Should I have a termination?

Hello,

I wondered if anyone had been in a similar situation and could share their thoughts and experiences.

I discovered I was pregnant (am now 13 weeks) three days before being diagnosed with BC at the end of May. I have since had a wide local excision, during which a small, grade one carcinoma was removed. The cancer has not spread, but I do need further surgery to ensure a sufficient margin of healthy tissue around the tumour site. I also need radiotherapy and Tamoxifen.

Neither of the consultants I have seen, or my GP, have ruled out continuing the pregnancy (because, if I understand it, the tumour was small, early stage and hadn’t spread, and potentially any further treatment apart from the surgery can be delayed). But I really do not know if continuing is the right thing to do.

We had not planned to have more children, and I am in my forties; there is a one in four chance that the baby will have a fatal, genetic kidney disease that one of my other children died from as a baby (an amnio would confirm either way). I worry that continuing with the pregnancy might make the cancer worse, or come back (though there doesn’t seem to be evidence to support this). My partner will support me whatever my decision, but he is worried about having another child.

Now time has run out and I have to make a decision about whether or not to go on. I have spent the last two weeks thinking of little else, and it has been an appalling time. For many, complex, reasons I have in theory decided to have a termination at the weekend. But the thought of it distresses me hugely.

I have talked about what to do endlessly and believe I have considered it from every possible angle; I am exhausted by it. I had hoped that by now I would feel in my gut what the right decision was, but I don’t, so I am making a decision based on what I believe to be for the greater good, what seems fairest all round (ie to my partner and two children), and what is, rationally speaking, perhaps the most sensible decision.

Two people whose opinions matter have said they believe it to be the “right” decision, but is it? From whose point of view? And can there be a “right” decision in a situation like this, or is it just the least wrong?

For many reasons continuing the pregnancy therefore seems like a foolish thing to do, perhaps even monumentally selfish. But part of me really wants to have the baby.

I know I am the only person who can make this awful decision, but anyone else’s experience – whatever they decided – would be great to hear.

Thank you – and I’m sorry for ranting.

Hello

I’m 18 weeks pregnant, just had a mastectomy and lymph clearance. I found out at about 15 weeks I had a recurrence in my lymph nodes.

We are going ahead with the pregnancy - we desperately wanted two children and I had 5.5yrs cancer-free, during which time we’ve had a daughter (she’s 2 now). The first diagnosis had a very low risk of recurrence and I had no adjuvant therapy, but the cancer’s obviously been provoked back into action by pregnancy as it’s hormone responsive.

This is an awful decision to have to make. It’s one we had to make ourselves and there is absolutely no right or wrong answer. No one could possibly tell you your actions are selfish, whatever you decide to do. I can understand exactly what you say about hoping for a gut-feeling, but I don’t think our instinct covers this level of crisis! I didn’t get one.

We made our decision to keep the baby when we learnt that chemotherapy during pregnancy is more common than one would think, with a very small risk of complications, most of them temporary. I also decided to have a mastectomy, even though there was no sign of cancer in the breast, because I couldn’t have a mammogram and I would never have a definitive answer if we didn’t get a pathology of the whole region.

Have you been offered chemotherapy while you are pregnant? I know the benefits are very small if there’s no spread to the lymph nodes, so perhaps not. That’s why I didn’t have it the first time round. There is usually quite a wait for radiotherapy anyway so it may be that you wouldn’t have to delay for much longer over and above the routine wait.

This situation is hell, and I really feel for you. If you decide potentially to go ahead with the pregnancy, will you have the amnio to rule out the possibility of kidney disease?

Either way, you are certainly not being selfish. You didn’t choose to be in this situation - less so than I did, because I knew pregnancy came with a risk of recurrence. However, even if I die in a year or two, I could not regret making the decisions I have.

Very best of luck and please feel free to msg me if you’d like. xxxxxxx

deleted

Reading this makes me so sad. What huge decisions cancer forces us to make. I found my lump in pregnancy and 9mths after i gave birth i was diagnosed with grade 3 breast cancer and i have had the works.

Depending on whether you wanted another baby, this one is very likely the last child you will ever have. As a knee jerk reaction i would continue the pregnancy. Your cancer is small, and has not spread. This is positive.

