A month before Selvy Azer was due to give birth to her first child, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She credits her baby with saving her life.
Azer and her husband had been trying to start a family for years. Finally, after three rounds of in vitro, she became pregnant. She and her husband were ecstatic.
Before she ever got pregnant, Azer knew she was at a higher risk of breast cancer than most people. She had seen family members battle the disease, and she had tested positive for the BRCA gene mutation. She never imagined she’d get it while pregnant, though.
“My family has a long history of breast cancer,” Azer said. “I started getting annual mammograms when I was 30 years old, and I was good about doing self-checks.”
In the eighth month of Azer’s pregnancy, her doctor felt a lump in her breast and Azer felt it, too. She was quickly diagnosed with breast cancer.
Because Azer’s medical team wanted her to begin treatment as soon as possible, she delivered her baby two weeks early.
“I was so thankful that all of this came at the end of the pregnancy and it didn’t impact my little bundle of joy. All of my doctors were so supportive,” Azer said. “They even came to visit me in the hospital after I had my baby.”
Little Gianna was born at Memorial Hermann Greater Heights totally healthy.
“It was totally the best moment of our life and I totally forgot about the cancer, the breast cancer and all that coming,” Azer said.
When Gianna was two weeks old, Azer began chemo. She lost her hair and was utterly exhausted. But constantly rising to meet the demands of her little one actually helped her through her chemo, rather than adding to her side effects.
“People may think it was very difficult to have cancer and have a newborn, but for me it was the other way around. She kept me energetic, she kept me happy,” Azer said. “Anxiety and fear was there, but she helped me overcome it.”
“I didn’t have the luxury of staying in bed, tired,” Azer admitted. “Gianna gave me a lot of energy at that time. I think she actually helped me get through all of the treatment. I never had time to sit and feel sick.”
Azer had 16 rounds of chemotherapy before undergoing a double mastectomy with reconstruction.
“Selvy tested positive for the breast cancer gene mutation (BRCA), which means a high likelihood for occurrence of breast cancer in either breast,” said Dr, Ratliff, Azer’s breast cancer surgeon. “A bilateral mastectomy is the standard treatment for those who are BRCA positive. Without bilateral mastectomies, the risk of developing breast cancer in either breast is unacceptably high.”
Azer is now cancer free, and says Gianna is a “happy baby.” Both mother and daughter are doing great.
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C. Dixon likes to read, sing, eat, drink, write, and other verbs. She enjoys cavorting around the country to visit loved ones and experience new places, but especially likes to be at home with her husband, son, and dog.