“Miriam’s Story: Cancer in Pregnancy, Part 2” – with Miriam Goldman

On today’s podcast, we welcome back Miriam Goldman to hear part two of her birth story while having cancer. Her story picks up this week to discuss things that were not helpful during her experience and how that has impacted her. 

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Dr. Fox: Welcome to today’s episode of “Healthful Woman,” a podcast designed to explore topics in women’s health at all stages of life. I am your host, Dr. Nathan Fox, an OBGYN and maternal fetal medicine specialist practicing in New York City. At “Healthful Woman,” I speak with leaders in the field to help you learn more about women’s health, pregnancy and wellness.

All right. We’re back with Miriam Goldman, who, last week, started the story of her third pregnancy from last year, 2023, where she was unfortunately diagnosed with cancer with a form of lymphoma. And we were talking about the treatments and how you’re feeling and how you’re dealing with it, and we ended last week’s podcast talking about the things that were helpful to you. And I said, and we’re going to ask you now, what was not helpful? So you mentioned one thing, where people send you a text that’s basically like, it’s clear that they’re just trying to get some reassurance that they can go about their day and not worry about you. What else are, like, mistakes Just again, this is not so much so you…you’re welcome to just complain, God bless. This is an open forum. Do whatever you want. But for our listeners who don’t always know what to do in a circumstance like this, to have a friend, a loved one, who’s going through something really hard, to know what the mistakes are, are really important, obviously. So what can you tell people happen to you or people said to you or did for you that was really not helpful and you wish it would have been different, so we can all learn from your experience?

Miriam: Yeah. I think, well, a big thing, and this is my biggest red flag, is my original OB, when he was breaking up with me, and he was like, “Well, you have cancer.” And he goes, “The only patient I ever treated with cancer, they had to terminate their baby.” And I literally said to him, I’m like, “You shouldn’t say that to me. Like, I’m hopeful.” I’m like, “Don’t say that to me.” So that is, as a doctor, I was like, you need some social skills to go over there.

I think right when I got my diagnosis, and my first chemo, people just, like, swarmed but too much. They came from a good place, but everyone’s like, “Let me do this for you today, today, today.” And it was like, I’m day one. I’m overwhelmed with everything going on. And it was kind of, like, too much at the same time, which isn’t, like, this is again, like, just because everyone heard it the same time and people just want to be helpful. But kind of, like, you know, I had some friends who later would be like, oh, I’m just gonna get yogurts for you because I know that’s what your kids eat. That’s what I needed more than day one, everyone being like, I’ll make you dinner tonight.

Dr. Fox: Right. You needed a long tail.

Miriam: I was like, I’m doing chemo for six months. I need dinners for the next six months type of thing. Also the, oh, my friend had cancer. My this had cancer. Like, not helpful. Not helpful.

Dr. Fox: Yeah, that’s, yeah.

Miriam: I heard of a person in a town back there who once had cancer pregnant. I’m like, I don’t know who that is. I don’t know what type of cancer. We don’t know anything about the baby. Not super helpful.

Dr. Fox: Did you get the Google doctors coming out of the work, like, your friends, “Oh, I Googled and they said if you take this or you do this, it’ll…” Giving you sort of alternative treatments? Did you get any of that?

Miriam: I did and I did have people that were like, “You need a second opinion. You need a second opinion. You need a second opinion.” And I did have second opinions. For gynecology, I did second opinions. For my OB, but I was like, at this point I’m like, I’ve already started chemo. Like, I’m full steam ahead. You get on my wagon or you get off. I just need a massive support system because the next six months are gonna suck.

Dr. Fox: Wow. Wow. All right. Thank you for that. All right. So take us through the story. So we’ve gone, we’re about mid pregnancy. You got your port.

Miriam: Right. No, so after chemo, they were talking to me about ports, but I didn’t get it yet. So then, at 25 weeks, I had chemo two. My amazing brother and sister-in-law that live in Chicago, she’s also a social worker and knew what to do, just got on a plane just to be here.

Dr. Fox: Amazing. What neighborhood in Chicago, if I may ask?

Miriam: So they live in the city now. But she’s from Chicago.

