Three turbulent, bittersweet days in September 2007 brought Stephanie Hosford both sobering and exhilarating news. She learned she had breast cancer — and she was pregnant with her long-awaited second child.
|Stephanie Hosford, left, with daughter Naomi and son Ethan, and her husband, Grant Hosford, who holds daughter Samantha. (Photo courtesy of the Hosfords)|
Despite their shock, she and her husband quickly mobilized. Soon they were “running all over town figuring out who the heck is supposed to treat all this — and if it could be treated,” Hosford said.
Most doctors she consulted suggested she terminate the pregnancy before treatment, fearing the fetus would accelerate the cancer’s growth. Others were willing to treat her, she said, but she wanted conviction from her physician. “I needed more than a begrudging ‘OK,’” she said. “I needed ‘Yes! Bring it on!’”
At City of Hope, physicians promised they could safely care for Hosford and her unborn child. “They took me on without blinking,” she said. “This was the first time we had hope.”
Within weeks, she and her husband, Grant Hosford, then both 37, received another bombshell: Their application to adopt a baby from China had been approved.
“There comes a point when there’s so much stress that you kind of let it go — or get committed,” she said. They decided
to proceed with the adoption. “We had been waiting for this little girl to come into our family.”
She took a long-range approach, envisioning life after the tumultuous year. Before her treatment began, she drew a stick-figure facsimile of what she pictured their family would look like: The couple and their son, Ethan, stood by two tiny Hosfords-to-be. “I put my little picture in a frame by my bed, and looked at it every night,” she said.
The La Cañada Flintridge, Calif., family came to be. Ethan, now 9, adopted daughter Naomi, 4, and Samantha, 2 1/2, are everything the Hosfords expected and more.
But it was a difficult road. In 2007, the fit, former occupational therapist was astonished to learn that the hard, bean-sized lump she found in her breast was what physicians call “triple-negative” breast cancer, which tends to be tougher to treat. While aggressive, though, triple negative breast cancer is not fueled by estrogen and progesterone, like many other breast cancers, so
the maturing fetus would not stimulate the tumor’s growth.
She initially was treated through lumpectomy in the first trimester. Since she had early, stage 1 disease, she could wait until the second trimester — when developmental dangers had passed — before beginning four months of chemotherapy. She worried that nausea would rob her baby of nutrients, but they both tolerated treatment well.
Lucille Leong, M.D., Hosford’s oncologist, attributes her positive outcome to the accumulated “thousands of years of expertise” she found at City of Hope. The combined skill and experience of surgeons, oncologists and researchers allows them to tackle rare cases like Hosford’s with confidence.
Equally important, City of Hope caregivers take time to compassionately walk patients through the medical challenges ahead, she added.
After delivering her healthy daughter, Hosford finished her chemotherapy and opted for a double mastectomy and reconstruction to reduce risk of recurrence. She credits her family for helping her through treatment, especially her husband. And Ethan, who was only 6 when she was diagnosed, cheered her during chemotherapy by scrawling crayoned messages. When she began losing her hair, she invited him to cut her ponytail. Her friends came to her aid, too, escorting her to her 20th high school reunion.
Writing also has helped. While in the midst of reconstructive surgery, she began writing her story, which she recently transferred to a blog called “Bald, Fat and Crazy: The Musical” (www.baldfatandcrazy.com).
Today, she feels compelled to help other patients become survivors. “I’m not saying my journey was any harder,” she said. “I’m just saying ‘you can do this.’”