All the best for your decicion ahead but i agree with ms molly- this baby could give you something to look forward to after the shock of cancer.

X

I also feel very sad for you, having to deal with not only your diagnosis but also the pregnancy. You seem from your post as thoug, even though you have arranged a termination, you are still not sure, and you seem to want people to offer their genuine feelings and views, which is what i will try to do.

Firstly, from reading your post, i get the impression that you may not have been 100% about a pregnancy at this stage of your life and your family , even without the cancer diagnosis. I may be totally wrong on this, but it may be worth thinking more about this and really exploring whether it is the cancer diagnosis that it making you feel this way or whether a lot of it is the pregnancy in any event? Your cancer is low grade and very small and your oncologists are giving you a very good prognosis, so is it the cancer thats the main issue? Your docors don’t seem to be suggesting any significant differnce to your treatment plan do they? eg, they are not ruling out chemo etc on the basis of your preganacy if it continues? And they have seemed to give no indication of a lower survival chance if you go ahead or not. Maybe, before having the termination, you could get a second opinion from other oncologists to assess your risks? I know that a cancerdiagnosis makes a persons assessment of risk very dodgy as we are too far into the situation to think logically, so a second expert opinion may help you see a way through?

Then there is the genetic issue, i would have thought they could have given you an urgent amnio to see whether the genetic condition is applicable? If it is, then that may lead you to make a choice to have a termination but with perhaps less guilt attached for you?

I agree with evie that this is probably your last chance of having a baby. I personally was trying for a third baby at diagnosis and am struggling to come to terms with this life plan now being changed for me. I feel my responsibility and duty lies with my two boys, not with a potential pregnancy, and for that reason i am gradually accepting that i have now finished my family. But were i pregnant now, i would personally feel that that duty would extend to my growing fetus as well.

I suppose it comes down to your views on pregancy and when life begins. Sadly for you, the general discussions that people have on these points have come into a very stark reality for you. But i would say that this is a very difficult time for you to make a decision, and you need to consider whether you would regret either course of action more.

Whatever decision you make, you should not be judged by anybody as this is one of those awful situations where there is no right or wrong. I hope i haven’t upset you with my post, but i felt you wanted genuine views. I wish you all the very very best and will be thinking of you. Please let us know how you get on.

I’m sorry I don’t have anything to add except go with your heart on this, it can only be your decision and there’s no right or wrongs here. It is a painful choice for anyone to make and my heart goes out to you. Have you thought of any sort of counselling regardless of what decision you come to? It might help. Take care x

I really feel for you. What a difficult decision to make at a highly emotive time. With any unplanned pregnancy, the decision to keep it or terminate it is very hard. You will never feel 100% that you are making the right decision, whatever your choice you will make, you will have regrets.
That is why we often want other people to make the decision for us or have the decision magically taken out of our hands.
Then only thing I think you have to consider the most is that at your age it is unlikely for you to get pregnant again so if you do decide to have a termination make sure you take this into account and be sure that you feel your fsmily is complete. Also take to your doctor again about the risks.
cat

I just want to say how I agree with what Msmolly says. If you hadn’t been diagnosed with cancer, would you keep the baby? It does sound from your post that you probably would. Many babies are not planned and most people in your situation would panic initially when finding out they are pregnant unintentionally, but then go on to have a baby they adore. From my experience of friends who have had terminations, keeping the baby has never been an option or crossed their minds for various reasons and they have proceeded with a termination without many qualms, knowing that it was the right thing to do for them at the time. You, on the other hand, seem to have many doubts, so much so that you need to ask advice on the forums, which rings alarm bells for me and I would be concerned about the psychological impact this would have on you, especially when you are going through cancer treatment. The issue of the genetic problem must be really tough for you and I could understand you wanting a termination on those grounds and if that were the case, you would feel more at ease with your decision as there would be almost no choice. At the moment, you do have a choice and from what you have written, I feel that rushing into a termination on the reasons you give would not the right choice.

Dear all,

Thank you so much for your kindness, support and wisdom.

I have not posted over the past few days because I have been trying to find a way through this and to reach a decision that feels right (or not quite so wrong) and I can commit to.

After more counselling and further consultations with my doctors I have decided to have a termination. It has been one of the hardest, most distressing and painful decisions that I have ever had to make, and has brought back many, many difficult emotions and memories of the death of my son nine years ago.

