Usually when you or your partner is pregnant, it is a joyous event. We have three kids, and I can remember when my wife, Esther, announced that she was pregnant with our first child. It was an announcement at a family dinner at the future grandma's house and I had the video camera rolling. The grandma-to-be was beside herself with happiness. I can still remember her turning to me and saying before the group, "Andrew, I am so proud of you!" It made me feel more like a man right off.

But this only sets the stage of what I wanted to talk to you about…it is one of the rare things that can come later in pregnancy or even just after the baby is born…not a health issue for the child but one for the mom. It's the instance when the medical interventions around pregnancy lead to a discovery of illness…but also that that discovery might be delayed a bit because so many symptoms can be assumed to be part of pregnancy, which is a major medical event.

I've encountered this at least twice in my interviews…one mom who was later told she had advanced colon cancer and another, a guest on one of our latest webcasts, where the mom was eventually told she had a rare bone cancer, a sarcoma.

Let me tell you more about this woman and I urge you to listen to the webcast that features her that we are posting within a few days.

Michelle Kasten is 29 now and lives in Louisville, Kentucky with her husband, Eric, and her now 2 –year-old son, Florian. During the pregnancy with Florian, Michelle developed back pain and it kept getting worse. Anyone who has gained a good bit of weight, as with pregnancy, would not be surprised and so Michelle's doctor told her how typical that symptom of pregnancy was. Then Florian was born and Michelle started losing weight. But the pain got worse. The OB-nurse said that was typical too. After all, it takes awhile to recover.

Of course, these were well meaning healthcare professionals and Michelle is not one to rock the boat. She did natural childbirth and hates taking pills. But finally the pain got so bad she could hardly sit up to breast feed Florian. So she went to a chiropractor. When she told him about the radiating pain and numbness in her legs he saw red flags and was not ready to do any "adjustment." Instead he wanted x-rays. Michelle mentioned that to husband Eric and he insisted she see the family M.D. That quickly led to an MRI and a scary finding. Something on Michelle's pelvic bone did not look right…could be a bruise from the pregnancy and childbirth, but then it could be….bone cancer. Michelle is an incredible optimist, and took the whole family to the state fair. Her assumption was that it was a bruise.

Then her cell phone rang. It was the oncologist. No, it was bone cancer and, to the doctor's credit and to get the most expert care, he urged her to seek treatment at a center that has sub-specialists in this cancer type. Boom! Michelle went online and that led her to seek treatment at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. MDACC is a very loyal Patient Power sponsor.

Michelle and her husband were initially told they would need to be in Houston for about a month for treatment. Instead it took eight months…chemo, major surgery to cut out the cancer and reconstruct her pelvis, and then more chemo to kill any remaining cancer cells.

This story has a happy ending and some lessons:

  • Michelle is now through with all treatment and there is no sign of the cancer. She is happy. And while she has some side effects of treatment and walks with a cane, she is devoted to being Florian's mom and Eric's wife and living a long, healthy life.
  • Her pregnancy delayed discovery of her serious cancer, although it is unclear whether her long-term health has suffered because of it.
  • There are other women, and their doctors, who miss the signs of illness when preoccupied with the changes brought on by pregnancy.
So my Patient Power message is: celebrate pregnancy and childbirth, but always listen to your body and when it is talking to you, ask the question: "What if it's something else?"

Please hear Michelle tell her story in her own words on our webcast and write in with your story too. You can always email us at questions@patientpower.info.

Also, I am thinking of starting a video blog, so look for that once I can buy a new wardrobe to look my best for you!

Wishing you the best of health,

Andrew