Dr. Fox: Oh, God bless. All right. We’ll talk offline about who that is. All right.

Miriam: Yeah. And she sat with me all chemo too and she just sat there the whole time. And I was like, that’s real support.

Dr. Fox: Just to hold your hand.

Miriam: Yeah. And that’s when I started noticing, like, my smells were insane. Like, all smells disgusted me. She was eating an everything bagel and I wanted to vomit.

Dr. Fox: Wow.

Miriam: And normally I don’t care about those things. So I got home from week two. I took the week off of work and again, I didn’t eat anything at all that whole week, which by the end of the week, you’re kind of, like, physically you can’t walk. You can’t do much when you don’t eat anything. And people would bother me. You’re pregnant. You have to eat. You have to eat. I was like, “They said I have to drink. As long as I keep my fluids down, I’m not getting hospitalized.” And I made sure to drink always because I was like, I’m not getting hospitalized. No way. Then my second round, then I go for my port procedure, which is a surgery. And I can’t get anesthesia. And it was horrible. It was probably the worst experience…

Dr. Fox: You did have your local, you mean.

Miriam: So they did local, but there are, like, veins that they need to connect and that’s not anesthesia. And I’m fully awake and they put, like, a sheet over your face because my surgeon was like, “We don’t ever really do this with awake people.” It was so painful. I was crying. I was screaming but they had to keep going. And I knew that. When I was in the recovery room, they round and, like, they go over all the cases. So a random doctor is reviewing my case out loud and another doctor, like, made a face of, like, not disgust but, oh, poor her that she’s 26 weeks pregnant and chemo. And I kind of, like, called out the doctor and I was like, “You shouldn’t do that. I hear you and I see you. You’re judging…not judging me but, like, showing…” I don’t know how to explain it. He wasn’t my doctor. He was just a random OR team rounding on me and gave me, like, a, oh, that girl’s gone in for a whirlwind. And I was just like, you shouldn’t do that. I see you.

Dr. Fox: Yeah. I don’t know if it’s pity or if it’s, like, I don’t know, pessimism. You’re here to take care of me or to shut up and listen.

Miriam: Right.

Dr. Fox: To learn.

Miriam: And I’m in round two and I was positive still, that’s why. I think I was so positive and his face was, like, oh, poor her.

Dr. Fox: Don’t bring me down.

Miriam: I’m like, I’m fighting this. I’m going. And I’m growing this baby. I’m 25 weeks. I’m big.

Dr. Fox: How did you keep that positive attitude? Is it just your nature or is it…

Miriam: I have two kids at home. It is my nature and I have two little boys at home and I was like, they need me. I’m also one of those super involved moms. I do everything with my family. I’m gonna live. There was no option of not living. So I go home from the port procedure. My mom actually helped me out the next day because I literally couldn’t move for 24 to 48 hours. I couldn’t move my neck one bit. And again, you can’t take any pain meds except for Tylenol. So I think every time I would call there, yeah, you’re supposed to be on Oxy, but you can only take Tylenol. We know you’re in pain. But we can’t do much about it. So that was really hard.

But I was back at work two days later and I went through round two. I still went to work, no problem. And again, my director was an amazing. She was like, take all the time you need. She’s an oncology social worker so she gets it. So then, I get sick, which was probably a random virus. But I got sick. I was coughing. I couldn’t get out of bed. I showed up to work on a Monday and at 10:00, [inaudible 00:07:02] worker, I’m so ill. And she goes, go to the lounge. Go take a nap. [inaudible 00:07:06] an hour later and she was like, “Are you okay?” I was like, “I can’t move.” So she sends me home and I remember my kids came home that day and I couldn’t take care of them. My kids were like, “I’m hungry.” I’m like, “I can’t get off the couch. I can’t feed you.” I called my mom, “You got to come immediately.” My parents came. I cannot take care of my kids. I was like…

Dr. Fox: That was the first time that ever happened.

Miriam: Yeah. And I called the oncology. She was like, yeah, you probably have a virus on top of chemo. And I’m pregnant and I’m not eating. And that was it. I never went back to work after that because I was so ill. So for two weeks, I literally didn’t get out of bed and would wake up from 7 to 8 to get my kids, like…my husband would drive them to school or the bus stop and I would just sleep all day. So then, I go in for round three on chemo and I did bloodwork and I was too sick to get chemo. He was like, “You are really sick. Your bloodwork is not good.”

