N.S. woman diagnosed with cancer the same day she gives birth
What should have been the happiest day of Amanda Simpson’s life quickly turned into a frightening one after the birth of her son led to the unexpected diagnosis of an aggressive form of cancer.
The 34-year-old mom from Timberlea, N.S. says her pregnancy was fairly routine.
“It was long. I had some nausea. I had a lot of fatigue. It was rough, but from all accounts, I think it was pretty normal,” she says.
An early ultrasound did indicate she had a low-lying placenta and a follow-up at 37 weeks showed it had moved, but blood vessels were blocking her cervix.
The potentially fatal complication required a cesarean section.
“They did the surgery, brought the baby out, I ran over, cut the cord,” says Amanda’s husband, Scott. “I was more excited than I ever thought I’d be.”
Their baby boy, Gordon, was born on April 2, three weeks before his due date.
While Amanda was seeing her son – her firstborn - for the first time, she heard the doctors talking about nodules in her abdomen.
She says the fact that there was an issue didn’t initially sink in.
“Then I head another doctor there, the resident, say the word ‘oncology, do we need to page oncology?’ and that’s when that word hit me,” she says.
Doctors told her she would have to be put under anesthetic so they could remove masses on her omentum - a drape of fatty vascular tissue that hangs from the stomach.
“I don’t remember really what I felt. I remember the only thing that stuck in my head was her telling me that she was going to put me under because I had a baby. I wanted to be with my baby.”
After the procedure, Amanda’s mom and her husband told her the doctors believed she had cancer.
“I know I spent that whole night trying to figure out what I was going to do with my baby. Who was going to take him, because it wouldn’t be fair for me to raise him.”
Amanda had to undergo several tests and didn’t get to bond much with her son immediately after his birth.
During the second night in hospital, a nurse put Gordon on Amanda’s chest, and they both fell asleep. It was a turning point for the young family.
“When she woke up the next morning I could tell that she had changed,” says Scott. “That she was really a mom at that point.”
“That’s when I decided I was going to raise him,” says Amanda.
Their first few days at home were spent adjusting to parenthood, and also waiting for the official pathology results.
“When she heard it was a stage-three ovarian cancer, she just handed the phone over to me, started wailing and throwing up,” says Scott.
“I had an emotional breakdown that scared myself,” she admits. “Noises came out of me that I’ve never had before.”
Amanda says none of the symptoms of ovarian cancer were ever obvious to her because she was pregnant.
“Everyone that I see, yes I did feel them, but I was pregnant,” she says. “So yes, I had frequency of urination, and yes I was a little bloated and had the odd cramp.”
She has responded well to her two chemotherapy treatments and is scheduled to have four more, along with a full hysterectomy.
So far, she says the unknown is the scariest part.
“We don’t know when this will come back. The doctors tell us it will come back at some point,” says Scott. “We don’t know when. We don’t know how badly.”
Doctors suspect Amanda only had the aggressive cancer for a few months.
“Had we not had Gordon at the time we did and the way we did, the cancer may have spread further for all we know,” says Scott. “It may have gone undetected.”
Amanda says she considers herself luckier than many other people living with cancer because she has Gordon.
“My mom jokes that he has peaked in terms of accomplishments,” she laughs. “Everything is downhill from here because he’s saved, hopefully, he’s saved mommy’s life.”