By Sherida Mock
In April 2013, Jodi Sorenson was 28 weeks pregnant, building a new house and settling into a new job when she and her husband, Adam, received shocking news: Jodi had stage 2 breast cancer. Within days, they were immersed in the lingo of cancer treatment—biopsies, chemo pumps and white blood cell counts. There were no certainties; the ordeal tested them time and again. Today Jodi and Adam have a healthy 15-month-old son named Sven—and in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a remarkable story of strength and hope.
O n the cancer diagnosis. I actually had a dream that I had a lump in my breast. I woke up and went right to it. It took about six weeks to get the diagnosis; I was very persistent. My OB said it was probably just a cyst, but my husband and I are worriers by nature, so we [asked for] an ultrasound. They told me it was a complex cyst and not to worry. I said, “Can I get a biopsy?” I got the official diagnosis on April 2. We met with Dr. Punit Chadha with Texas Oncology, and he told us it was safe to do chemo. He was very comforting, very reassuring.
On the treatment itself. I had a core biopsy and genetic testing to decide which medications to use. The tumor was the size of a large grape. They decided I would wear a chemo pump. I had a port put in my chest, which was supposed to be a 20-minute procedure and ended up being overnight in the hospital because I started having contractions. I had contractions for the rest of my pregnancy. I would go in on a Friday, and they would give me this bag that would dispense the chemo drugs every few minutes over 72 hours. Then I would get the pump taken off and be given more chemo; I was on a cocktail of three different drugs.
I was kind of surprised to find out that after my second treatment they were going to discontinue treatment until I had the baby. Part of me was relieved that I was going to get a break, but the other part of me hated that there was this cancer we weren’t doing anything about. I looked forward to getting [the pump] off, and then I felt like I wasn’t attacking this tumor. It wasn’t the relief I was expecting.
On her doctors. Dr. Chadha was my doctor with Texas Oncology and Dr. David Berry was my high-risk OB doctor with Austin Perinatal Associates, and the two of them—I couldn’t have gotten through it without them. They were really good about giving me just as much information as I needed. They didn’t want to overwhelm me.
On her marriage. I had only been married for five months when I was diagnosed, and I felt guilty that Adam picked me. This didn’t have to be his path. He was great through the whole thing. I lean on my husband a lot. There are times that I wish that he was spared [the stress], but I’m so glad that he was there.
On labor and delivery. Ten days after I had chemo I went into labor. I still had six weeks left of my pregnancy, and they were going to have me do natural birth, which terrified me because I was pretty weak from the chemo. But having a C-section is surgery, and my white blood cells were so low. Because of the pregnancy, they weren’t able to give me the shots that they would typically give somebody to boost white blood cells. Dr. Richard Helmer, my oncologist while I was at the hospital, informed us that getting an epidural wasn’t an option because of my blood cell count.
I was deathly afraid that I was going to die during birth. It was the thing that I thought about the most. Am I even going to know my child? Is he going to make it? Am I going to make it? Not a day goes by that I’m not so thankful to know him.
Luckily, Dr. Berry happened to be at the hospital on a Sunday, and just seeing him was such a relief. He did an ultrasound, so we knew the baby was healthy. It was seven and a half hours of labor. It was pretty easy, I guess.
[Laughs] Well, it wasn’t
easy, but it could have been worse. I was in the hospital for a week, and Sven was in intensive care for a couple more days after that.
On her treatment after delivery. The timing was perfect. Sven came early enough that it didn’t interrupt my cycle of chemo, but he came far enough along that he was healthy. I felt really selfish. It was this feeling that I had a lot, this feeling that I was taking care of myself when I should have been taking care of the baby. All my doctors were really good at reassuring me that I couldn’t take care of my baby if I couldn’t take care of myself.
On working during treatment. I only missed five weeks of work. I worked full-time up until I had Sven, and then I went back to work full-time after the five weeks off. It helped me get out of myself and focus on something else. I had just started a new job at Shelton Keller in February. They were so incredible and understanding and supportive. One of my coworkers had had breast cancer five years before. She told me her story, and just cried with me, and she was great. To see her five years out living a normal life, I didn’t even know that she’d had cancer. I just kept thinking, if she’s okay, I’m going to be okay. It was pretty incredible timing. I think that I took that position at that time for a reason.
Her advice for others in similar circumstances. Focus on the positives. No amount of worrying is going to make anything better. Take every positive and celebrate it, and take every negative as a learning experience. Learn to take care of your body, and listen to your body. You have to be your own advocate. No one doctor is going to know or remember everything. You’re going to have to say, “Should I be getting a scan?”