In midst of illness, a miracle for breast cancer patient
Reported November 28, 2007
Like most new moms, Linda Sanchez couldn’t take her eyes off her newborn daughter Tuesday spotting the shared features, smiling as the baby sucked on a finger and marveling at her unfussy disposition.
But the biggest marvel Monday night was that Isabella Marie Sanchez came into the world at all the latest baby born to a breast cancer patient who was treated with chemotherapy while pregnant. It took a pioneering Houston program to make the birth possible.
“It’s so surreal. I can’t believe she’s mine,” said Sanchez, who lived in Houston when she began treatment but later moved to Laredo. “Everything until now was well worth the outcome.”
Doctors pronounced Isabella 5 pounds, 2 ounces and 18 inches long perfectly healthy after her birth at 7:24 p.m. Monday, nearly a month before the original due date. The delivery at Memorial Hermann Hospital was moved up to accommodate Sanchez’s cancer treatment.
Isabella became the 70th baby born under a University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center program that once was controversial, but which last year formed the basis of the first national guidelines for the treatment of pregnant women with breast cancer. Until this program, women with cancer who learned they were pregnant were told to abort.
That’s what Sanchez, 27, was told last spring after she learned in a span of a few days that she was pregnant and that she had breast cancer. She ultimately found her way to the M.D. Anderson program, and then told her story to the Houston Chronicle for an article about the program in September.
“I’m so happy for her,” Dr. Jennifer Litton, Sanchez’s oncologist, said Tuesday after visiting the new mother and baby. “Linda was good and Isabella looked happy and healthy. I was tempted to pick her up, but my philosophy is to never pick up a sleeping baby.”
Isabella’s frequent naps contrasted sharply with her wide-awake state Monday night, when she looked all around her new surroundings, happily taking it all in with a smile, her mother said.
She was delivered with a full head of hair, a trademark of babies born in the program and a sign that the chemotherapy doesn’t have the toxic effect on them that leaves their mothers bald.
Sanchez will resume chemotherapy next week, then have surgery at its conclusion. She had six rounds of one therapy, then was off treatment for 7 1/2 weeks before Monday’s delivery. Ultrasounds showed the cancer, which has shrunk to about one-third its original size, didn’t increase during that time.
Doctors started inducing labor Sunday night. On Monday night, Sanchez needed only about 15 minutes of pushing to give birth.
“It was a picture-perfect delivery,” said Dr. Mildred Ramirez, an obstetrician at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston who partners with M.D. Anderson on the cases.
“It was quick, we were in complete control and there was never any concern that Isabella was in any distress. She has a completely clean bill of health.”
Ramirez said being there for Isabella’s delivery was “the icing on the cake,” given that Sanchez now lives in Laredo. She said she bonds with all of her patients, but that the cases in which they are fighting a disease are “particularly emotional.”
Mother and child are scheduled to be released from the hospital today.
“I’m tired, but relieved,” said Sanchez, a U.S. immigration and customs officer. “Isabella isn’t going to be a princess, but I expect she will be a girly-girl. Certainly, she has the pink clothes for that already.”