Fisher was born six weeks early so doctors could treat his Sheaves' cancer more aggressively.

Sheaves is still in the midst of her fight. She can't breast feed and has many surgeries ahead. But she's willing to do whatever it takes to see her boys grow up.

"Something good is gonna come of this. I don't know what, but something will," she said.

Doctors generally suggest women wait at least two years after chemotherapy to try to get pregnant again. But you should always check with your own doctor as well.

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