When she was six months pregnant, Desiree Doughty noticed that something seemed to be wrong with her breasts.
“I noticed that one of my breasts was bigger than the other,” she says. “I immediately became alert, because breast cancer runs in my family. My mother died of breast cancer at age 47.”
Desiree, a preschool teacher, immediately took the issue to her OB/GYN, who referred her for a mammogram and a biopsy.
No mother wants to learn that she has breast cancer, especially while she’s pregnant. But it’s a good thing that Desiree got checked out when she did. A week after her biopsy, she was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer.
“My heart just dropped when I received the diagnosis,” says Desiree. “For a moment, I just froze, and I couldn’t say anything. Once I got home, I was able to let out my emotions and cry, and later told my immediate family.”
Right away, Desiree started seeing Dr. Judith Hurley, a UHealth oncologist specializing in breast cancer and research at Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ambulatory Care Center. A week after she was diagnosed with cancer, she was at Jackson Memorial Hospital, being treated with chemotherapy. She underwent nine rounds of chemotherapy before giving birth.
“From the beginning, our goal has been to cure her cancer, and save her life,” says Dr. Hurley. “Psychologically, it’s harder because everything is focused on the patient, but there are two competing needs when the patient is pregnant.”
Dr. Hurley says she’s proud of how calm and positive Desiree stayed during this difficult time. Being treated for cancer in the middle of a pandemic is no joke, and neither is being treated for cancer while pregnant.
“I was always afraid for my baby and worried he would be born with a birth defect,” says Desiree. “But I always kept a positive attitude and stayed upbeat through my treatments.”
But in the end, all went well. Desiree gave birth via C-section to a baby boy named Karter on May 28th. Karter spent six days in the NICU at Holtz Children’s Hospital for observation, but he was found to be completely healthy and normal and was sent home to be with his family. He’s now a healthy four-month-old.
Following her son’s birth, Desiree spent some time recovering before undergoing six more rounds of chemo. Later, she will have a hysterectomy and double mastectomy to keep her from getting breast or ovarian cancer in the future, since she’s a carrier of a BRCA gene mutation which increases her chances of cancer. She hopes to complete all her treatment this year, and she has already returned to teaching.
Don’t forget to do your self-checks on a regular basis and see your doctor if you have any questions or concerns. It could save your life!
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?
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