I still have a draft post waiting to be finished about my entire chemotherapy experience, including the gut-wrenching conversations with my fertility specialist at UCSF giving me gloomy options about having kids after chemotherapy. Those details were so hard for me to come to terms with because I’ve always dreamed of being a mom, that I never told anyone the truth. The cliff notes are this, “your chances of having your own biological children are slim to none.”
Obviously, he was wrong!
Instead of getting into the nitty-gritty of how I defied the system (it’s mostly doctors and mine opinions anyway), I’d rather talk about my experience of my first trimester of pregnancy after fishing chemo only months prior. As for the rest of my cancer and chemotherapy journey, I’m honestly not sure if I will ever get around to publishing it. Right now, my way of coping with what I went through is to MOVE ON and not try and re-live the past and that’s what keeps me happy and moving forward with a positive attitude. I have snippets throughout the process on my highlights in Instagram @alyssacarrie.wellness, but as an Enneagram 7 (#enthusiast – if you know, you know!) I don’t show my bad days or thoughts, it’s just not who I am or how I want to live my life but those days do happen, I’m just good at shrugging them off.
As Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park) says, “Life finds a way!”. And I just can’t stop smiling at the fact that I am *actually* on this motherhood journey… WHAT A YEAR!
Pregnancy After Chemotherapy
I was SCARED. Truly the entire theme of my first trimester was being scared for my baby’s health and a bit of my own health. I’ve had this notion for YEARS that I would be preparing my mind, nourishing my body and baby daddy’s body with high-quality nutrients for months and months before we tried for children. I’d be sneaking liver into meatloaf, making ramen with grass-fed bone broth, and cutting out all sugars from our diets to give our bodies and hormones the best possible scenarios to have healthy babies. I am a nutritionist, you know?! These things truly matter to me.
You think I would have learned by now that anything I have tried to plan out in life has done the opposite? *eye roll emoji*
Okay, universe, I’m listening!
The first few weeks after finding out I was pregnant, I gave… 17-ish vials of blood, a “normal” first ultrasound at 7 weeks, and a few diagnostic screenings for baby to see if he/she was a damaged egg from chemotherapy or some other terrible outcome. I was TIRED. So, so tired but I was used to being tired from chemotherapy and was still actually recovering from chemotherapy, so it’s hard to say how much was due to pregnancy (A LOT, I’m sure), but my energy definitely went downhill FAST. I mean, no big deal, I just defied death and now I’m creating a human?! LIFE IS SO UNPREDICTABLE!
It’s like… suppose to be my life lesson? I need to stop trying to control things that are out of my control, it’s obvious now!
For timeline references, I had my last chemotherapy treatment on March 27th, 2019, and got pregnant 4 months later in July.
Ironically enough, (one of my potential midwives) Jen, happened to be an oncology nurse before she became a midwife! I found this almost relieving at that first appointment, like I was suppose to be here.
At that first appointment, we got to see the baby move around on the sonogram and hear the heart beat, which was followed by a small stream of tears rolling down my cheeks as I was laying on my back with the wand and cold jelly pressing over my lower abdomen. Mikey squeezed my hand and handed me a tissue. These were happy tears. Tears of joy that there was a real heart beat in there, strong and stable at 155 bpm, and yet scared that we will found out something is wrong. It took almost FIVE weeks for those prenatal diagnostic screening tests to come back. (I called at least 5 times asking for an update because I had received and email from the blood test saying it was available for my midwives to see. Still, to this day, I don’t know what took so damn long, but that last phone call I made at almost 5 weeks after the test, gave me answers.) Now we wait until 19 weeks to do another blood and anatomy scan where the baby is much bigger and we can see each little beautiful nook, cranny, fingers, and ears.
First Trimester Recap
Weeks 1 to 12 of my pregnancy
Week 4 – August 24th (and also my mom’s birthday! And my 27 1/2 birthday 😉 )
I felt it in my body that things were changing a week or so prior to today, but I didn’t think much of it until my breasts were insanely sensitive and probably another cue that I’ve forgotten by now, but the thought just popped into my head, “you’re pregnant”! But I shoved away those thoughts since I had just finished chemotherapy less than 5 months prior and replaced them with, “there’s no way! I was told it wouldn’t happen”. I was leaving for Disneyland the next day (where a cocktail might be waiting for me), so I decided to just take a home pregnancy test and holy shit, I saw a positive! I took another one to double check, it took 5 minutes for the results to show up when it should have taken 2 both times so, I thought, maybe it’s a false positive? Trying not to get my hopes up in fear of disappointment.
Week 6.5 – September 11th
My first appointment to check out a birth center near me and also confirming the start of pregnancy! We saw our baby on the sonogram for the first time, although it kind of looks more like a bunch of blobs with a nose but we also heard the strong heartbeat for the first time! That was when it hit me (kind of, still in shock writing this and I’m almost halfway through pregnancy!) and tears started rolling down my cheeks. Mikey is holding my hand and I can see the shocked and excited tears in his eyes, too. We are still quite nervous and have a few prenatal screening tests to schedule to check for genetic mutations in the chromosomes and the first of three anatomy screening around 11 weeks.
