For Deidra Porter, faith and foresight are two lifesaving elements that saved both her and her son.
Porter has a family history of breast cancer, so when she found something suspicious at age 34, she started going in for early mammograms.
Luckily, that first scare turned out to be nothing, but the early mammograms proved important when three years later doctors found two malignant tumors in her left breast.
“They said it would have been a year to a year and a half before I would have felt them, and they were very aggressive,” Porter said. “I would not be here today if I had not had that mammogram.”
Porter had a biopsy on a Wednesday, and on Thursday, Aug. 14, 2008, she “got the phone call you never want to get with those three little words ‘You have cancer,’” she said.
Surgery was scheduled for a week after her diagnosis, but when she was in pre-op her anesthesiologist dropped another bombshell.
“You failed to tell us you were pregnant,” the anesthesiologist stated.
Pregnancy seemed out of the question. Porter had been told she could not have children and her daughter Cecily, who was six at the time of Porter’s diagnosis, was “the product of infertility treatments and tons of prayer.”
But the anesthesiologist was right. They were expecting and later had a son, Nathan, which means “God has given.”
Instead of seeing the pregnancy as a concern, Porter saw it as a sign from God that things were going to be okay.
“Getting pregnant through the obstacles that I had faced before, and getting pregnant at that time, to me it was God saying, ‘Hey, I’ve got this,’” she said.
But Porter’s cancer was 99 percent estrogen fed. The doctors wanted to discuss options concerning the pregnancy, but Porter said she did not see any options to discuss.
“He was supposed to be here,” she said.
After confirming it was a viable pregnancy, the doctors rescheduled surgery. Porter had a lumpectomy and a port surgery during her first trimester. She started chemotherapy in her second trimester, and because the cancer was so aggressive, doctors started Porter on one of the hardest chemotherapies nicknamed the Red Devil.
“It was hard sometimes because I was sick and I didn’t feel like eating, but I did because the baby needed to eat,” Porter said. “We tried to make things fun to keep my daughter’s spirits up. I let her draw on my head and we played with wigs.”
When Porter was seven months pregnant, doctors changed her chemotherapy. Within two weeks of the change, she lost all amniotic fluid and had to go in for an emergency C-section.
Despite being born eight weeks early at four pounds, 14 ounces, Nathan never went into distress and is now thriving as a pre-kindergartner.
“He’s perfect,” Porter said. “The chemo never touched him.”
After Nathan was born, Porter did an extra year of treatment and has had a total of 19 surgeries.
Porter has been cancer free since 2009. She now serves as a local Hero of Hope for the American Cancer Society and is involved with Relay for Life of Faulkner County. She has served as the event chair for Relay for Life and is currently the community promotions and online chair and a team captain.
Porter said faith and attitude have a lot to do with making it through emotionally. Her close family and friends — including those she met through her clinic and cancer societies — have helped support her, she said.
For those who are facing a cancer diagnosis, Porter said it is possible to stay positive.
“Stay strong. Keep the faith. Never ever give up hope. And don’t be afraid to ask people for help,” she said. “People want to help but they don’t always know what to do.”
(Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 505-1212. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)