Shine On

Mom delays chemo to save baby, may not live to see daughter grow up

An Austrian woman gave up cancer treatment to save her unborn baby, but might not live. (Thinkstock)A mother in Australia may have made the ultimate sacrifice for her daughter: her life.

Sarah Brook, 32, was six months pregnant when doctors discovered that her morning sickness was actually bowel cancer. Pregnancy hormones were accelerating the growth of the tumour, reports the Daily Mail.

Doctors told her she should begin chemotherapy within two weeks. She refused. Instead, she carried her unborn child until she was big enough to survive induced labour. Daugher Polly Jean was born at 27 weeks, weighing just 2 pounds.

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While Polly Jean is getting stronger, the new mother is not. Brook's cancer is now considered incurable, and has spread to her pancreas, intestines, lungs and neck.

"I just want to be a mother to my baby girl and continue to be a wife and best friend to my husband for as long as possible," Brook tells the Daily Mail, admitting that the prognosis has not been an easy one to process.

"It's not been easy to get my head around the idea that doctors talk in terms of treatment rather than cure. The situation has been incredibly difficult for my husband as he may need to come to terms with how life will be without me, and how he will raise Polly as a single father."

Brook, a British graphic designer living in Australia since her 2006 marriage to her husband, Ben, now spends most of her time at the Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney where she's undergoing aggressive treatment. Her friends and family are actively raising funds to help offset Brook's medical expenses and reduce financial stress.

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"There is no prognosis at this stage. I will be living with cancer for the rest of my life, and at this stage there is no answer as to how long that life will be," Brook is quoted in the Evening Standard.

A 2009 article in Canadian Family Physician states that colorectal cancer can be difficult to diagnose during pregnancy, as many of its symptoms can be masked by those experienced in pregnancy, such as nausea, back pain. While chemotherapy is now considered relatively safe during the second and third trimesters, special care regarding fetal safety should be considered when addressing treatment for the often-fatal disease.

The University of Maryland's Medical Center advises pregnant patients to respond as Brook did:

"Pregnant women should avoid chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Surgery puts the fetus at risk. Usually folic acid and nutritional needs are maintained during pregnancy, and treatment is postponed until after the baby is delivered."

Would you risk your life for your unborn child?

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