Dr. Fox: Right. We’re gonna wait.

Miriam: And he’s like, “You’re coughing. You’re sneezing. You’re not strong enough to do another round of chemo.” So I go back another, like, and he’s like, come back next Monday.

Dr. Fox: Is there any sort of follow-up to see if the chemo’s working? Are there counts that they follow? Are there imaging that they follow? They just sort of hope for the best? Like, was there any sort of feedback about how the tumors were responding to this?

Miriam: So one big thing is that my spleen was a, like, three times large and you actually can feel it. You could see it popping out through my skin. So he would, like, feel it with his fingers. It seemed to be getting smaller, so that was one. And we did do an ultrasound on my liver at some point, because I was also having bile duct issues. So we were doing it for that and it seemed to be getting a little bit smaller. But other than that, there was no testing…

Dr. Fox: So very little feedback

Miriam: …because I’m pregnant. I’m really big by this point. So we were just, like,…

Dr. Fox: Plus they’re doing the treatment either way. What’s the difference?

Miriam: Right. So at week 29, I’m like, huge now. I also should mention that after my second round, I lost my hair. And now I’m gonna get emotional. That was the worst part of the whole thing.

Dr. Fox: Wow.

Miriam: Like, for a woman, hair is there identity and losing your hair is your scarlet letter. Everybody knows you have cancer. You can’t hide it. I also have a 5 year old, so he could not, like, when I came home, he asked me if I was a boy, which didn’t hurt me because he’s 5. But I’m like, I need to, like, deal with his feelings of his mom looks different. He would say, like, “I don’t want you to come around my friends. You’re embarrassing. You look like a boy.” Which I’m never, you know, he’s 5.

Dr. Fox: I understand. Yeah, of course. He’s processing normally.

Miriam: Right. And obviously, like, I got a wig. My mom came. We all cried. But it changed me. It changed my perspective. I was still hopeful. I was like, I’m kicking ass. I just felt very, like, self conscious. I’m like, everyone in the world knows. Everyone’s looking at me. So when I went in for my third round and I was 29 weeks pregnant, I was now bald. Of course, I covered my head with, like, a scarf or a hat. But I’m like, I’m walking around with this huge belly and now it just seemed like people knew that I had cancer. It changed my perspective of what people saw of me. And that was, like, made it, it changed the whole thing for me, the losing of the hair.

Dr. Fox: Yeah. I mean, I guess until that point, I mean, you know and your circle knows. But you can walk down the street and to anyone else you were just pregnant, right? And now it’s now this is someone with cancer is pregnant, because everyone can see both. You can’t hide either.

Miriam: Right. And I think also, I never felt like I fit. I’d go to these chemo appointments and I’d go to my oncologist and they were like, oh, God, she’s pregnant, she’s pregnant, and look at me weird. And then, I’d go to the OB office…

Dr. Fox: Oh, God. She has cancer. She has cancer.

Miriam: They’re like, oh, God, she has cancer. So I was always, like, the odd man out of, like, everyone looked at me like something was wrong with me because I never, I don’t want to say fit in, but I never was normal at either perspective, which I think made it really hard.

Dr. Fox: Yeah. You’re like the scariest person in both waiting rooms.

Miriam: Yes. Exactly. And I felt that everybody was looking at me in both waiting rooms. But in this oncology [inaudible 00:10:58] with older people, and I’m this young woman pregnant. And in the OB office, I’m, like, the only one that’s bald that doesn’t have this pretty, long hair. Part of it is when I went to the OB office, like, after all, granted I was going one to two times a week. The secretary knew my name and I knew she didn’t know anybody else’s name and I was like, I’m known in the OB office as, like, the girl with cancer. I knew that.

Dr. Fox: Yeah, I hear you. Yeah. It’s not good to be a regular at our office.

Miriam: Right. And I was coming, like, one to two times a week because we were always checking on, is the baby growing? Also, like, in the beginning, the baby was 80 percentile, and then he just kept dropping and dropping.

