Most women get a baby after pregnancy. My pregnancy, however, gave me a baby and cancer. Actually, what began as two babies and cancer. That's right- I got Choriocarcinoma, or cancer of the placenta, as a result from my pregnancy. Who knew such a beautiful milestone could turn into something life-threatening? A Molar pregnancy happens when the tissue that normally becomes a fetus turns into an abnormal growth inside the uterus instead. What I experienced, my twin Molar pregnancy, resulted in the
disease known as Gestational Trophoblastic Neoplasia, or GTD. The word Neoplasia means "new growth". Not all molars turn into a fast and aggressive malignant cancer Choriocarcinoma, but mine did.
There are two types of molar pregnancies- partial and complete. Both cases involve displaying regular pregnancy symptoms.
In a partial molar pregnancy, the egg is fertilized by two sperm, doubling the sets of male chromosomes, causing abnormalities to develop with the fetus. The placenta becomes the molar growth and the pregnancy has to be terminated if not already miscarried.
In a complete molar pregnancy, the fertilized egg is missing DNA and genetic information, therefore unable to support the pregnancy, and stopping at the placenta. These cells are more susceptible to turn malignant, enhancing the chances of getting Choriocarcinoma.
I had a more rare case of a complete molar-affecting only one of the twins. I was not diagnosed until four months after birth and oncologists suspect it was fully gestated around 25 weeks into my pregnancy.
As rare and complex as this disease is, the realities are simply severe. I had regular prenatal care and the only signs or symptoms during my pregnancy were contractions at around 25 weeks. These contractions grew stronger and stronger, yet my obgyn could not find anything wrong. He put me on mild rest, then told me to stop working out. This was my 4th pregnancy, so I knew these were not the usual contractions and my doctor seemed unsure.
On the day of delivery, my baby was born in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. I had postpartum bleeding for weeks, which was my second sign and symptom. I had mentioned my bleeding to my obgyn and he seemed to think everything was alright, especially after a physical exam.
Four months after giving birth, I bled intermittently and had menstrual-like cramps. I was breastfeeding exclusively, so I started to get suspicious. I finally woke up one night with a hemorrhage and in panic. The following day I had no bleeding, so I had some temporary relief until the next day, when I passed a fairly large blood clot. I knew then that something was terribly wrong.
My obgyn saw me that morning, did a vaginal ultrasound and we saw the grape-like image. I was admitted into a local county hospital. It took 12 hours to officially diagnose me after several tests and massive hemorrhaging. The date was February 1st, 2014, and I began chemotherapy 3 days later. My b-hcg levels were over 221,000 and I became resistant to single Methotrexate injection, so I was put on the grueling ema-co 5 agent regimen. I had a total of 12 rounds of chemo, 6 1/2 months. Every other week was inpatient following outpatient. If caught in time, Choriocarcinoma responds very well to chemotherapy.
Nothing can prepare you for the experience of first believing you'll deliver a life, and then facing something that threatens the fate of that life- or in my case, lives. My baby will be two years old this September. She is healthy and said to be put out of harm's way of cancer, but she did lose her twin. My family is very blessed to have put this behind us and to realize the opportunity of moving forward with life and all its precious moments. My goal now is to reach others that have faced or are facing what I went through. To those who have lost their daughters and sons from this-you are not alone.