Week 9 – September 27th, 6 months post chemotherapy!
Preface: A monumental and joyful day yet also a really f*cking hard day and really tough to get into words.
Today was the follow up with my oncologist at UCSF, she is shocked, surprised, and very happy for us to be pregnant while also cautioning what this could mean if the cancer returns while the baby is in utero. I would begin a different chemotherapy drug than I previously received to keep the cancer hopefully at bay but also a chemo drug that has been shown to not harm the baby while it’s growing inside of me. We would have to schedule a c-section as early as possible with the baby being admitted to NICU right off the bat and then begin chemotherapy, much harder to recover from and harsher for my body than last time (the highest case scenario in the first two years post-chemo is it being the same cancer as before) with radiation and a stem cell transplant. If the cancer returns as a different type of cancer-caused by the chemotherapy drugs I had received- we’d go along with that cancers specific chemo protocol (but that is more likely to show up in several years post original chemotherapy exposure).
Going through chemotherapy is so much different than what comes after, the part that no one talks about. The really, really hard part. People expect you to bounce back to normal, go back to work, act like nothing happened. (I am soo thankful for my mom and dad supporting Mikey and myself though this process while we lived with them, not once rushing me or questioning me like others did. That is truly beyond love.) Going through chemo, you’re in survival mode! You don’t think too much about the future because you’re just trying to get through each day as the sun comes up and goes down. Post-chemotherapy is SO much harder – mentally. I’ve always been a “bright-side” kinda gal, but when cancer is literally quite often on the back of your mind, it weighs down on you. Some days more than others, often when something triggers a painful memory or more likely than not for me, maybe the nasty thought just popped into your head since you woke up and keeps trying to butt its way back into your daily life.
Especially now that my dream of having my own child (a life-long dream of mine) has come into play. Since I was originally diagnosed, I have always been more afraid of how my loved ones would take the news of cancer coming back or worse, my death, rather than me actually having to go through it. The thought of my family having to go through that is what truly haunts me. Today, those thoughts are escalated because I’m a mom now and some of my darkest thoughts cross my mind. “What if I am having a c-section and my body just can’t handle everything its been through and I don’t make it to ever hold my baby, leaving Mikey as a single parent?” Or, “what if a less-treatable cancer comes back in a few years when the baby is just a toddler and I miss all those milestones because I am in bed or the hospital, or worse, and the baby has to grow up without me by their side?” Truly haunting questions that is all in the unknown and will hopefully never have to be answered.
Week 10.5 – October 2nd
I haven’t had more terrorizing thoughts creep into my mind. I’m pretty grateful that I have this way of pushing negative thoughts away quickly.
Another check-up at the birth center today, baby seems to be doing great in this sonogram view! It’s amazing and heart warming to see it’s little strawberry-sized body… kind of looks like a strawberry too, a big head with an equal-sized body and tiny little sprouts for limbs! It honestly looks like any alien you’ve ever seen in a Hollywood movie! I take the first prenatal blood draw to check the baby’s DNA that was just a small vial from my vein to test a few fetal genetic markers. We have to now wait 10-14 days for the results to come back to us. Which is a bummer because checking the DNA also means we find out the baby’s sex and I’m leaving on a month-long road trip in 7 days, and Mikey and I want to be together when we find out the sex. Either way, they will call me and tell me the results of the blood draw and leave out the gender part if I’m out of town. How do people wait until 20 weeks to find out the gender?! This is hard enough!! I laugh and soak in the fact that this is what is hard for me today, waiting to hear the gender of this precious miracle baby.
Week 11 – October 6th
I am out running errands and I get a phone call from the birth center saying the results came in-all negative (!!), and the envelope with the gender is waiting in the front office. NO WAY! I haven’t left on my trip yet and Mikey is in his college classroom, so I rush over to the center in the next town over with 4 minutes left before they close! It’s A GIRL! We cried (well, I cried, Mikey was a little shell-shocked knowing very little about little girls) and decided to wait for the other screening test to come back before we tell our families. And, also… I was sort-of leaving on a cross country road trip with a friend in 3 days… my parents would never let me go (poor Mikey had to stay behind)! But, holy shit, IT’S A GIRL! Someone pinch me, it’s starting to feel more real!
First Tri Symptoms
My midwife also brought into light that often times when a mother has gone through extreme pains or trauma, the pain or uncomfortableness levels are perceived differently during pregnancy. *Hopefully during the birthing process, too!*
- Fatigue, I didn’t even realize how fatigued I was until I hit a few weeks into the second trimester when I regained some energy. That was true, honest to goodness, tiredness!