Dr. Fox: Right. And then, the liver thing, the bile acids, that’s, like, its own issue.

Miriam: Right. So at that point, also I think it was, like, around 29 weeks, I started having severe itchy hands and feet and I know because my sister, who had twins, had…

Dr. Fox: Cholestasis.

Miriam: Exactly. So I went to the office for one of my checkups. I’m like, I think I have this, so they tested me. They called me back on a Sunday, which is always a red flag. And they’re like, “Yeah…”

Dr. Fox: Not always. I give people good news on Sundays too.

Miriam: I’ve never gotten good news on Sunday.

Dr. Fox: We’re special, so.

Miriam: And she’s like, you do have it. And you probably could explain what it is more.

Dr. Fox: Yeah. It’s a liver condition that anyone can get in pregnancy where basically is a backup of bile acids, which is not, the liver part is not harmful to the mother, but can be harmful to the baby. For you, it’s a little bit different because it could have been just because you’re pregnant, it could have been from the chemo. But it could have been from the cancer. So it could also be itself a problem. Not so much that your bile acids are elevated, but the cause of it being elevated could be a cancer-related thing. But either way, when it’s elevated, now that ironically is more dangerous to the baby than the chemo. And so, again, which is wacky but that’s just how it is that that…and so, we have to sort of watch the baby closely, which may or may not help, but ultimately we’re planning now for an early delivery.

Miriam: Right. So originally my diagnosis, Dr. Barber was like, “We’re going to deliver you at 37 weeks.” He’s like, “You gotta make it to 34, but we’re gonna deliver you at 37 regardless.” Throughout this whole time, we also [inaudible 00:13:02] I was gonna have a C-section. One, because I had larger babies before and, like, I had tearing in the other ones and one of them go their shoulder stuck. So they were like, “We’re gonna do a C-section, A, because you have bigger babies, and B, we get to monitor the situation. Everything is in a controlled setting of your bloodwork.” So once I got this liver issue, they were like, “Okay, now we’re delivering you 36 weeks.” And I was like, okay, keeps getting earlier. We don’t want the baby to come out but okay, we’ll keep monitoring. They put me on meds so the itchiness was bearable. But, like, between the oncologist worried about the liver, you guys worried about the liver, I’m like, okay, we’re just…and then at that point, I started coming in twice a week. So we’re still plowing through. It’s also the summer now so I’m, like, sweating all the time. I’m big. Okay. So then, I go at 32 weeks for chemo number four. Also my bloodwork, at this point, just kept dropping and dropping and dropping, which is expected in chemo. But my platelets were getting so low that we had to come up with a plan for an epidural in the OR.

Dr. Fox: To get them up.

Miriam: So I even met with the anesthesiologist before to be like, if your platelets are below a certain point, we’re gonna have to intubate you and what that’s gonna look like. So I was kind of ready. And we spoke to my oncologist and he said that I need to give one week of no chemo and my numbers will go up. He’s like, just give her a week break. So I do my chemo four and at this point, I was sleeping for about 14 to 16 hours a day. I would wake up one hour in the morning to get my kids to school, sleep all day, wake up at, like, 12 to eat a little bit, if I even could tolerate that, and then sleep until my kids came home. And then, I was awake with them at night and, you know, interactive and out of bed and doing everything I could. And then, I’d go back to bed. And I met with the nutritionist because everyone was just trying to get me to eat and eat and eat. I probably gained two pounds this whole pregnancy. I just, like, couldn’t eat. Even [inaudible 00:14:55] scared me. He was like, “You need to eat protein because you’re gonna have a surgery. You’re gonna have to recover from a C-section.” So I tried. On my week threes, I would try to eat a little bit here and there, but I was just sleeping all the time.

Friends would come over. Some of my amazing friends would drop off food for my kids because I was like, I’m not making food for my kids. My parents would come over at nighttimes. They would do the nights with my kids. I couldn’t even bathe my children at this point. And I’m also, like, pregnant. I’m big.

