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Ottawa woman who received chemo while pregnant delivers healthy baby
An Ottawa woman who received chemotherapy for Stage 4 breast cancer while pregnant has given birth to a healthy baby boy.
Jillian O’Connor, 31, faced an uncertain future when she discovered a lump in her breast while 16 weeks pregnant. But she didn’t have to make the incredibly difficult choice between her fetus and getting treatment.
Dr. Mark Clemons, an oncologist at the Ottawa Hospital, designed a plan that allowed O'Connor to receive chemotherapy and deliver a healthy boy named Declan. His mother calls him a medical miracle.
“I was amazed that we had made this little guy and he was so tough to go through that … and he’s healthy,” O’Connor said.
Clemons is part of the Tender Loving Research program at the Ottawa Hospital, which is working on genetic research as well as personalized therapies for cancer treatment. He made sure that O’Connor, who has two other children, received a type of chemotherapy that does not cross the placenta.
“I feel privileged we’ve managed to give Jillian the choice to treat her and keep Declan alive and well and deliver a perfect little boy,” Clemons said.
While Declan is healthy, the prognosis is not good for his mother. O’Connor’s cancer has now spread to her bones, after having travelled to her lymph nodes and liver. Now that she has delivered Declan, she will immediately begin aggressive cancer treatment.
“I think she has faced so many challenges just carrying this baby through to term,” Clemons said. “Her sense of optimism and joy at holding Declan, I think, will face the future as it comes.”
O’Connor’s optimism was evident as she spoke to reporters on Monday.
“I really feel that if you have hope and if you just think positively and you look towards the future, I really think that things can change,” she said.
O’Connor is now the third woman with cancer treated by Clemons during pregnancy. Breast cancer during pregnancy is rare, developing in about 1 in 3,000 expectant mothers.