Lorraine Pacy got two earth-shattering pieces of news almost simultaneously: 1) the suspicious lump in her breast was indeed cancerous and 2) she was pregnant.
The cancer was the least shocking. After an initial mammogram and biopsy at a community hospital, she’d sought a second opinion at Best Israel in Boston in July of 2017. The oncologist there confirmed she had invasive ductile carcinoma and gave her a stern warning: whatever you do, don’t get pregnant. (Her cancer was hormone responsive.)
Then 30 years old and bartending at three different places in the Leominster area, Lorraine thought pregnancy was impossible. She’s already survived thyroid cancer in her 20s and was told she couldn’t get pregnant without help. She’d also broken up with her boyfriend a few months ago.
No problem, she told her doctor.
Later, she went over to a friend’s house, seeking comfort about her diagnosis.
She also told her friend she’d missed her period; she thought it was due to her new anti-depressants. Her friend sent her husband out to buy a pregnancy test – just in case.
The test was positive. “I just went in the driveway and yelled,” Lorraine remembered. “I was so overwhelmed.”
She was scared, for her health and baby. But she was also extremely happy, because she wasn’t sure she’d ever get to be a mom. She’d been told that the hormone therapies she’d need to take to fight her cancer would prevent pregnancy for the next ten years.
“I was really sad about it,” she said. Now, she was hopeful. “It was like the worst timing in the world, but it was literally my only timing.”
When she told her doctor the news, her treatment course changed. An immediate double mastectomy had been planned. Now, she had to wait until her second trimester for a single mastectomy and chemo. (She was just two months along.)
She’s still awaiting surgery to remove her other breast; doing both at once would have required her to be under anesthesia for a dangerous amount of time, during pregnancy.
Luckily, her first surgery went perfectly. Her pregnancy also progressed normally, but she was still nervous throughout her three months of chemo.
“Once I hit 28 weeks [in my pregnancy], I was like a different woman,” she said. She knew then, her baby would be OK.
Liam was born on Valentine’s Day, 2018, in perfect health.
“He’s my chemo baby,” Lorraine said, marveling at how big and healthy he is. “I think it was the most difficult thing in the world but with the greatest reward.”
Lorraine had a wonderful pregnancy, all things considered. She was very fatigued in the beginning and was told she could not work. (Her doctors worried about her exposure to germs, as she could not take the recommended immunity boosters.)
She went from working three jobs to not earning a paycheck. It was very difficult as a single woman, she says, but friends in Fitchburg offered her a place to stay and help recovering through her surgery and chemo. Organizations also helped, and she was eventually able to receive disability.
“The Joe Andruzzi Foundation was so kind,” she says. “They worked with my social worker, I didn’t even have to ask. They fixed my car for me, which was really important with the baby coming.”
Lorraine recently moved to her uncle’s house in Concord, on a beautiful pond. There, she’ll have help from her family, as she undergoes her second mastectomy and reconstruction surgery this summer.
She won’t be able to lift Liam up for six weeks, but her aunt will help. She wants to get all her surgeries over while he’s still little. Then, they can get on with normal life.
She expects that life to be full of happiness, brought by her “miraculous” newborn son who helped her survive cancer.
“He’s the biggest joy in my life,” she says. “My angel sent him to me to get me through this.”