NILES, Ohio (WYTV) – It’s hard to imagine but one in 3,000 women get diagnosed with breast cancer while they’re pregnant. Jessica Gardner, of Niles, is one of them.
At age 33 and in the final trimester of her first pregnancy, Jessica Gardner was diagnosed with a life-threatening form of breast cancer.
Two life-changing moments then happened simultaneously for this family, who experienced a whirlwind of emotion.
“The baby was due January 14 so they moved her due date up to December 26, the day after Christmas. So I had her via C-section and then ten days after that, I had a bilateral mastectomy,” Jessica said.
She had a 7.5-centimeter tumor in her right breast, along with another smaller tumor and four lymph nodes infected with cancer.
The next steps were aggressive chemotherapy for six months and radiation. Jessica just finished her last round about a month ago.
“Being a first-time parent, you’re like, ‘How am I going to do this? Am I going to be a good parent? Am I going to be a good mom?'” she said. “Then they tell you you can’t breastfeed, ‘we basically have to amputate your breasts.'”
That’s enough to send any new mom’s thoughts into a spiral, especially when bonding with her new child comes into question.
“They tell you, ‘Oh, you can’t even hold your child for two to three weeks because of the mastectomy,’ so I couldn’t hold my newborn either,” Jessica said. “But I don’t think I missed out on the bonding process with her.”
Jessica’s daughter, Savannah, is now 9 months old and Jessica is about a year out from her original cancer diagnosis.
Through it all, with the support of her husband, family, and friends, Jessica said it’s been a long and hard fought journey but one she believes happened for a reason.
“Check your body. Be proactive. Do the genetic testing, which I wanted to do seven years ago but my insurance wouldn’t cover it so I never had it done.”
Mom and baby are now perfectly settled and doing well. Jessica is back to work teaching and said the only exhaustion she feels is from balancing work, home life, and her baby.
In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, WYTV spent the last few weeks traveling around the Valley, talking to the brave people who have been touched by this disease in any way.
Watch 33 WYTV News at 6 each night this week to hear their stories.