I don’t feel there can be a right decision in this situation - it’s the worst of all Hobson’s choices, but I feel this is what I need to do not only for my family (which is what I felt last week), but in the longer term for me. There are many complex reasons for this that I can’t go into here.

In my good moments I can see that having a baby is not the only way that I can try to get over/come to terms with the changes having cancer brings. Having said that I am hugely saddened by the fact that I am going to have a termination. For me, it is another, extraordinarily painful, loss. Life really is cr*p sometimes, isn’t it?

Thank you all once again, and Jane - I want to wish you the very, very best for your pregnancy. I think you’re amazing and send you masses of positive thoughts and good wishes.

xx

Hugs((((((((((((())))))))))))))))
You are so right about it being the worst decision ever to make.I really feel for you and your family.Glad you have come to a decision.Soon you can move forward one step at a time with your treatment.
Love n hugs
Dot
xxx

It sounds like the right decision for you, but that makes it no less painful and no less of a loss. Please don’t feel guilty about grieving- sometimes things aren;t meant to be and it hurts to face that. Best wishes to you.

I’m so sorry you have to face this now, at a time when you have so much else to weigh on your mind.

But this is a selfLESS decision, made for the sake of your family. You have two existing children to consider and that is what you are doing, so never forget that.

I hope you are able to get all the support you need and that you can see some light at the end of this horrible dark tunnel - I keep telling myself there is another side. Sending you all good wishes for a long, healthy future. xx

My heart goes out to you as it must be a very emotional time. But you have given it much thought and asked professional advice so this is the clearly the right decision for you at this time. Never forget that. Its so easy to have regrets and reproach ourselves for what we have done in the past, but we can only do what we feel is the best for everyone at the time. You are very brave and I wish you well.

I can sympathise with you more than i would like too, i had to terminate my pregnancy 2 weeks ago. I had similar dilemas and questions.

I still wake up everyday wondering if i have done the right thing, and questioning if i did the right thing. My head tells me i have - i have followed doctors advice and logic, but my heart is broken. I am hoping that one day the pain will ease and this decision will no longer haunt me …

For me it was my obligation to my 2 yr old, i owe it to him to do anything in my power to ensure my survival.

To be put in this position is unbelievably cruel and i’m not quite sure if i’ll ever get over it. My thoughts are with you and lets hope that every day is a fraction easier

Best of luck xx

Dear all,

Thank you again for all your wise and supportive dcomments. I have not felt able to come on here since I had the termination a fortnight ago partly because I have felt so grief-stricken, but also because I have been tormented by guilt and “what ifs” about the decision I took (even though the sane and rational part of me knows I didn’t have much of a choice and that I made it, as some of you have said, for the right reasons - my health and, perhaps most importantly, my family). I have really been struggling however.

Unfortunately the way I was treated by the hospital where I had the termination (luckily not the one where my cancer is being treated), made a terrible situation much worse: not one person showed me a shred of kindness or compassion despite the fact I was sobbing throughout. Then, when I was about to leave, the discharge nurse helpfully added that at the end of the “procedure” they had scanned me and I was “clean”.

I simply cannot understand how someone (especially in the “caring” professions) could use language like that. When I feel stronger I may complain; now I am just focusing on coming to terms with what has happened. Fortunately I am seeing a good counsellor.

Coming back on here has been great too - again I have been struck by how amazingly supportive people who don’t really know each other can be.

x

Just wanted to send you a huge hug and I really feel for you, having been through what you have the past few weeks. Be kind to yourself, give yourself time to heal - on every level. And, as for the ‘caring’ nurses, complain! Obviously you must look after yourself and get your treatment completed but, even if it’s way down the line I’d advise you to contact PALS at the hospital. The treatment sounds despicable and no-one deserves treatment like that. How dare they! x

I am disgusted at the way you were treated at the hospital, totally unacceptable behaviour from a so called professional.

As Cass says give yourself time to heal on every level. You have made the right decision for you and your family and that is such a brave thing to do. I admire you for that and hope that with time the pain will ease.

Take care Anne x x

I am so sorry for your loss. The most awful thing is that noone else will understand how big this is unless they have suffered too.