So week 35, like, so my chemo were always on a Monday so I’d go to the OB on Monday. I’m finally not on chemo. My bloodwork is up and it’s much better. Everything went up. I mean, better is relative, but, like, I could probably get an epidural. So that Thursday, so on week 35 and 5 days, I stopped feeling the baby. I just didn’t feel him anymore. I had an appointment on Friday because at this point, I think I was coming in every other day. I met with the high risk doctor, so we did the ultrasound. The baby’s moving. But I was like…and I didn’t freak out because he had hiccups. So, like, Thursday all night, I don’t feel him but I have hiccups. So I’m like, he’s alive. He’s hiccuping. So I go in and the high risk was like, “I don’t love that you can’t feel him.” And I was already scheduled next week on Wednesday. So I was schedule, like, 36, 4. She’s like, maybe we should do 36, 1, 36, 0. Sunday or Monday. But, like, go to the regular OB and see what he says. So I call my husband in between. I was like, “Okay, so we might be having this baby, like, earlier.” We also had a wedding on Saturday of his best friend, so we were like, we really want to go this wedding on Saturday. So maybe we’ll have a birth, like, Sunday morning, if we can plan it.

So I go up stairs to Dr. Bender. He’s amazing and he basically sat me through and he’s like, “If you want to have the baby today, we could. It’s totally up to you.” But also, that week I got my steroid shots so they wanted to give it, I think I got them on Wednesday and Thursday, and now it’s Friday. So they were like, we want to give it a day or two for them to work a little more. Because we knew this baby was coming early. So he’s like, also you just ate so you got to wait to have your C-section anyways, so you can go home. He’s like, “You can call me in two hours and come back if you need to have your baby.” And I was like, okay.

So I go home on a Friday and I’m with my family on Friday night. I do not feel this baby, like, one bit. But I was like, it’s Friday night. I hate Friday…I’m not going to the hospital on a Friday night. And we were supposed to leave on Saturday morning to this wedding that we had on Long Island, so I was like, let’s just go to bed and we’ll see what happens in the morning. So I wake up on Saturday and I was like, I didn’t feel the baby once. I was like, this is what we’re gonna do. We’ll drop the kids off at your parents like we planned. We’ll pack a hospital bag and a wedding bag. We’ll go to the hospital. If they say we’re gonna have a baby, fine. If not, we’ll go to the Hamptons and go to your best friend’s wedding. And at this point, he’s, like, texting his best friend every hour, like, the updates, because it’s his best friend. He wants to go the wedding. And I was like, I won’t eat so I’m, like, prepped in case…

Dr. Fox: Just in case.

Miriam: …there’s a C-section because I’m like, I don’t want to have to wait. But I’m, like, very calm at this point because I was like, still feeling hiccups. So I wasn’t worried. I’m just like, I’m not feeling the baby. We go into the city. We park the car. We’re very chill. His parents are freaking out. Also my parents are [inaudible 00:17:47] so we didn’t tell anybody what’s going on. So, like, his family’s freaking out. My family doesn’t know anything. We’re not in communication with them. We go into OB or whatever. They hook us up and Dr. Joe [SP] comes in a few, like, minutes later and she’s like, “I don’t love how the baby looks. It’s moving. Its heart rate’s fine but I don’t love it. I can keep you here for 24 hours to monitor everything and get it right, but you’re giving birth in four days anyway. You’re so high risk. There’s so much going on. We’re just gonna have the baby today.” I’m like, okay. Fine. I’m already fasting. I’m starving. Let’s have this baby. I wasn’t an emergency so I was, like, very chill. Also, like, granted, I looked weird, looking back at pictures because again, I come in with no hair. I had no eyebrows. I had no eyelashes. I looked pretty awful. But I didn’t think about that about myself. I was just like, let’s have this baby.

Dr. Fox: I mean, you say you look awful. You don’t look awful. You’re a warrior. You look like someone who’s going through hell and back to have this baby. So on our end, you look awesome. You’re almost 36 weeks. This baby’s doing great. You’re alive. Like, I remember that Saturday morning because I remember…we had people with cancer and pregnancy. We don’t have a lot, right, because thank God, it doesn’t happen that often. But I remember the email saying, “Here’s the deal.” And everyone’s like, deliver, deliver, deliver, deliver. Enough. This is gonna be a win. Take the win. And so, it was, yeah, so we view it a little…I know you feel like this is not how I look. But for us, we’re like, this is a rock star who just came in. So let’s do this.

