When a woman is pregnant and fighting cancer there’s a delicate balance between treatment and a mother and baby’s health.
One in 3,000 women is diagnosed with breast cancer during pregnancy.
For young mother Christine Kump, the news came just days after learning she was expecting her second child.
“We had to do IVF for both daughters,” Kump said.
It was a struggle to conceive their two beautiful girls but for Christine and Matt Kump, it was only the start.
“I was eight weeks pregnant when she called with the diagnosis,” Christine Kump said.
Biopsy results showed she had a tumor that was triple-negative breast cancer.
“My mind I went deep and dark,” she said. “I was thinking I had to write letters to my daughter Susie for all of her milestones. Because you Google these things and without having talked to a doctor or an oncologist. I got some scary thoughts.”
Surgically removing the mass was not an option at the time. But, to the 35-year-old’s surprise, chemotherapy was.
“I 100% thought they were going to tell me I had to make a decision of cancer treatment or continuing with the pregnancy,” she said. “And thank goodness I didn’t have to make that decision.”
Dr. Dragana Tomic is a medical oncologist at Northwestern Medicine.
“There are certain chemotherapy medications that are safe to use and can be used during pregnancy,” she said.
Tomic said the data is limited, but doctors do know timing is critical when it comes to delivering chemotherapy to pregnant women. It’s not recommended during the first trimester when a baby’s organs are forming. And radiation treatments and certain scans have to wait until after the delivery.
“We have to keep a close eye on baby development,” Tomic said.
For Christine Kump, the first of 16 rounds of Adriamycin cytotoxin, a type of chemo medication considered safe during pregnancy, started when she was about 14 weeks along.
“We keep a very close eye on the patient, the side effects, the blood counts,” Tomic said. “Christine was very brave. She is one very brave and strong woman.”
Throughout the ups and downs, Christine Kump said the support she received at home kept her going.
“Having my daughter here at home, my 3-year-old, feeling all the kicks and wiggles of my daughter Vivian, my husband and all of his support,” she said.
Then, another surprise. Baby Vivian arrived early. The newborn spent 59 days in the NICU as her mom finished up treatment.
Christine Kump said she’s sharing her story to support others facing the same challenge during what should be a joyful chapter.
“I’m going to do everything I can to be there for my girls,” she said. “I want to see those girls grow up.”
After her diagnosis, she underwent genetic testing and learned she is BRCA-1 positive. She plans to have both daughters tested when they are eligible which is at 18-years-old.