Journey of pregnant mom diagnosed with breast cancer
Surviving mother: Eleven years ago, Colleen Lenz, was told she was going to be a mother for a second time. Two weeks later she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Today Lenz, of Manhattan, is cancer free. | Supplied photo
Imagine having a loving husband and a 1-year-old son at home and finding out you are pregnant with your second child. It would be one of the happiest moments in your life. It should be, but what if you also found out that you have breast cancer?
In 2001, at the age of 30, Colleen Lenz had just received the news of her second pregnancy, and two weeks later found a lump in her breast. Dr. Angela Intili, OB/GYN at Provena Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet, first did a needle biopsy, then an ultrasound and X-ray. Within a week from finding the lump, a lumpectomy performed with only local anesthetic (because of the pregnancy) confirmed breast cancer.
The next day a nurse from the office of Sarode Pundaleeka, MD, hematologist/oncologist at Provena Regional Cancer Center (formerly Joliet Oncology Hematology Association), called Lenz to arrange an appointment. Within days Dr. Pundaleeka explained her options and arranged for her to have a second opinion. The ultimate decision was to perform a mastectomy followed by chemotherapy.
“It all went so quickly, that I hardly remember it,” said Lenz, of Manhattan.
Dr. Pundaleeka also had Lenz speak with a psychologist, concerned about how a mastectomy might affect her.
“But quite frankly,” Lenz said, “the thought of dying of breast cancer when I had a 1-year-old son and baby on the way was all I could really think about.”
Following surgery, Lenz had to wait to start chemotherapy until she was 14 weeks into the pregnancy. She later gave birth to a healthy baby girl, who is now 11 years old.
For five years following the surgery, Lenz was on tamoxifen, a drug that is used to treat breast cancers that are hormone-receptor positive, and she has been cancer free and enjoying a normal active life with her family ever since. She is forever grateful to her team of doctors and the people who helped her get through that time.
“They cared, that’s all,” Lenz said. “The anesthesiologist explained what they were doing. Dr. Pundaleeka even visited me in the hospital when my daughter was born. All the nurses, everyone at St. Joes was kind and thoughtful. They cared, and that made it all easier.”
Lenz wants women to know how important it is to detect breast cancer early. “It is treatable. It is curable.”
Now a 12-year breast cancer survivor, Lenz talks openly about her experience and implores women have their check-ups and always perform self breast exams.
Now, back to her natural auburn color, Lenz remembers waiting for her hair to grow back. She decided to make that fun, something that her son and daughter find rather odd when they look at baby pictures and their, then, very “blonde” mom.
“Staying positive is really important too.”
About Provena Saint Joseph Medical Center
Provena Saint Joseph Medical Center is a regional referral center recognized for overall Clinical Excellence by HealthGrades for four consecutive years. Serving Will and surrounding counties, including the southwest Chicago suburbs, PSJMC offers private patient rooms and world-class health care. Designated as a Primary Stroke Center, PSJMC’s Neuroscience Institute also provides the area’s only 24/7 neurosurgeons, neurologists and neurointerventionalists and is the top neuroscience program in Illinois, according to HealthGrades, an independent hospital ratings research firm. PSJMC has also been recognized nationally for advanced cardiac care including a world-class open heart program, family-centered obstetrics, and a Level II Trauma Center.
Provena Saint Joseph Medical Center is part of the largest Catholic health system in Illinois, recently established through a merger of Mokena-based Provena Health and Chicago-based Resurrection Healthcare. Visit us on the web at www.provena.org/stjoes for more information.
Provided by Provena St. Joseph Medical Center