Miriam: And at the moment, I was so worried about my platelets again because I was like, what’s gonna be my anesthesia plan. And they came back high enough that I can get an epidural, so I was like, that’s a win. And I look back now but I was very concerned of, like, can I wear my scarf in the OR? I don’t want to go into the OR bald. And everyone has that classic picture and I want to be able to remember it. Like, these were the things that were bothering me. Looking back, it’s silly.

Dr. Fox: No, it’s not.

Miriam: But I thought it was important to me.

Dr. Fox: It’s not silly. Not at all. This is your life. This is your memory. This is your birth. And you’ve been so much. You deserve a picture that you want. You know what I mean? You deserve a picture that you’re gonna be proud of in a certain sense that this is great. And so, yeah, absolutely. We’ll bring in a makeup artist. We’ll bring in anybody. Who do you need, you know? Yeah, 100%.

Miriam: Right. So we tell his family, like, we’re having a baby today. We tell his friend we’re not coming to the wedding.

Dr. Fox: Right. I hope he forgave you.

Miriam: Yeah. And now we know his anniversary because it’s our child’s birth.

Dr. Fox: Fair.

Miriam: Also at some point, there was, like, a major emergency so Dr. Joe comes in to apologize and they were postponed. And as somebody in healthcare, I’m like, I don’t care, as long as I’m not the emergency. Okay. I’m hungry but who cares. I am, like, relatively healthy compared to this woman who’s being emergently sent to the OR.

Dr. Fox: It’s ironic. You’re like, I’m the good one here.

Miriam: Right. I’m like, yay. When you have scheduled C-section, you literally walk into the OR. But at this point, this is my third surgery this year that I’ve walked into an OR.

Dr. Fox: Right. But at least this one, you get anesthesia for. You get an epidural.

Miriam: Thank God. And I was, like, send all the medications my way because once that baby is out, give me everything.

Dr. Fox: Yeah, drug me.

Miriam: Yeah. And I’ve had obviously an epidural before but your husband’s [inaudible [00:20:52], you’re in the OR by yourself. Dr. Joe was amazing. She put me, you know, and from my end, the C-section seemed relatively okay. My blood pressure kept dropping and I can see that and I know how to read blood pressure, so that was a little worrisome. But they had obviously the NICU in there because he’s 35 weeks old, plus he had chemo. He comes out screaming his lungs out.

Dr. Fox: That’s amazing. Did he have to go to the NICU?

Miriam: He never went to the NICU. He was 6, 2, which is big for a 35-weeker, but I have big babies, thank God. The NICU ended up leaving the OR after awhile that my husband was like, why am I holding him for so long? What am I supposed to do with this baby? And you’re there for an hour being sewn. up.

Dr. Fox: How long were you guys in the hospital after that?

Miriam: Five days. We took the whole five days, which they…

Dr. Fox: Just to watch, meaning you didn’t need anything different, just to…

Miriam: So there were complications with the baby at first.

Dr. Fox: Okay. Breathing and this and that.

Miriam: No. So, like, the actual recovery was fine. You go to room, blah, blah, blah. The next day when they do bloodwork on the baby, they find out he has no immunity. He’s had no neutrophil…

Dr. Fox: Which makes sense.

Miriam: …which makes sense because I had none either and that was…but with the chemo, I was also getting immunotherapy.

Dr. Fox: Right. That’s a side effect.

Miriam: Right. So they call a pediatric hematologist. He said he’s never seen such a severe case because how many babies have you seen…

Dr. Fox: Yeah, are exposed to six…

Miriam: …that have seen chemo. So he didn’t go to the…first they called the NICU to take him immediately. The NICU refused unless he had a fever.

Dr. Fox: Right. They had to just isolate him so he couldn’t get infected basically.

Miriam: Right. But he needed the specialized medication to help your white count, that I was on…

Dr. Fox: Neupogen or something.

Miriam: …but we couldn’t get a pharmacy that would give it to him, plus he technically had no insurance. He’s a newborn so I had to pay for it privately.

Dr. Fox: What?

