Our daughter was born at 6:55 p.m. on Thursday, December 1, 2011. She weighed 7 pounds, 9 ounces and was 20" in length. Aside from a tiny bit of jaundice, she was perfectly healthy. We named her Magnolia Grace. We call her Maggie. Or Maggs. Or Magpie or Maggie Moo. Or simply the Moo.
Late in life parents, this was a moment neither my husband nor I had ever thought would come.
The days following her birth were spent in a totally blissed-out bubble, with the Moo staying with us in our room at the hospital. This baby was a dream baby. She slept soundly for hours at a time. We had to wake her for diaper changes and feedings. She rarely fussed. She loved to snuggle. She wasn't bothered by loud noises. She didn't freak out over wet or dirty diapers. She didn't mind being held by new people. She was -- and is -- a totally chilled-out baby. How two semi-neurotic, Type A personalities were able to produce such a laid-back kid is a mystery. Maybe we canceled out each other. However it happened, we were very grateful. We couldn't believe our good fortune. We still can't.
Our first night home was incredible. Maggie was unfazed by our brood of animals (two cats and two dogs). She likely got to know them by their sounds while she was still in the womb. She patiently endured lots of sniffs and licks and even some barks. We lit candles, put on Norah Jones, and just chilled out with this amazing little girl, who instantly seemed right at home. She was home. And we were already goners, head over heels in love.
Our bubble of bliss lasted about five days. Then, mid-morning on our first day home, I received a call that changed things dramatically. My obstetrician said she needed to see us -- both of us -- immediately. She said she had something to discuss with us in person and wanted to know if we could come in at the end of the day. I called my husband into the room and we put the phone on speaker. We told her to just tell us on the phone, that we didn't want to wait.
"It's cancer," she said, "I'm so sorry."
It seemed that the mass discovered on my left Fallopian tube during the emergency C-section that brought our little girl into the world the previous week was malignant. My doctor hadn’t been worried about it at the time, so we hadn’t been worried either. Well, now we were worried.
The following days were a blur of tests and consultations, along with a wide range of emotions -- disbelief, fear, anger, sadness, and everything in between. I alternated between crying in fear over possible outcomes and all I have to lose, and crying with joy and gratitude as I gazed at our incredible little girl and her amazing father.
On our daughter's one week birthday, we spent several hours meeting with the woman who would become my new oncologist, and we talked about a treatment plan and next steps. That was three months ago.
Right before Christmas, I had a radical hysterectomy to remove all of my reproductive organs, plus some exploratory surgery and biopsies. At the time of the surgery, I was outfitted with an intraperitoneal (IP) port so that the chemotherapy I would need to could go directly into my abdomen.
The surgery revealed that the cancer on my left Fallopian tube had spread significantly and metastasized to other organs, including my right Fallopian tube, both ovaries, my uterus, my colon, and parts of my abdomen. It was staged as Stage IIIC. That was the bad news. The good news was that my oncologist had successfully removed about 98 percent of the cancer. And that the hard core chemotherapy regimen I'd be undergoing was designed to eradicate the remaining 2 percent.
Given the type and staging of my cancer, I was given a 50 percent survival rate.
If I said I wasn't alarmed upon hearing the prognosis, I'd be lying.
After my diagnosis, I started wearing a rubber band around my wrist to snap when my thoughts started to go in the negative direction. One of my mantras became "savor, don't grieve," when I started to feel myself get all maudlin about things that I might miss in the future. I don't want to miss a moment of the amazing present because I'm lost in fear over what might happen down the road. Easier said than done, of course. And some days are better than others.
Our theory is that Magnolia Grace chose us as her parents for a reason. She is a little girl with a mission. If it weren't for her, they may not have found the cancer inside me until it had progressed much further. It may just turn out that she saved my life.
And even though we hate this cancer -- I mean, really, really hate it -- I guess we also have to thank it. Because without it, we very well could have lost our daughter. See, if it weren’t for the pain caused by the mass on my Fallopian tube, they may not have discovered that the placenta that had been providing nourishment to our little girl was starting to separate from the uterine wall, causing them to perform an emergency C-section.
So the cancer saved the girl and the girl saved me. Crazy, huh?
Already we can't imagine our lives without this little girl. Having to fight cancer is a very small price to pay for her presence in our lives and on this planet. So that’s what I’m going to do.
Image via Mark Montgomery