Having a close-knit family means everything to Jennifer. Growing up with all brothers, she formed an unbreakable bond with her mom. “She’s my best friend,” says Jennifer. “We see each other every day, and often plan trips and weekend getaways together.”
It was on one of those trips that Jennifer discovered something unusual. “We were in Italy when I felt a lump on my right breast above my nipple,” she recalls. “It was something I never felt before, but I didn’t have a family history of breast cancer.” She decided to look into it when she returned home.
But upon her return, Jennifer discovered something else—the exciting news that she was pregnant!
As overjoyed as she was, she grew worrisome about the lump she found. At her eight-week OB/GYN appointment, she brought it up to her midwife who thought it might be pregnancy related. But Jennifer was still concerned. After noticing some swelling in her lymph nodes, she requested a sonogram. “I had no idea what I was in for,” says Jennifer. “When the radiologist told me I should get a biopsy, that’s when it sunk in.”
A few days later, she received her diagnosis. It was stage 3/grade 3 breast cancer—and she was 16 weeks pregnant.
“I just thought at that point, cancer is cancer. People die from cancer. And we didn’t know if we could keep the baby. When you’re young and pregnant, you never think you’re going to be in a position like that. I felt so hopeless and confused.”
With her family by her side, Jennifer met with Northwell breast surgeon Dr. Karen Kostroff and medical oncologist Dr. Jane Carleton to find out the type of cancer and recommended treatment. It was estrogen positive and HER2-negative, which meant she could start chemotherapy during pregnancy. Jennifer also worked with maternal fetal medicine specialist Clarissa Bonanno, MD, who followed the health of the pregnancy during her treatment.
“My doctors were so comforting and they explained everything,” says Jennifer. “I knew they would hold my hand through this whole process. Being a first-time mother, I needed that reassurance and personal touch.”
Jennifer completed eight weeks of chemo. Luckily, she experienced very minimal side effects, but often worried about the health of her unborn child. “For Christmas, my brother got me a Doppler fetal monitor. After chemo, I’d come home and listen to my baby’s heartbeat to make sure she was OK. It gave me the peace of mind I needed to keep moving forward.”