Miriam: Yeah. And it’s expensive.

Dr. Fox: The newborn’s under your insurance.

Miriam: Not yet because he didn’t have a birth certificate or a social security number yet. That’s what my insurance said.

Dr. Fox: Not true.

Miriam: And this is what I do.

Dr. Fox: #fakenews.

Miriam: They reimburse you later.

Dr. Fox: All right. Fine.

Miriam: But ’til we figured out…and they don’t let you leave the hospital until you have confirmed…

Dr. Fox: Oh, you mean to get it as an outpatient.

Miriam: Yes.

Dr. Fox: Oh, I thought you meant in the hospital.

Miriam: Oh, no, no. They were giving it to him.

Dr. Fox: I see. You mean, the pharmacy. Okay, I got it. Got it.

Miriam: So I needed to go to outpatient and the nurses have to teach me…

Dr. Fox: How to give into him.

Miriam: …how to give a shot to my 5-day-old, 5-week-old premature baby.

Dr. Fox: That’s fun. Yeah.

Miriam: And I’m a mom and I’m a warrior, so I did it and I was like, of course I’m gonna do this. So we needed that extra few days to get him his medication. I was like, I’m not leaving if my baby’s still here. But I was still, I felt that I was that, like, icky patient that the nurses are like, I don’t want her. Because I’m, like, the cancer one and also I passed out the first day after my C-section. And I have a port still so everyone’s like, you know what I mean, when they just…

Dr. Fox: You’re different.

Miriam: I’m complicated from a medical perspective.

Dr. Fox: Yeah. You’re out of the box, out of their wheelhouse. It’s not anyone’s afraid of you. It’s not anyone doesn’t like you. It’s just like, whoa. I got to think of things I don’t normally think of, which is hard, right.

Miriam: And of course I look different. Although one of the nutritionist, the person bringing food, when she saw that I had cancer, she was like, “Oh, you’re getting double everything. My boyfriend has cancer. You need to eat everything.” So there was support here and there. We then went home and he was 5 days old. Like, no problem. Of course, very close pediatrician follow-up because his white count was, like, a huge issue. We were in a full bubble. No one came in. No one came out. We hired a night nurse because I needed help. I also was not allowed to breastfeed because I had chemo. I mean, I was starting again, so the night nurse made sense because I wasn’t breastfeeding ever, which was a choice taken away from me and that’s a piece to process also. And the only thing was that in the Jewish world, we do a bris, which is a circumcision [inaudible 00:24:22] and he was not cleared for that because they were like, we will never do a surgery with no white count.

Dr. Fox: Yeah. How long did it take?

Miriam: It was about three weeks.

Dr. Fox: Okay. And also, he was a preemie so at three weeks, it’s what if he would have been full term, so.

Miriam: Right.

Dr. Fox: Wow. So wow.

Miriam: And I did two rounds of chemo later.

Dr. Fox: Yeah, of course, after. Tell me about he’s born. And he comes out and he’s healthy and you’ve made it through surgery, right? So you still have a ways to go, but that hump is sort of crossed. What was that like for you?

Miriam: Well, I remember in the OR, the minute you hear him screaming, I couldn’t stop crying. But silent tears streaming down my face, but immense relief.

Dr. Fox: Yeah, you did it.

Miriam: Like, he’s alive and he was crying. And yes, we knew he was okay, but did we really know he was okay? Like, he’s getting chemotherapy but I can’t drink wine. So him coming out crying was, like, such a relief. Once I got home, there was a a massive sense of relief because I’m, like, alone, I can fight anything. I could fight cancer on my own. It was always like, this baby. And I couldn’t protect him because he was inside of me. So there was a huge, I’m gonna finish this, no issues. I’m gonna fight it. But the hard part is I have to take care of a newborn and I’m really sick.

Dr. Fox: Yeah, you got a job to do now also.

Miriam: And that’s really hard. My chemo with everything before, with a newborn at home was even harder than after that.

Dr. Fox: Wow. How are you doing now?

Miriam: Now I’m great. I mean, I did my last two rounds. I’m in total remission. I had a finally a PET scan, my first one because I could have all the radiation I want now. Totally in remission. Just constant follow-up. My baby is totally healthy. He’s perfectly chunky. He has two teeth and he just, like, crawls around the whole house. He’s, like, a baby.

