Coping with infertility is hard enough, but being diagnosed with breast cancer in the process is unimaginable. In case you missed it, Giuliana Rancic, “E! News” host, reality show star and wife of “The Apprentice” winner Bill Rancic, announced on the “Today Show” yesterday that she has early-stage breast cancer. She found out as a result of a mammogram that her fertility doctor insisted she receive before undergoing her third IVF treatment. All she wanted was a baby, but she got cancer instead, and now she has to put IVF on hold to undergo breast cancer treatment. Now that’s a tough pill to swallow.
My heart goes out to her. As you may know, my first pregnancy ended up being a bunch of cancer cells floating around my uterus. I had to undergo chemotherapy injections and then wait a (very long) year before I could try again. It’s hard to think about it now – when my life so clearly revolves around my children – but there was a time when I didn’t think I would ever be a mother.
I’m reminded of the CT Scan technician who scanned my body to see if the cancer in my uterus had spread. He told me his daughter had a molar pregnancy and went on to have three healthy children. He said, “Don’t worry you’ll have babies.” I didn’t believe him. In fact, I thought he was a nutty old man and I wondered if he was qualified to do something as important as checking my brain, lungs, and liver for cancer. It turns out he was right (and plenty qualified). I wouldn’t presume to give Giuliana advice or tell her everything is going to be okay, but I would say this: If you can envision yourself as a mother, it will happen one way or another.
On the “Today” Show, Giuliana said she never would have had a mammogram if it weren’t for her doctor’s insistence. She has no family history of breast cancer, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends women start having routine mammograms at age 40. (She’s 36.) Had she not ended up under this particular doctor’s care, she would have missed the early diagnosis and her ultimate prognosis might have been much worse when she eventually had a mammogram four or five years later. Amazingly, her pursuit of motherhood may have saved her life.
I applaud Giuliana for sharing her story so honestly, and I hope her experience encourages women to become stronger advocates for their health. I had a mammogram last year. I was 35. I don’t have a family history, but I do have cancer paranoia. (Molar pregnancy + colonpolyp + removal of numerous pre-cancerous birth marks and moles = Paranoid Mama) I wanted a mammogram and my doctor listened to my concerns and made it happen.
Here’s the public service announcement portion of this post: October is Breast Cancer and Domestic Violence Awareness Month. My thoughts about both issues are the same. Trust your instinct, listen to your body, take care of yourself, and get the medical care and services you want and deserve.
And one more thing… For any readers with teenagers at home, Liz Claiborne has a wonderful domestic violence awareness and education campaign called Love Is Not Abuse. (Disclaimer: I worked for the campaign in my Pre-Mama years.) They recently launched a Love Is Not Abuse iPhone app that provides information about and warning signs of digital dating abuse. The app is free and literally puts life-saving resources at your fingertips. Click here to learn more.