“My Voice” by Rachel Miller

Rachel Miller - 'Survivor'

A Story of Hope

My cancer journey began in Oct. 2000.  I was a stay at home mom with a five year old son.  My husband and I had just found out we were expecting another baby.  We were very excited and looking forward to the new addition to our family.  I was only four weeks along when I started to feel pressure in my abdomen.  I went into urgent care and the doctor felt a mass.  The next day I had an ultrasound and was told it was a fibroid tumor the size of a grapefruit.  The doctor assured me it was common in pregnancy and not to worry. I was in constant pain but my doctor wasn’t concerned when I called to tell her.  I went in for my scheduled check up and I looked further along than I should and after examining me she said the tumor was growing out of control.  She casually suggested terminating the pregnancy.  She told us that there was little chance I would make it past 28 weeks and if the baby did survive there was a high chance he/she would have challenges that could be lifelong.  My husband and I couldn’t believe what we were hearing; we left the doctor’s office and began to pray.  We had always gone to church but I hadn’t been a deeply religious person.  As I prayed that day I felt a peace I couldn’t explain.  I also had a new view of our situation, God had created this baby and if it was His will to take him/her home I would accept that but I would not take this baby’s life into my own hands.  God was in control and I was along for the ride.  I hung on for dear life and haven’t let go since.
At this point I was about three months pregnant, but I looked about five months along. We found a new High-Risk Ob/Gyn and he examined me and rushed us off to ultrasound.  The baby was still alive, but he/she was being pushed down and was at high risk of not making it.  He called in other doctors and they all agreed this large mass needed to come out.  He explained to me that there is a very small window of time that you can have surgery while pregnant and the baby could survive.  I was in that window right now…  The next day we went to an appointment the Ob/Gyn had set up with an Oncologist Ob/Gyn at a cancer clinic.  We had to wait hours to see the doctor and when she finally came in she felt my belly and announced I was having surgery on Monday.  I had never had surgery, now here I was pregnant and needed major surgery.  The day of the surgery came and it went well.  The baby survived and they removed one of my ovaries that had grown to almost five pounds.  The doctor did staging and the cancer was dysgerminoma, a germ cell tumor, in stage 1A.  She recommended I hold off chemo until the baby was born.  She would give me three weeks and then begin chemo.  The doctors monitored me closely and I had a quiet pregnancy from that point on.  On my due date we were blessed with a beautiful and healthy baby girl and we named her Caraline Hope.  We were overjoyed and so thankful for our little miracle.  While I was pregnant I did a lot of research about my cancer and went different doctors trying to find one that would tell me I didn’t need to have chemo.  My blood work was back to normal levels and I felt great.   When my daughter was three months old I finally went in for a CT scan.  I got a call from my oncologist and was told there was a lymph node behind my kidney that was enlarged, we did a biopsy.  The cancer had returned.  I started chemo within a week…  I was devastated and terrified…   Chemo went on for almost six months.  I had the BEP and VAC series of drugs.
For me being a survivor has been letting God be God and letting Him carry me through the hard times.  There were two potentially fatal errors made while I went through chemo and because of that I know I am only here by the grace of God and when I look back on my journey I always think of “Footprints” by Margaret Fishback Powers.  I have now been cancer free for over seven years.  I see life through different eyes now and I am so thankful for my family.   I get to be a mother to our two great kids. We are stronger and closer because of what we went through together.  I volunteer at our church in the Care Ministry reaching out to others who are fighting cancer to bring them hope and help them through their journey.  I recently volunteered to be a LiveStrong Army Leader in my community and I’m looking forward to doing more to help others survive cancer.