5 Days That Could Save Your Life: Breast Cancer
Stephanie Hosford and her family. (KTLA)
"I was feeling myself," Stephanie recalls, "And I noticed my breasts were a little sore. I wondered, 'What's that little thing? Up in this breast here?'"
That 'little thing'... was a tumor. Stephanie's radiologist confirmed her worst fears.
"So you hear the words 'breast cancer,' and you think okay, I'm dying," Stephanie says. "For sure."
"It was like I'd been hit by Mac truck. You do not ever picture hearing those words. Cancer happens to other people, right? It does not happen to you."
Stephanie's husband Grant recalls that tough news. "It's really hard to think about, even now," Grant says, his eyes filling with tears.
But it turned out Stephanie's breasts were sore for a different reason. Three days after her cancer diagnosis, she and Grant discovered that after five years of trying, and a miscarriage, she was pregnant!
"I'm just waiting, waiting," Stephanie recalls, as she viewed her pregnancy test, "Then I look what? I was like -- are you kidding me? Now?"
Several doctors the Hosfords consulted recommended aborting the pregnancy as a safeguard during her cancer treatment. But Stephanie could not -- would not -- believe that was the only choice.
"Something in me said you need to get other answers," Stephanie says. "This can't be. This pregnancy is not happening now just to be done."
The fifth set of doctors the Hosfords met with were Dr. Joanne Mortimer's team at City of Hope Cancer Center. And as Stephanie sat with notebook in hand, she heard the words from one of City of Hope's doctors she was hoping for.
"I'd said well, clearly I have to abort for us to treat this," Stephanie recalls. "And the doctor said no. And I was like, excuse me? Because I thought you just said no! He said no, we've treated cases like this before. We can save you, and save your baby too."
Case histories have shown that if the mother is far enough along in her pregnancy, she can be treated for cancer without endangering her baby.
"The average practitioner not aware that you can safely give chemotherapy as long as woman is past that first trimester," Dr. Mortimer explains. "The most active drugs that we use in breast cancer really are safe to use. They don't cross the placenta and cause harm to the baby."
But as Stephanie's chemotherapy treatments for her cancer began, the Hosfords got more bombshell news. The application they'd earlier filed to adopt a daughter in China...had been approved!
"There was no way I was giving up on her," Stephanie says. "I wasn't giving up on anything."
Stephanie's cancer, her pregnancy, and an adoption in China. Somehow, the Hosfords handled it all. "We both became really good at 'this is what we have to do this week,'" Grant says.
Stephanie mapped out her vision for her family. "I drew a picture, just in stick figures, of my future family," Stephanie says. "I wrote under it 'The Hosfords' and put it in a frame, then stuck it by my bed. I had this image -- we will be a party of five."
Today the happy, healthy Hosfords are nine year-old Ethan, two year-old Samantha, and three year-old Naomi. And Stephanie, approaching three years cancer-free, has a message for all women. "Always ask for a mammogram," Stephanie says. "You feel something, always ask. Say you know what? Indulge me. Give me a mammogram."