Dr. Fox: Amazing. You look terrific.

Miriam: Thank you.

Dr. Fox: I mean, you look terrific and it’s amazing that you had this a year ago, because you were talking about, literally, less than a year ago obviously because the baby’s only 9 months old. You look back on this, right. I’m gonna ask you a few questions about this. How has it changed you as a person, as a parent, as a social worker, as a friend, as anything? How has this impacted you in a way that’s tangible that you can articulate?

Miriam: First of all, I never knew how strong I was. I am…and everyone’s like, how are you…I didn’t know this. I never knew I could do this. If someone told me I had to, I would have said, “I won’t do it.” But I had to and I look back and I’m like, I could do anything. I’m really strong. But I have so much empathy. I’ve been a provider for 10 years and to then flip it and be a patient, I also got hospitalized twice after the baby was born. So I was really a patient and to see the empathy, like, I just have so much empathy for patients that I work with, for anybody going through any illness, whether it’s big or small. I have friends that are going through something so small, but to them, it’s big and now I can see that, of like, anything little, to somebody else be big and the empathy that you really need to provide for people and the space to just let them vent, show support, whatever that could mean to somebody.

Dr. Fox: That’s amazing. What is it you would like our listeners to take away from this story?

Miriam: One is you really don’t know what other people are going through. You sit in the OB office and you see somebody next to you. You don’t know what anyone’s going through. So I want to say show compassion, but of course, you can’t in an office. But just in the world, you don’t know what your friends are going through behind the scenes. We hid this for awhile until we figured this out. Even my son at school, his friends who are 5 didn’t know how hard this was for him. So you really don’t know what people are going through. And I think I did this podcast because, like, when I went through this, I didn’t know anyone who has ever done this before. I have no friends in their 30s who had cancer. I never heard of anyone in my life getting pregnant and cancer and surviving this and it’s like, I need people to know that there’s someone who did this. I did it. You could do it. There’s support. There are ways to get through it. And if I could do it, know that you’re not alone. If this ever, God forbid, happens to anybody.

Dr. Fox: Yeah, you just preempted my last question, which is why did you decide to tell the story. But that’s it, you know. People should know that it can end well. It can, you know. And it frequently does, which is hard to see at the front end. And yeah, people have a lot more strength than they think they have, which is amazing. I mean, it’s amazing to see someone have all that strength. It’s amazing to be a person who has all that strength. And to know that people can do it and here you are. Like you said, you’re young. You’re healthy. There’s nothing wrong with you in the world, and suddenly you have the greatest challenge, like, ever. And here you are, you know, a year plus later, on the other side, and you’re great. And your baby’s great. And it’s like, what a ride. What a crazy thing. And thank God, you’re okay and it is amazing though, and to go through that and to be able to talk about it and tell that story is very helpful to others. So I do appreciate it very much.

Miriam: It took me, like, six months process it until I was like, I’m ready. And I mean, I still, you know, tear up or break down with certain pieces. But you really also need to really think about it and process it for yourself, for your spouse, who’s, you know, he’s raising a sick wife and two kids. And then, your kids as well and their perspective and now we sit down and we process what a year we had.

Dr. Fox: Wow. Well, thank you so much for coming in. I really appreciate it. I know our listeners are gonna appreciate it and it’s an amazing story. Thank God you’re well and it’s just, it’s great to hear it. Thank you.

Miriam: Thank you.

Dr. Fox: Thank you for listening to the “Healthful Woman” podcast. To learn more about our podcast, please visit our website at www.healthfulwoman.com. That’s www.healthfulwoman.com. If you have any questions about this podcast or any other topic you would like us to address, please feel free to email us at hw@healthfulwoman.com. Have a great day.

Man: The information discussed in “Healthful Woman” is intended for educational uses only. It does not replace medical care from your physician. “Healthful Woman” is meant to expand your knowledge of woman’s health and does not replace ongoing care from your regular physician or gynecologist. We encourage you to speak with your doctor about specific diagnoses and treatment options for an effective treatment plan.