My heart absolutely broke when I came across the story of Laura Richards in the Birmingham Mail. She was eight weeks pregnant when the doctors told her not only did she have breast cancer, but she had to make a decision quickly: terminate her pregnancy or most likely die. That must have been the single worst conversation of her life. How do you not have a complete breakdown right on the spot?
Angelina Jolie has been all over the news for choosing to have a preventative double mastectomy after finding out she carries a mutation of the BRCA1 gene that drastically increases ones risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. Her six children were a major factor in her decision to have the surgery. She didn't want them to have to grow up without a mom. What woman would? As soon as you find out you are pregnant you will do anything and everything to ensure your child is healthy and safe.
But Angelina's not the only one making harrowing decisions about her children and her health. One of the many nameless, faceless stories—until now—is that of Laura. At 31, the British mom of three felt a small lump in her breast that she chalked up to scar tissue from a recent breast reduction (three kids can cause you to need one!). But the lump continued to grow and just eight weeks after finding out she was pregnant with her fourth child, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. It turns out the pregnancy's high estrogen levels had fed the cancer and caused it to spread rapidly.
"The doctors said I could carry on with the pregnancy—and there would be an extremely high risk I wouldn't survive because it was so aggressive—or I could terminate the pregnancy and fight it," she told the Birmingham Mail. Laura was faced with the heartbreaking decision no mom would ever want to have to make: Know she's saying goodbye to a fourth child she'll never get to hold, name, and hear laugh. Or have the baby, but most likely die of breast cancer.
"I was absolutely devastated, but I already had three children who needed me here and I didn't want to leave four behind," she explains. So Laura made the painful decision to terminate her pregnancy in an effort to save her life. Making that heart-wrenching decision "was harder than being told I had cancer," she says. "It was the most awful thing I have ever gone through."
After dealing with the heartbreak of losing her baby, Laura went through 15 weeks of chemotherapy and then made another life-changing decision to remove her breast. Her reasoning: Doctors can make a new breast, but no one can make a new mom for her children. As soon as she had her mastectomy, she says a feeling of relief came over her that she knew her kids would be taken care of.
I'm glad Laura had a happy ending, if you can call it that considering her great loss. But I'm sure her decision will continue to weigh on her. I hope she's able to find some inner peace and comfort, and that every time one of her children smiles or gives her a bear hug, she'll know that even though it was a horrible decision to make that it was the right one for her family.
TELL US: How would you have handled Laura's situation?
Image of the breast cancer ribbon courtesy of Shutterstock.