YSE Women

The Battle of Breast Cancer Paired with the Journey of Motherhood

Written by Jordan Johnson

Battling breast cancer, in general,  is a frightening and life-altering experience.  As told by Dulci Edge, a resilient survivor, the experience is as challenging mentally, as it is physically – but when you add motherhood to the equation, it takes on an entirely new meaning.  

At the young age of 33, Dulci was diagnosed with Stage 2A, Grade 3, Triple Negative, Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma Breast Cancer… all while recently embarking on the journey of motherhood, as her son was only two years old at the time.

Fast forward to today, Dulci now has two children of her own, one of which she was able to conceive and give birth to following her breast cancer recovery.  She has quite a unique perspective having battled this disease, while also being a mother to a baby boy, and then becoming a mother to a daughter following the experience.  And because of that, she so kindly shared more words surrounding her story, hoping it can be helpful guidance to any woman going through a similar experience.

Q:   How old was your son when you were first diagnosed?  What was motherhood like while battling breast cancer?

My son was just 2.5 years old when I was diagnosed. In many ways, it was a blessing that he was still so little because it spared us from having to explain to him what was going on. He was too young to understand and we made it our mission to keep life as normal as possible for him. In the beginning, it was so hard to be around him. I was an emotional wreck and  seeing him was a constant reminder of what was at stake – what I could lose. But I also hated being away from him and felt like every second was precious. I spent so much time in chemo treatment, at doctors appointments, recovering from surgery and undergoing radiation…it’s stolen time with him I can never get back, but ultimately it’s what kept me alive.

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Q:  How long after going into remission were you able to start trying for a second child?

We spoke with several doctors and got varying answers (again, I always suggest getting a second opinion!). Some gave us a window of 3 years and others closer to 5 years. Triple Negative is a highly recurrent cancer and the worry is that if you’re pregnant during a recurrence, your treatment options are even more limited. I ended up getting pregnant just shy of 3 years from my diagnosis date which felt like the right timing for our family. 

Q:  Are there any tips (mentally or physically) you would recommend to someone trying, post breast cancer recovery, that specifically helped you?

  1. I suggest that anyone who is starting cancer treatment consider adding a fertility specialist to your care team.  Fertility preservation is a big part of treatment that most people outside of the oncology world don’t really know about.  Chemotherapy can be extremely damaging to a woman's fertility and for young women who are diagnosed before having children, or completing their family, IVF becomes a part of the treatment plan. We did a round of IVF as an insurance policy in the event my fertility became compromised post-treatment, and while it was not covered by our insurance and added another complex layer to my medical experience, knowing we had a safety net gave me a lot of peace of mind in the following years. 
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Q: Are there any preventative or protective measures / practices you had to engage either during your pregnancy or following the birth of your second child?

Because my cancer was not hormonal, my pregnancy didn’t affect any kind of medication protocol and I was able to adjust my imaging schedule to accommodate my pregnancy. I did feel a heightened sense of anxiety while pregnant about a recurrence, but I tried to focus on the positives and put my trust in my doctors. I also do a liquid biopsy two times per year where my blood is drawn and sent to a lab to check for any tumor markers that would indicate a recurrence. It’s an amazing tool to have in my tool kit and I feel a lot of relief knowing that I have another way to monitor my health.

Q: Now as a mother to a daughter, how does this change your view of breast cancer and the preventative practices she will ideally perform one day?

I have no history of Breast Cancer in my family, which was baffling to a lot of doctors in the beginning, but I also realize that now my daughter won’t be able to say that when she’s filling out medical forms. The silver lining is that she will probably begin being monitored for breast cancer at a very early age and in the chance there were to be something, it would be hopefully caught early. My mother always kept up her doctors appointments regularly and was open about getting mammograms, so breast health wasn’t new to me – I just didn’t think I needed to worry about it at 33. Because of my experience, my daughter will have a very different relationship with breast health.  And with so many advancements being made, I am very hopeful that the landscape of breast health will look different for her when she is 18!

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Q:  After recovering from breast cancer, and now having your second child, how do you look at motherhood differently now?

I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to have another child, or ever breastfeed again and so even when motherhood is challenging (and it always is!), I have an outlook that is deeply rooted in gratitude. I have much more appreciation for this chapter of life the second time around and truly don’t sweat the small stuff.  Everything seems kind of manageable compared to where I was in 2019.  It’s sometimes hard to bring myself back there mentally, a lot of times it feels like it happened to someone else, but all the things I dreamed and wished for then, I luckily have now.