- Nausea, but no throwing up (sometimes I wish I would if it just got it over with)
- No food aversions, just a minuscule appetite. I was previously relying on micro-dosing of THC to help me eat.
- No cravings for sugar (thank you 21DSD for changing my palate WAY ahead of time!)
- Headaches that last several days
- Acid reflux, when I haven’t eaten in a few hours it seems like
Honestly, not much besides finding out IT’S A FREAKIN’ GIRL!!!! Still in shock. I mean, it had to be one of two genders, but it just makes this miracle experience even better knowing who’s growing inside me. That SHE decided to be our daughter. I am still deciding on where and how I actually want to give birth but the good news is we have narrowed down the names to our top two favorites, even the middle names that go with each! I feel like that’s a huge milestone, buuuut also feel like there’s no way I will be able to decide until I see her precious newborn face. I’ve also been doing a TON of research while I’m in the passenger seat on the road trip on safer baby products and creating a baby registry through Babylist.com where you can add any website and everything is your one registry page, I feel like this makes it so much easier than having a registry for this store and that. Let me know if you’re interested in seeing what I chose as safer baby registry items in another post?
My Changing Body
The first time we heard the baby’s heartbeat was beyond incredible, no words, a few happy tears were shed for sure. I was 7 weeks and not showing at this point and also keeping it a secret from the world (which was pretty fun). I started having round ligament pain within the first week of my 5 week road trip, so that was a bit nerve-wracking since dr. Google (LOL, Y) told me it could possibly be a miscarriage. In the beginning it was much more quick intense bursts of sharp pain on my right groin area and maybe I got used to it but doing specific stretches for it seemed to help, and my midwife reassured me from 800 miles away that it was most likely round ligament pain and not a miscarriage.
GIVE ME ALL THE SOUR THINGS! But, if I’m being honest, I’ve always had a craving for sour things… otherwise I have craved salads a lot, less protein, but not necessarily aversions to it, just like like meh, to it, and push it to the side as if it were something I don’t like. If I am making tacos I’m like, let’s start with all the veggies and sour cream and sprinkle on the ground beef, ha! I wasn’t drinking alcohol at all before and I’m not a coffee drinker so I have those two things going easy for me. But, I do want sushi, like every night, or super pink red meat when I do want meat (which are questionable due to a “higher” risk of contamination and harming baby).
I took off 5 weeks of working out due to the road trip, which actually SUCKED. We did not make working out a priority and looking back I really wish I had. Before and after the trip I continued with my olympic weightlifting training, not trying to hit big numbers, just keeping the motions and muscle memory intact is my goal. I worked hard to get the snatch down decently, I don’t want to ruin it with bad habits trying to maneuver around a belly or not engaging my muscles correctly because I’m tired (probably the hardest part for me, I’m pretty competitive and love the feeling of pushing myself. Go figure!)
Most Helpful Advice
“You will figure it out.” It’s hard to believe it in the moment, but it will, and I keep reminding myself of this.
Most Unhelpful Advice
Since no one really knows about the baby yet (praise baby yoda), we haven’t received much of this. I am not looking forward to other peoples opinions and inputs at all. I’m the type of person that will ask when I need an answer and please for the love of whatever you believe in do not tell me what to do, I will do the opposite! #wing8enneagram
- I finished up creating all the content for the Cancer Survivor’s Course for Thriving Through Cancer with my partner, Katie, and it pretty much drained us beyond words. It was HUGE to tackle, but we did it and completed it and now we’re beginning to help others go through the cancer treatment process! If you’d like to check it out, you can visit the website I created at www.cancersurvivorscourse.com. That’s honestly all I did for *months* beginning a month after I started chemo up through and past our launch date of the course – research, write, create, edit, oops forgot to save something, start over, repeat…
- Anything else I’ve been doing is netflixing iZombie, re-watching Hart of Dixie, and the only TV I watch, Who’s Line Is It Anyway which plays mon-fri night and I’m obsessed!! I’m laughing the whole time, it’s great and kind of makes me want to learn improv.
- I left for the cross country road trip on Oct. 9th and returned Nov. 11th (at 3am), obviously lots of laughing and chatting with my road trip partner, Kallee. Lots of quick foods like organic instant cinnamon oatmeal (I swear I will never eat it againnn) and salad in the bag with balsamic poured over it type stuff, prob an ice cream or two mixed in there. Many nights sleeping in the passenger seat of the car in freezing temperatures and many fabulous experiences and memories I get to cherish for a lifetime.
- Dabbling with baby names and telling her all these places she is getting to go, over 30 states!
- Dad-to-be, Mikey, is coaching movement classes at Sonoma State University while also working on his teaching credential to teach middle school. He loves making coffee every morning and playing computer games with friends. He takes George the GP (2 in December!) on walks and didn’t kill all of my plants while I was gone -just a few 😉 Love YOU, Hun!
Wish me a very boring, routine, and lovely rest of my pregnancy! <3