I went through a similar trauma in 1996 when I was 11 weeks pregnant with my third child. The diagnosis was the Friday before Christmas, my lumpectomy was carried out the following Tuesday (Christmas Eve) and we went back to the hospital for results that Friday. The next Tuesday (New Year’s Eve) I found myself in the same maternity hospital that I had expected to be visiting for my first scan, undergoing a termination.

All the medical staff I encountered did not know how to handle the situation at all. Just after I was diagnosed, when I in complete shock and was waiting for my husband to arrive (he had been called from his work which was over an hour away) I had tests carried out by a young registrar who asked me by way of “conversation” - “Was this a planned baby?”

Although the surgery was successful I was pretty much told that there was no option but to terminate and my husband agreed with the doctors that I should focus on my existing 2 boys (then aged 3 and 6 ). I have always felt very railroaded into this decision as it all happened so quickly and I was given little time to come to terms with it. No counselling was offered - I was just sent straight to the maternity hospital to see the consultant who carried out a routine scan (I couldn’t bear to look) and after a weekend of feeling that I was living in an unreal world I was back there for the second general anaesthetic in a week.

Like you I was also treated very badly at the hospital with staff discussing their holiday plans over me while I waited to go into theatre and nurses briskly telling me it was all OK now and could I please hurry up and leave so that they could close the ward for New Year. Even though they knew why it was happening noone uttered a kind word and they put me in a bed beside a wee girl for whom the whole thing was an inconvenience. I very much wanted to complain but was far too traumatised to contact the same place again. That hospital has now been knocked down - I am so glad it isn’t there any more even though I had happy memories of the first 2 births.

A week later I was back at the Breast clinic for my pre-treatment tests and the breast care nurse never once mentioned what had happened to my baby. She seemed much more comfortable with older women (I was 36) and fussed about offering glasses of sherry to calm nerves.

The next month I spent crying whilst putting on a brave face outside the house. At the end of January I started chemo, then a period of radiotherapy then more chemo - the whole treatment took around 6 months and not once did any medical professional refer to my pregnancy or the loss.

Everyone said how well I coped - few understood that cancer treatment was nothing compared to losing the baby. What kept me going was the hope that I could have another one - but the chemo pushed me into an early menopause and cancelled out that hope too.

This week my third child would have turned 13. (I was never told if it was a boy or girl - how much more difficult that has been not to know over the years.) You never forget. It was the most awful decision and I suffer agonies every time I read about the abortion debate and the flippant way people talk about it.

Please, please take up any offer of counselling - my experience has clouded my life since then and caused terrible strains in my marriage. My two sons (both now strapping lads who make me proud) have also no doubt suffered from having a mother who has never been able to properly come to terms with what happened and how it was dealt with by the medical profession who regarded the pregnancy as an inconvenient obstacle to their treatment plans. It is stressful to keep such a secret as it is so difficult to admit to having made this decision and I can’t see there ever being any end to my sorrow.

I’m sorry - perhaps I shouldn’t have posted this. It won’t be any comfort and I don’t mean to add to your distress. I have every sympathy for you and just wanted to say that you aren’t alone in this situation. If there had been some sort of forum available when this happened to me i might have at least felt I wasn’t the only mother that this had ever had to make such a hard choice.

Hold your other children tight.
S x

Dear S,

Your post made me so sad - not for me, but for you having suffered so terribly. I am very, very sorry.

I am disgusted that you were treated so appallingly; I’m also outraged that such treatment (evidenced by my own experience), still goes on. There is absolutely no need for it to be like this.

For many years I have supported parents whose babies have died; some of their stories are horrendous - yours and mine are equally terrible. I can quite understand why you feel as you do now - who wouldn’t?

You’re right about counselling. I have now started seeing someone who has been really helpful. Is counselling something you have felt able to do or would consider now? I think it can help, even many years after a traumatic loss like yours.

I know you say your sons have doubtless suffered from the fact that you have never been able to come to terms with what happenend; I am sure though that are hugely proud of you and that, even if they do not understand now, when they are older (perhaps parents themselves), they will also realise how courageous you were to do what you did.

Thank you so much for sharing your experience - it does help to know that I am not alone, though of course I would never, ever wish this awful thing on anyone else.

I am thinking of you and hope you can find peace of mind.

Kx