Ovarian cancer survivor defies the odds to give birth to a healthy boy
Oncology pharmacist Dr Amy Smith-Morris (32) of Saskatoon, Canada, had to have an ovary and a fallopian tube removed when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2016.
Although she thought her dreams of having children were shattered, Amy remained hopeful that one day she’d be blessed with her own little miracle.
And she was! She surprised everyone when she overcame the odds and fell pregnant with a baby boy last year.
In September 2016, Amy and her husband, Marc (31), got married and took a honeymoon to Italy and Greece where they took in the beautiful sights and local foods.
"My life was exciting. My husband and I had just bought our first house and we got married at the end of September.
"We’d gone on our honeymoon to Italy and Greece and did what everyone should do if you travel there – we ate our way through the countries. We ate pizza and cheese, and drank wine.
"So needless to say, when we returned home I’d gained a bit of weight, but nothing unusual, just a couple of pounds. I was certain the weight would come off quickly once we got back to our regular lifestyle."
Weeks after their return home, Amy noticed that changes in her body she’d initially thought were a result of the holiday – weight gain and bloating – were becoming more pronounced.
“Over the next couple of weeks, I didn’t lose any weight – I actually gained weight."
When she started having terrible heartburn, Amy decided to go to her GP, who then referred her for an ultrasound.
Unfortunately, the ultrasound found a large tumour on Amy’s ovary, which was later confirmed to be cancerous.
As Amy was only 30 at the time, she hadn’t expected the result to come back with a cancer diagnosis. "In that moment I was definitely in shock. I lay down on my bed and called my mom because I felt like my world had just stopped.
"I had a rare form of ovarian cancer and a mixed tumour, so it’s really difficult to put my diagnosis in a box."
Within weeks, Amy underwent surgery to remove one ovary, which had been engulfed by a 21cm tumour, as well as a fallopian tube.
In December 2016, Amy began her first of four chemotherapy cycles, with her final round in March 2017.
Amy says she gained a new perspective from her battle with cancer, but also maintained the same optimism she’s always had.
"During my treatment, there were definitely moments of darkness, but there were also a lot of great moments. When you’re diagnosed with cancer, everything is put into perspective," said Amy.
"The sky seems bluer, hugs are a bit tighter, life just feels so much fuller, so living life during treatment can be very, very rich. When you’re diagnosed, you start really living."
Once she completed chemotherapy, Amy spent months in recovery to allow herself to get back to her life and to work when she was ready.
And the one thing she wanted to do? Have a little one of her own.
"I strongly believed it would be possible for us to conceive and I held onto that belief until it became our reality. Even though I’m very scientifically driven in my practice as a pharmacist, I still believe strongly in the power of mindset."
Last year, to her sheer delight, Amy found out she was expecting her first child, and Max was born last month.
"Pregnancy was amazing. I really can’t complain. Sure, I had morning sickness, fatigue, heartburn and insomnia, but compared with what I’ve been through, it was easy.
"I’d say the most concerning part of my pregnancy was that I couldn’t be monitored for a cancer recurrence with a CT or PET-CT because it isn’t safe for the baby to have these scans. So, I’ve gone nearly a year without any follow-up scans to assess for recurrence.
"It’s tough to not think about all the 'what ifs' after cancer. It can be really debilitating. You want to do what you can to protect your family in case you aren’t around anymore. It often makes it tough to think about moving on, but you have to.
"Cancer already took so much of my time and energy. It basically paused my life for the better part of a year and a half. I can’t let it take any more time from me.
"You must advocate for yourself. You only have one body and one chance. You must do whatever you can to protect it and protect your future."