Valdosta Daily Times

October 29, 2012

Woman faces breast cancer, pregnancy at the same time

Elizabeth Butler
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — A Valdosta woman was 12 weeks pregnant when she learned she had breast cancer. Both the pregnancy, which had been discovered earlier, and the diagnosis last December had come as a surprise. She was 38 years old and had no family history of breast cancer.

Earlier last year, Meg Booth’s family had consisted of husband Jeff and children, Hannah, then 11, and Nathan, 5.

“We struggled with infertility to have our first two children,” Meg said. “So it was a huge, huge surprise to find out I was pregnant on Oct. 29, 2011.

“I had gone to the emergency room at Smith-Northview at 4 o’clock in the morning because I thought I had a stomach virus. After questions and bloodwork, the doctor came in and said, ‘I think congratulations are in order. You’re pregnant.’ I about died.”

Two months previously, Meg had found a lump in her breast through one of her self-exams and went to the doctor in September.

“They weren’t really concerned and thought it would be nothing. I had no family history of breast cancer, and at the time, I was 38.”

But a mammogram last October looked “suspicious,” and further

testing was scheduled. She went to a surgeon the following month, and a needle biopsy was done last December.

“They called me on Dec. 15 and that’s when I got the diagnosis of cancer in the right breast, which turned out to be Stage 2 intraductal carcinoma.

“I wanted to wait until after Christmas because we were going to my in-laws in South Carolina, so I had a lumpectomy on Dec. 29. Dr. (David) Retterbush went on and removed 16 lymph nodes because one was already swollen. Three came back positive for cancer, and the cancer was in the breast tissue.

“My original thought was ‘what about the baby?’ I was 12 weeks when I got the diagnosis in December.”

The new year brought joy and sorrow only a day apart.

At the office of her obstetrician, Dr. Ellen Courson, she learned she and her husband were having a girl. The next day at her surgeon’s office, she found out she would have to have a mastectomy on Jan. 17.

“Talk about a blow,” she said.

Through her oncologist, Dr. Jennifer Dallas, Meg learned she would have to have four chemo treatments, each three weeks apart.

“I was very blessed. The only physical side effects were hair loss and fatigue,” she said of her chemo treatments which began in February and ended in April.

“The hair loss was more traumatic than the mastectomy because with the mastectomy, you can cover that up. I never wanted to walk into a room and be looked at as the sick cancer patient.”

Meg went to a hairstylist to get glue-in hair extensions after she suffered hair loss from chemo treatments for her breast cancer.

“This was a huge emotional booster for me,” she said. “For women who have hair loss during chemo and don’t want to wear a wig or scarf, this is definitely the way to go.

“I didn’t want to wear a wig because I wanted it to be as least traumatizing for the children as possible. At one point when I lost my hair, my son, then 5, asked if that would hurt the baby. We talked to him and told him no, that she would be fine because we had faith that God was going to take care of our family and our unborn daughter.”  

Meg said her concern when she heard the diagnosis last December had been if the chemo would hurt the baby. She said Dr. Retterbush told her, “We will do what we have to do to take care of you first, and then we will see what happens.”

“Of course, my response was ‘This baby God has given, and this baby God will take care of.’”

Meg was given two kinds of chemotherapy drugs mixed with anti-nausea medication, and took additional anti-nausea medicine at home — Zofran and Phenergan — which are not harmful to a baby in utero, she said.

“I didn’t throw up one time after chemo,” she said.

For three days after the treatment, she would experience fatigue, and then she was fine.

“I actually believe my pregnancy hormones helped me with the limited side effects,” she said.

While having chemo treatments during February, March and April of this year, Meg went to a high-risk obstetrician in Albany.

“He assured me to begin with the chemo drugs will cause no major abnormalities as far as the baby was concerned,” she said.

She was released from his care in April, the same month she finished her chemo.

Meanwhile, Meg saw her obstetrician every single week from January through May.

“She closely monitored me and the baby,” she said.

“After the chemo, we able to enjoy the pregnancy and the fun stuff, the showers.”

Isabella Hope Booth was delivered by Dr. Courson May 29, 2012, at Smith-Northview Hospital.

“She was 6 pounds, 10 ounces and was perfect,” said a grateful mom.

“If it hadn’t been for my team of doctors and the support of my family and friends, I wouldn’t have made it, and I wouldn’t be sitting here holding my precious baby.”

Valdosta’s First Baptist Church, where she has been education secretary almost 14 years and is currently on leave, set up a Meal Train, where members signed up to bring food for the family every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. They did this from January until the end of April this year.

Meg’s church, Mission Point, where husband Jeff leads the praise and worship music, set up “Meg’s Booth” at the Relay for Life in April, where Meg led the survivors’ lap as the honorary cancer survivor. She also spoke at the American Cancer Society survivors dinner that month.

Following the birth of her baby in May, she had radiation which began in July and concluded in August. Meg says she is “doing well.”

“I am now just going to follow-up appointments. Most of my doctors have released me.”

For women who are pregnant and have breast cancer, she points to Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

“That is what I claimed for myself and my family a year ago, and that is what I firmly believe. The baby’s name is Isabella Hope Booth because she is the hope that kept us going every day,” said Meg, who plans to write a book called “Having Hope.”  

“She saved my life,” the mom said as she looked adoringly at her baby who is 5 months old today.

Meg said a cancer diagnosis is “frightening,” but there’s always hope. And at the Booth house, there is Hope.