Singaporean mom Jen Wang, was diagnosed with Stage 4 Colon Cancer in 2016, when she was 17.5 weeks pregnant with her baby. This mom fought cancer during pregnancy. Her story is one of courage, love and sacrifice…she tells us what she went through, to save her baby.
Cancer during pregnancy: Initial symptoms
“It was the second trimester of my second pregnancy, and I was seeking treatment at Mount Elizabeth Hospital.
I experienced stabbing pains in my lower back, 15 weeks into my pregnancy. My husband rushed me to the A&E at KK Hospital, and Thomson Medical Centre 3 times, but doctors could not figure out why I was exhibiting such extreme symptoms of pain.
Eventually, I sought out a Urologist and learnt through an MRI, that I had a tumor (4x3cm) pressing on my ureter, which caused my right kidney to be unable to drain urine. In order to restore the function of my right kidney, I underwent an operation to place a stent into my ureter, in order to enable the urine to flow into the bladder.
Although the operation managed to allow my kidney to drain the urine, I continued to suffer from excruciating pain due to the tumor. Hence, I decided to go for another operation. This time to remove the tumor. I was 16.5 weeks pregnant then.
The tumor removal surgery was supposed to take 2.5 hrs, however, after 6 hours in the operating theatre I was still not wheeled out.
After the operation, the doctors called my family into a meeting room. It turned out that my tumor was cancerous, and was identified to be an aggressive form of cancer called adenocarcinoma.
Worse still, the doctors found out that this tumor situated in my peritoneum, was a secondary site, meaning to say that the primary location of the cancer was yet to be found. This meant that the cancer had spread to another part of my body, hence I was at stage 4, advanced cancer.”
“My family broke the news to me the next morning, after I had recovered from general anesthesia. Oddly, I accepted the news with calm. Somehow, I felt that God had prepared me for this impending ordeal. I felt that it was a test of my faith, and decided to seek the Lord’s wisdom in how I should come to terms with my mortality.
My husband, Jeremy, was deeply distressed. He asked me if it was his fault that this had happened to me. I told him that was utter nonsense.
I asked him too, if he regretted marrying me, knowing I might not be around for him and my son. His response was very reassuring. He told me that if he had to choose all over again, even armed with this hindsight, he would still marry me. With that mutual trust, we steeled ourselves for the tumultuous journey ahead.”
Abortion as an option
So did she ever consider abortion?
“I sought the opinion of various oncologists and was told that my condition was highly unusual. It was rare that I was young, and had stage 4 cancer, coupled with the complication of being pregnant.
To make matters worse, I was in constant excruciating pain from the secondary tumor that was growing on my psoas muscle, common iliac (major blood vessel), ureter and nerves.
The prognosis was poor and they gauged my life expectancy to be 3 months, to approximately 2 years.
The doctors did warn me that medically, it was most logical to abort the baby for best chance of survival, as I would then be able to immediately receive treatment. My husband, my family members and friends, were understandably very worried and tried to advise me to consider abortion, because that might be the best way to live for my son and husband.
However, I did not consider it, because God already told me emphatically in my heart to “not lay a hand on the child; to be strong and courageous, and that the baby in you is a Rock Flower, who will thrive, despite the harsh conditions she will be put through”.
I made the decision of keeping the baby without hesitation, and forged ahead with treatment.
In the end, family, friends and doctors, rallied around me to support my decision. They cared for me, cleaned me when I was bedridden, fed me when I had no strength to feed myself, and prayed for me constantly. It was a difficult time and everyone huddled together for support, prayed to God and hoped for the best.”
Birth of the little angel
“The rest of my pregnancy was fraught with pain and helplessness. I was on perpetual pain medication and had to be admitted into the hospital for long spans of time. I barely ate, and was so weak and in pain, that I had to be wheeled around in a wheelchair.
Everyday was a challenge, and time went by really slowly. My tumor also kept growing, and was threatening to invade my womb, so I had to receive chemotherapy for shrinking the tumor. The chemotherapy was unable to shrink the tumor, but it at least halted its growth, buying me time to wait for the baby to be delivered.
Before giving birth, I was running a fever and had to have blood transfusions. My baby girl was born at 32 weeks, 2 months premature.
She had so much of hair and looked so adorable! I cried tears of joy; my heart sang praises to God and thanked Him for his great kindness and mercy towards us.”
Today, baby Jill is 5 months old; she is growing well, and is at the 90th percentile for her height and weight!
Recovery from illness
Jen feels blessed, “My most recent scan has shown NED (No evidence of disease), and this is beyond awesome! Although this does not mean that I am cancer free nor safe from cancer recurring, I am still going for treatment. But it truly is fantastic news and I intend to live life gratefully and purposefully, trusting in God.
I was very fortunate that I had a good hospitalisation policy with a rider attached, and the insurance company took care of all my surgical, chemotherapy, immunotherapy costs, as well as hospitalization bills.”
Changed outlook to life
How has she changed now as a person? Any diet and lifestyle changes?
“I was never an active person, but in recent times, I have been trying to make effort to exercise everyday. I was also not a diet-conscious person but I try to eat a good variety of vegetables and food. I also take probiotics which is good for the gut, and Vitamin D which has anti-cancer properties. I am under close health surveillance by my oncologist, and he is very meticulous about my treatment plan.
It sounds totally cliched, but after you encounter cancer, you really don’t fret about the unnecessary things in life. To me now, making memories with my loved ones is so important. Laughing, and enjoying people and their companionship is so meaningful.
My purpose has realigned to loving God, and loving others, as being the greatest duty in life. Gratitude is what I hold everyday in my heart, and it makes me see so much beauty in others and in life.”
I have learnt that, there is only so much I can promise my children, for my life is not in my own hands, but in the hands of God.
I hope to love them, and lovingly guide them with the time I am allotted. I want to give them a sense of hope and courage, instead of concern, fear and worry. I wish to remind them that no matter what we face in life, love always wins.”
Thank you, Jen, for sharing your hugely inspiring story with us! Jen and her hubby Jeremy (who works as a Legal Counsel), are proud parents of 2-and-a-half-year-old Joshua Goh Yong Zun, and 5-month-old Jill Evangeline Goh Jia Ying. She says they named their little girl so, “as our hope for her is to be a blessing to others by her goodness and intelligence.”
Here’s wishing them good health and happiness forever!
Also READ: Singaporean mom had cancer during pregnancy, had to abort her baby!
Republished with permission from: theAsianParent Singapore